Ask Dr. Tim: As a young girl my wife was exposed to sexual abuse.

Ask Dr. Tim: As a young girl my wife was exposed to sexual abuse.


As a young girl my wife was exposed to sexual abuse. Apparently it occurred on a couple occasions. There are times now that she just shuts down to any physical touch. She will come home from work and just want to hibernate, not even wanting to be hugged. She says touch at that point can even bring physical pain to her. On other occasions she is very warm and inviting. I want to be considerate and caring but frankly it is confusing and frustrating to me. I try not to take it personally but sometimes that is easier said than done.



Dear Sid:

It sounds like your wife is fortunate to live with such a caring and understanding man. Obviously this is a difficult situation for both of you. I want you to know that I hear this type of story almost every week in my clinical practice. Part of the confusion is the inconsistency in which this occurs. Why is she warm and inviting one day and not the next?

It is likely that she is responding to triggers much like a Vet would to the stress of battle. It “smells” like these could be symptoms of PTSD. I obviously cannot provide a diagnosis in this setting, so it may be well for her to see a professional about this. If I am correct about my suspicions, certain triggers act sort of like an echo for her. For example the stress at work, while not even of a sexual nature, could be about her feeling a loss of control. That feeling of a loss of control was likely at play during the abuse and is felt in her current experience. She may find psychotherapy to be helpful in working her way though this. That of course would be easier for you too.

Dr. Tim

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