21.5 C
Los Angeles
Saturday, December 9, 2023

How Unresolved Trauma Shows Up in the Bedroom


Share post:

Unresolved stress/trauma is a common barrier to experiencing desire and pleasure during sex. Many couples who struggle to find their groove in the bedroom look for triggers in their relationship and lifestyle, however, more often than not, the root of the problem and its solution lie much deeper.

Trauma/stress in the bedroom has many faces ranging from a gradual loss of libido, aversion to sex, difficulty to orgasm, mistrust of sexual partners, severe emotional distress, or physical ailments. 

Trauma can develop in childhood during a painful upbringing in emotionally and physically unsafe environments. It can also be triggered by recent stressful life events such as non-consensual sexual experiences or heartbreaking infidelity. 

Trauma/stress is not just emotional. It is also physical. Having guided hundreds of women on a sexual healing journey over the years, I’ve noticed a direct connection between women’s ailments and unresolved emotional trauma. Painful and stressful life experiences create a type of “body armor”, where the body contracts on a physical and emotional level. Over time and with repeated stressful situations, these contractions start to form bands of armor inside the body tissues which hold patterns of fear, anxiety, neediness, withdrawal, and avoidance. Along with emotional distress and mental rumination, physical symptoms can show up such as chronic yeast infections and UTIs, chronic vaginal muscle tension, burning sensations of the vulvar skin, or complete numbness in the genitals.

The body is naturally equipped to release trauma through movement – shaking, crying, moving, moaning, and expressing. Often, by suppressing our emotions, we do not allow the body to naturally “cleanse” itself of unwanted experiences. We end up storing the trauma in our body and creating a neuromuscular pattern of bodily contraction. 

My recent client, Jane, grew up with a father who never wanted children. Jane’s mother accidentally became pregnant and Jane’s father held this resentment towards both his wife and daughter his entire life. Working as a writer from home, Jane’s father demanded absolute silence in the household. He avoided his wife and daughter most days, only coming out of his workroom for meals. Any noise – whether a giggle or accidentally dropping a spoon on the floor during lunch – sent Jane’s father into violent fits of anger. Jane would be spanked and forced to stand in the corner for hours at a time as punishment. “The only time my father touched me would be to punish me,” Jane recalled during our first consultation.

Jane had booked a session with me because of her struggle with severe vaginismus, a chronic tightening of vaginal muscles. At the age of 38, Jane was still a virgin. Any attempt at penetration evoked extreme pain spasms. No medical doctor could help her. She wondered if she might be asexual. It was only during our sessions together that Jane began to draw the connection between her childhood and her chronic pain. Having grown up in a physically abusive environment, her body did not feel safe. Jane’s vaginal tightness was a form of a coping safety mechanism, a self-protection of her most sacred and sensitive body part. She had learned to make herself small and invisible, fully contracted, to survive her father’s abuse.

Another client, Sandy, came to me because, by the age of 32, she still hadn’t had an orgasm. She described it as her “pussy being completely numb”. Sandy was confused. “I’ve never been sexually abused nor had bad sexual experiences with men. I don’t understand why my body can’t orgasm,” she cried during our first consultation. 

Over the next few sessions, I learned about Sandy’s childhood with her narcissistic mother. Her mother had demanded perfection, criticized Sandy daily, controlled the food that Sandy had eaten and how she’d dressed. Often Sandy would catch her mother rummaging through her private journals, emails, and even her underwear drawers. Sandy had grown up with a mother who’d bulldozed through her boundaries and disrespected her autonomy. The unconscious messaging she’d received had been, “You are never good enough, no matter what you do.”  

Sandy and I discussed how her upbringing had led to her struggles in the bedroom. Over the course of our time together, I learned that Sandy spent every sexual encounter pleasing her partners in every way possible. She would also worry about her body not being sexy enough and being unable to arouse fast enough, often allowing penetration before she was ready and then faking pleasure even if penetration hurt. In addition, she allowed men to do whatever they wished with her, fearful that if she said no, they’d dump her. For Sandy, sex was a chore and an unconscious attempt to win over crumbs of appreciation. No wonder she couldn’t arouse or orgasm. She was unconsciously replaying her relationship with her mother with every lover. 

As you can see, trauma/stress need not be sexual in nature, meaning that a person may have struggles in the bedroom even if they were never sexually mistreated.

There are four common trauma responses – fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. Usually, a person has a leading primary trauma response and then a secondary one. Most people will find their triggers in all four at some point in their love life. Trauma responses vary in degrees of discomfort, some are more painful and severe than others.

As you can see in the cases of Jane and Sandy, both women were not sexually abused, yet their unhealed traumatic childhoods permeated their sex lives. Jane’s trauma response fluctuated between flight and freeze as she felt unsafe in her own body. Sandy’s trauma response was fawning, turning her into a chronic pleaser and a slave in the bedroom, leading to continuous self-abandonment. 

