Friday, June 8, 2007

Sex in Medical School

WAIT! Before you go running to Blogger to flag this blog as inappropriate let me state a couple things here: I will not be discussing my sex life or anyone else's encounters in the hospital here. Rather I want to discuss the decline in sexual desire and relationships during medical training.

What's that? Doctors and medical students aren't hot and bothered stud and studettes who are humping each other and patients at a rabbit-like pace? Well, no. I’ve heard several times recently and within the last year or so how people have no energy. They have nothing left once they are released from duties and subsequently go home only to fall flat on their faces with exhaustion. Daily routines are disturbed, bills left unpaid, family and friends become strangers while the student or resident recuperates. Couple that with a relationship of any level in which physical intimacy is expected and you can see where hard times can result.

Case in point involves a resident who took it upon herself to discuss married life and residency training with me (I guess as a teaching tool since I’m married and all). She stated that there had been plenty of times where her husband and she fought over a multitude of items including their bawdy behaviors (or lack thereof). All of these were related to her extreme level of fatigue. She was in her 3rd year and had been dealing with this her entire residency and she worried about the impact it was having on their marriage. She had 2 more years to go and her husband had mentioned divorce more frequently as he became more and more frustrated with the life. I’ve heard this same sentiment echoed by numerous residents (both male and female) in various forms.

Medical students as well talk about their normally “impervious” libidos being sapped whilst on arduous rotations – i.e. Surgery, Internal Med, and OB/GYN. Many students who had what they thought were strong relationships found their partner lost because of their sudden asexual behavior. Coming home or waiting patiently for weeks or months (depending) for someone to have the desire to attempt sexual intercourse is enough to bring any relationship aground.

Call it ridiculous, call it chauvinistic, call it shallow, call it implausible, but sex is a real problem for residents and students. We’re a population of young, vibrant, energetic, and intelligent individuals who should be at their sexual prime. However, the rigors of training cause many to become devoid of any such ability. It’s just too much effort when all you want is to rest. Think about that the next time you discuss improving your sexual function or desire with your doctor. Just like sleep, good eating habits, and reducing stress levels, we're as or more guilty when it comes to these unhealthy behaviors.


> ScutMonkey said...

So sad, but true. This post really brought out some of the more explicit issues regarding relationship dysfunction in medicine. I recently posted about some of the emotional imapcts training had taken in my personal life and I never really addressed this specifically. It was a big issue in my recent relationship.

I am not sure if it was simply fatigue or the signs of a depression that I was settling into, but it is very hard on my partner when I could not appreciate her physically. And yes, I think most men are disheartened by their lack of interest in sex or disappointed partners.

If the desire for sex had arisen (no pun intended), it was often as a cathartic physical release when my brain's pop-off valve was reached. Although fine once in a while, it is not the sort of physical relationship you want as your cornerstone I think...

Dr. J. said...

While watching Gray's Anatomy with my wife there was a scene where two residents get frisky in a linen closet while on call in the hospital. My wife, looking at the TV with disdain, says 'Yeah right, as if anyone who found a closet full of linens would do anything but sleep.'
Aaaahhh residency, what a life....

Old MD Girl said...

This is an issue for many, many fields OTHER than medicine as well. During our reproduction block we had a couple's therapist come talk with us about healthy relationships and expressing intimacy through forms other than sex -- like cuddling for instance. This is a problem for a lot of people, apparently. He actually said that he found that the couples who had the most problems had a lot of trouble expressing love or intimacy through avenues OTHER than actual intercourse. So, maybe that's part of the problem too. I can think of lots of times that I could snuggle, but would not be interested in sex. Incidentally, nagging the uninterested partner for sex was NOT associated with more sex, but rather with higher rates of resentment and dysfunction. Not especially surprising, I thought.

Anonymous said...

So I have been dating a female ENT surgeon for over a year and a half now. She is in her last few months of residency, about to partner up w/ another ENT.
In the beginning stages of our relationship, as with most, sex was great. We tried different things, and were happy. About 4-6 months in, when I would try to initiate anything, she would make up excuses and no sex. After a few talks, she put it on me, saying i was not trying to set the mood- she needed to be intellectually stimulated beforehand. So I would clean her house when she was too busy, cook for her 2-3x/wk or take her out, and always try to create an intimate mood and conversation.
Helped for a while, but now that seldom helps. When we do make love she simply wants to reach orgasm and then she lies there dead to the world. Now she claims she is exhausted EVERY NIGHT, no matter what.

I love my girlfriend, and we've even talked about marriage. But if we only get intimate 1-2x a month now, how is it going to be once married, especially with kids?
If she's honestly always that tired, when with that end?

I feel guilty basing our relationship's survival on sex, but I feel unsatisfied both emotionally and sexually when I'm with her. I am now resentful. Are we doomed or is there a glimpse of hope here?

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