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Pleasure, Pain, and Psychology

Pain and sex are connected in ways that can be obvious and not so obvious. Clearly, if a person is in enough pain, sex is probably the last thing on their mind. Sexual health can also be compromised by painful experiences, particularly during moments of intense physical intimacy. Inflicting pain, whether physical or psychological, is sometimes a component of the S&M community, though it is only an integral part of the “session” in the most extreme cases. Even in such cases, the pain is strictly consensual and is regulated just enough to serve the purposes of both parties and not do any actual damage. Chronic pain, whether physical or psychological, can have incredible effects on a person's sexual health and performance.

Obviously, if a person is experiencing chronic pain, the psychological drive to have sex is greatly reduced. For most people, finding a way to relieve the pain takes priority over most other physical needs, with the mind typically putting “luxuries” like intercourse lower on the list of sensations that the body craves. Performance can also be affected because the pain provides a distraction for the person, rendering them unable to fully focus their attentions on their partners. Pain can also serve to greatly reduce desire over the long-term, particularly if the problem is left untreated or is being improperly handled. Taking pain killers to help fight chronic pain can also have effects, with some pain killers diminishing libido.

There have also been reports of certain pain relief products inhibiting sexual health, though such cases are considered rare. Unfortunately, alleviating the problems caused by physical pain is generally possible only once the pain itself has been dealt with. There is also another side to this, as psychological pain can be just as debilitating to a person's sex life and enjoyment as physical signs are. Emotional pain can drive a wedge between two people such that even if both parties are still capable of enjoyment, there is no conscious “desire” to engage the other as a partner. Cases of childhood sex-related trauma have also stunted the sexual health and development of adults, particularly in people who experienced sexual abuse as a child. The chemical signals that the brain uses to signal pleasure and response to stimuli can be affected by mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, making intercourse difficult, if not impossible. For the psychological connection between pain and pleasure, most experts advise talking between partners to help sort things out. Preferably, these discussions should occur in what can be considered neutral territory and participants should be fully clothes. Private locations such as the kitchen or dinner table, when no one else is present, are often suggested. Fear can often keep couples from talking to one another about what they feel they need out of the experience, but this is often best confronted early on.

Through talking, partners may discover “quirks” about their sexual interests that the other is not aware of that may heighten the experience for both parties. The goal here is to provide an avenue of discussion on what might lead to more satisfaction for all involved. Rekindling the spark is also a good idea. There are several ways to accomplish this, of course. Some couples attempt to do so by bringing romance into the equation. Others prefer to delve into role-playing sessions or physical exploration that does not involve genital contact or stimulation. There is generally no problem to this, as long as it is consensual.


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