Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 195-206

First online:

Sexuality and People with Psychiatric Disabilities

  • Judith A. CookAffiliated withNational Research and Training Center on Psychiatric Disability, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago

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This article explores the topic of sexuality and intimacy of people with severe mental illness by addressing a series of questions about the nature of psychiatric disability and its effects on sexual identity and behavior. After describing the characteristics of people with psychiatric disabilities, the paper explores where they fit in the disability rights movement and examines how society treats persons with psychiatric labels. Barriers to full sexual expression are explored, first, from consumer perspectives, and then from the research literature, including a look at impediments to use of contraception and safer sex practices. Finally, the analysis asks a series of questions about issues for women mental health consumers in the expression of their sexuality and access to women's health services, along with sexuality issues for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive consumers. Finally, the paper concludes with suggestions for ways the disability community and larger society can support mental health consumers' efforts to freely express their sexuality and combat stigmatizing societal representations of it.

sexuality intimacy mental illness psychiatric disability