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Dealing With Sex and Intimacy After an Amputation 

Posted by Bryan Potok, CPO on

As humans, it’s natural for us to crave intimacy, and sex plays a huge role in cultivating it. However, sex can also present additional challenges and fears, especially after an amputation. In this article, we explore why sex and intimacy can be challenging post-amputation and how to overcome it. We’ll also talk about other forms of intimacy that can help break barriers between you and your partner.

 Dealing with sex and intimacy after an amputation.

Your body image takes a hit post-amputation

One of the major hurdles to intimacy with another person is low self-esteem and a poor body image. After an amputation, this challenge becomes more significant.

A 2018 study conducted in Ireland looked into the psychological well-being of 49 males and 16 females with lower limb amputations and how it affected their sex life. The researchers found that psychological challenges after limb loss are strongly associated with sexual dysfunction. Furthermore, some of the participants reported high levels of anxiety, depression, and body exposure self-consciousness during sex. The latter was the strongest predictor of sexual dysfunction.

Accepting your new body

It will take time, but accepting your new body is the only way to improve sex and intimacy, and peer support plays an important role. Talking with other amputees about personal topics such as intimacy can be a great help in removing some of the fear. However, if this isn’t available to you, counseling and support groups can also help.  

Explore other avenues of intimacy 

If you’re not yet ready to take the plunge, intimacy can also be expressed in other ways—such as cuddling or holding hands—that can help break the barrier between you and your partner. This is great news, especially for those whose love language is Physical Touch.

Gary Chapman, Ph.D. talks about the different ways people express and feel love and appreciation—one of which is physical touch—in his bestselling book, “The 5 Love Languages.” According to Dr. Chapman, physical contact fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship, and this is especially true for someone with physical touch as a primary love language. Hugs, physical presence, and accessibility can also help cultivate physical intimacy.

However, intimacy isn’t just physical. It can also be cultivated through deep, one-on-one conversations where you can learn about your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and fears. It’s also good to note that this type of intimacy can make the progression to sex much easier.  

Three essential factors: confidence, trust, and communication

The bottom line is intimacy and sex are scary. Both require trust, communication, and confidence. The modern adage of loving and accepting yourself first can help in this case because, ultimately, you have to feel confident in yourself to open up to another person.   

Negative thoughts—which are often abundant after amputation—can be detrimental to your confidence. The best thing to do is to trust your process. It takes a lot of work to be able to replace a negative thought with a positive one. Working with a psychologist can help you navigate this journey.

Trust and open communication between you and your partner is crucial at this time. You can start by sharing your amputee journey. For some, injecting this conversation with a bit of humor can help defuse some tension.

Answer any questions your partner might have. He or she wants to understand what you are going through, so don’t be put off. Sexual experts agree that open and honest communication leads to greater intimacy and comfort.

Don’t give up

If you are trying to navigate the dating world as an amputee, don’t give up on finding someone who sees you for who you are. And as with any relationship, watch out for red flags. If a person contributes to your fears and insecurities, that’s a warning sign. Do not tolerate any form of abuse, whether physical or emotional.

One of the best ways to guard yourself against abusive people and unhealthy relationships is to take better care of yourself. When you have a positive body image, as well as confidence and self-respect, the decision to leave a toxic partner will be easier. 

What are your thoughts on sex and intimacy after an amputation? Do you have any tips you would like to share with the community? Please leave a comment below.
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  • Hi Bryan,
    I am a Physical Therapist Assistant that works with the amputee population. I was wondering if our facility could use this article for our amputee patients.

    Thank you.

    Toni Comfort on

  • It took me about 3 months when i lost my first leg in 2009 , then in 2017 i became an Bilateral Amputee & it took me till 2019 to adjust to be intimate , you just have to accept your self first and adapt & over come then know your new legs are yours and they are you now & refer to them as yours , but take your time dont rush it will feel normal to you in Time

    Joseph Edwards on

  • during my teenage years I was not so self confident as i now am so I recognize the issue presented … I’ve now had 3 wives and a few longer term relationships… no one ever said anything about my amputation … it’s not like they don’t know before hand … if a lady will go out with you knowing you limp and/or have an artificial leg the rest just takes it’s course

    David Williams on

  • Some people will accept your difference, and some will not. Reactions run the gamut from repulsion to attraction. (Have you ever heard of “devotees”?) I am lucky to have a partner now who truly doesn’t care. Patience, experimentation, communication. And persistence: You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince!

    Carol on

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