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Sexual Changes in Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injury: A Control Comparison

Downing, Marina G. PhD; Stolwyk, Rene DPsych; Ponsford, Jennie L. PhD

Section Editor(s): Sander, Angelle M. PhD

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: May/June 2013 - Volume 28 - Issue 3 - p 171–178
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0b013e31828b4f63
Original Articles

Background: Previous research has suggested that sexuality is compromised following traumatic brain injury (TBI), but there has been limited comparison with healthy samples.

Objectives: The aim of the current study was to compare sexuality in individuals with TBI with that in healthy controls matched for age and gender. In doing this, the current study aimed to characterize those individuals who reported a decrease in sexuality relative to those reporting an increase according to certain demographic and injury variables.

Method: A total of 865 participants with predominantly moderate to severe TBI and 142 controls completed the Brain Injury Questionnaire of Sexuality (BIQS), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale on one occasion.

Results: The results indicated that there was a significant difference between participants with TBI and controls on all the BIQS subscales as well as the total score. Age, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem levels significantly differentiated participants with TBI who reported decreased sexuality from those who reported increased sexuality. Participants with TBI attributed sexual changes to various causes—most commonly, fatigue, low confidence, pain, decreased mobility, and feeling unattractive.

Conclusions: Further research examining the factors contributing to sexual changes is warranted.

School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University (Drs Downing, Stolwyk, and Ponsford), Monash-Epworth Rehabilitation Research Centre (Drs Downing and Ponsford), and National Trauma Research Institute (Dr Ponsford), Melbourne, Australia.

Corresponding Author: Jennie L. Ponsford, PhD, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, 3800, Australia (

This project is funded by the Transport Accident Commission, through the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR).

The authors thank all participants involved in this project who gave their time so generously.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.