Below are some of the common examples of trauma responses that show up in our love lives:


• ‍Sex out of obligation/guilt 

• ‍Using sex to feel worthy 

• Pleasing others even if it hurts

• ‍Overstepping own boundaries

• Love and romance addiction

• Settling for crumbs in the bedroom

• Pretending to have a high libido

• ‍Chronic loneliness 

• Faking orgasm and pleasure

• Chronic yoni pain/inflammation 

• Chronic yeast infections

• Sex slave/doormat

• Self-conscious of her body and performance 

• ‍Using her sexuality to gain a distorted form of love


• Sex devoid of connection

• Never satisfied 

• Controlling/entitled in the bedroom

• Having sex for validation and control 

• Manipulating others with her sexuality

• Partners are never good enough

• Angry/bitter/resentful 

• Bullying to her partner 

• Judgemental of others

• Demanding perfection each time

• Domineering/enslaving 

• Chronic UTIs

• Using her sexuality to gain a distorted form of control


• Having sex out of fear of abandonment

• Constantly anxious and in the head

• Rushing and worrying during sex

• Using sex/orgasm as stress and anxiety relief

• Feeling emotionally and physically unsafe

• Mistrusting of the partners

• Faking orgasm and pleasure

• Chronic yoni pain/inflammation 

• Chronic yeast infections

• Chasing perfection/never feeling good enough

• Self-judgemental and self conscious

• Unable to feel or sustain arousal

• Using her sexuality to gain a distorted form of validation


• Low libido/asexual

• Zero sexual desire even in a loving relationship

• Self isolating/hermit 

• Aversion to sex

• Sees no pleasure and no point in sex

• Disconnection from the body/frozen

• Mental dissociation during sex

• Yoni feels numb/devoid of sensations

• Chronic yoni tension/inflammation 

• Chronic yeast infections

• Feels victimized/afraid/shut down

• Using her avoidance of sex to gain a distorted form of safety

Use the symptoms above as insights into your own experience, not as absolute rules. Each person’s sexuality and life story are unique like a fingerprint and therefore each woman has her own unique trauma response and struggles, and ultimately, her unique healing journey. No two women are alike. 

It is also interesting to note that trauma often shows up in long-term relationships, ironically the most loving and safe ones. It is as if your being finally feels safe enough to show your vulnerability and pain. It is easier to hide trauma in casual sexual experiences. This way, long-term relationships become the perfect containers for sexual healing. 

Just like in the case of my clients Jane and Sandy, the healing process often requires the support of a trained professional. Since trauma sits in the body, talking therapy is often not enough to fix the problem. Somatic bodywork and other healing practices such as holotropic breathwork, yoni massage, plant ceremonies, TRE, and body de-armouring are designed to release the physical and emotional tension from the body.

It takes courage and humility to face our trauma. It is hard work and a continuous process but it is worth it a hundred percent. Both Jane and Sandy are healing and discovering moments of safety and joy in their love lives. I am so proud of them.

About the Author:

Elena Rossi is a female libido specialist, author of two books, pelvic trauma-release therapist, and sex toy designer. She holds degrees in Business, Psychology, and Leadership and has created several successful wellness concepts, including the slow-pleasure brand Onna Lifestyle, a holistic clinic and cafe in Bali, and her personal coaching brand The Yoni Empire.  

Elena’s content reflects her no-bullshit approach to sexual well-being and is followed by thousands of women all over the world. A sensual connoisseur at heart, Elena Rossi inspires and supports women to explore the nourishing power of sexuality infused with purpose and meaning.

Find Elena on Instagram @the_yoni_empire or her website www.theyoniempire.com

Made Hot
Made Hot
MEET Anna & Alicia aka The Banksy’s behind good sex. We are business partners, twin sisters in our forties and today, we’re lucky to call each other best friends, too. The heart of Made Hot is “let us teach you to do you and be you”. We spent most of our lives missing out on many of life’s greatest joys and pleasures. Through many discussions and self-exploration, we’ve found that we weren’t the only ones —and that LOTS of humans, like us, are missing out on fulfilling relationships and sex lives. There’s nothing we want more than to help change this for others & is exactly why we created Made Hot. To provide a trusted, go-to resource for all things mental, emotional, physical and sexual wellness. So humans across the world can live their best, most satisfying lives possible- filled with endless amounts of pleasure, joy, confidence and happiness. We are MOTHERS. FRIENDS. DAUGHTERS. SISTERS. and we are on a mission of empowerment. We own our scars. We break down barriers. We step out of our shadows.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Do You Want To Get Featured in Top Tier Publications?


Related articles


It was about 15 years into my marriage. Hard work, financial effort, child-rearing in central London, the deep gnawing...

Trust The Power Of Intuition

Have you ever had a gut feeling or inner voice that guided you in your decision-making process? That’s...

Blending To Make A Better Now

Sababay Winery was established with a visionary mission to uplift the livelihoods of Bali's farmers by blending culinary...

The T Lady: A Natural Remedy To Weight Loss & Detox

Who says tea can’t be extraordinary?  Whilst tea is a part of everyday life—a staple for people who want...