Vicarious Trauma and Decreased Sexual Desire: A Hidden Hazard of Helping Others

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Abstract

Vicarious trauma is a significant occupational hazard for behavioral health clinicians (BHCs), with potentially negative effects on the quality of personal life and interpersonal relationships. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between vicarious trauma (Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale) and sexual desire (Hurlbert Index of Sexual Desire). The constructivist self-development theory (CSDT) was the foundational study theory. The sample consisted of 163 volunteers selected from the Missouri Substance Abuse Professional Credentialing Board (MSAPCB). Years of professional experience, sexual trauma history, gender, and age were computed as covariates. Bivariate correlations and multiple linear regression were utilized. A modest, yet significant inverse relationship was found between vicarious trauma and sexual desire, r = −0.24, p = .002. Implications are negative dynamics to BHCs’ service provision and personal lives. The results indicate that BHCs struggling with vicarious trauma may also notice a decrease in their level of sexual desire.

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