Bleb Disease and Sex


Understanding  How Bleb Related Pain Can Impact Your Sex Life (from The Center for Growth in Philadelphia)

People  living with bleb disease may experience pain at various points in  their life.  Recovering from a chest tube, a pleurodesis or a  pleurectomy can be very painful.  In addition some people with bleb  disease will experience chronic pain as a result of the surgery they  have endured.  Depending on the severity of your condition, you may  experience pain from the leaking of a bleb.  This pain can last for  days or months.  Obviously pain can impact sexual desire, attitudes  towards sex, sexuality and their intimate experience of sex.  Sex is  just as much physical as it is emotional and psychological.  If you  associate sex with pain, sex can become a dreaded or even feared  activity rather than a pleasurable and intimate experience you want  to share with your partner.

Understand  the role of anxiety. If you  experience anxiety about having sex when you are in pain there will  be physical effects on your body.  When people are anxious, chemicals  such as adrenaline are released into the bloodstream.  These  chemicals are effective in readying the body in certain situations  such as in sporting events or if you need to defend yourself.   Unfortunately the body’s natural response to anxiety is not  conducive to performing sexually.  As a result men may experience  occasional erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation while women  may experience pain with intercourse due to lack of lubrication or  tensing of the pelvic muscles. While these sexual problems could  occur just once or twice, they may become a long-standing pattern if  you ignore your body’s reaction and engage in sex while in pain  just to appease your partner.   This pattern will create an extremely  destructive cycle.  When you’re in pain you will feel anxious which  in turn negatively impacts your sexual response leading to more  anxiety or fear.  Examine the checklist below to see if you  experience any sexual issues that could be related to your anxiety  about having sex while in pain.

For  men:

  • Ejaculating  sooner than desired or expected
  • Delayed  or inability to reach orgasm
  • Low  sexual desire
  • Loosing  erection before or during sexual activities

For  women:

  • Pain  or discomfort with intercourse
  • Lack  of lubrication
  • Low  sexual desire
  • Delayed  or inability to reach orgasm


Be  aware of dissociation. Sometimes  when a person has sex when she/he does not want to, dissociation can  occur.  Dissociation is the experience of feeling disconnected from  your body and what is happening in the moment.  People who dissociate  often report feeling detached from their body, emotions and/or  surroundings.  Dissociation is actually a natural and helpful coping  mechanism when you experience a traumatic event such as being in a  horrible car accident or being raped.  However dissociation during  sex decreases the potential for real intimacy with your partner.   Dissociation will also impair your ability to experience a range of  sensations and emotions during sex.  Determine if any of the  statements below ring true to you.  If so, you might be disconnecting  or dissociating during sex.  If  you are disconnecting or dissociating during sex your goal should be  to stay connected during sex.

  • I  feel disconnected to a part of my body during sex.
  • Distraction  is key for me during sex.
  • I  rarely feel present during sex.
  • My  partner tells me that I am not very active during sex.
  • Imaging  that I am elsewhere while having sex is common for me.
  • Sometimes  I feel like I am floating above my body.
  • I’ve been told by my partner that he/she does not believe I am with them during sex.
  • It’s common for me to feel numb during sex.
  • I  find it difficult to experience emotions during sex.
  • Things  seem unreal during sex.
  • I  feel spaced out during sex.
  • Sex  feels robotic or mechanical to me.


Examine  your attitudes and beliefs about sex. Our  attitudes and beliefs about sex come from many sources: religion,  education, past partners, parents, friends and our culture.  It could  be that your own attitudes and beliefs about sex are influencing your  sexual desire and your experience of sex.  Negative, unhealthy or  unrealistic attitudes and beliefs could be limiting your sexual  expression and your potential for a happy, healthy sex life despite  bleb disease.  Write down at least ten attitudes or beliefs you hold  about sex and then ask yourself the following four questions:

  • How did I learn this or who taught me this?
  • How realistic is this attitude or belief?
  • How does this attitude/belief make me feel about my body?  My  sexuality?  My relationship with my partner?
  • How can I adjust this attitude/belief to be more healthy and  realistic?

Example  of Examining Attitudes & Beliefs

Attitudes  or Belief: Intercourse is the  most important and ultimate sexual experience.

1.  How did I learn this or who taught me this? Possibly  culture, as it seems like intercourse is the most emphasized of all  sexual activities.  Perhaps messages I’ve received from my friends  who act like nothing besides intercourse counts as sex.

2.  How realistic is this attitude or belief? Not  so realistic.  Many other activities besides intercourse like mutual  masturbation and oral sex can allow both partners to orgasm and feel  connected.

3.  How does this attitude/belief make me feel about my body?  My  sexuality?  My relationship with my partner? This  belief makes me feel disappointed in my body when I am just in too  much pain to have intercourse.  It makes me feel like all other  sexual activity doesn’t count or just does not compare.  This  belief negatively impacts my relationship with my partner because I  often isolate and feel unmotivated to try anything sexual just  because I cannot have intercourse.

4.  How can I adjust this attitude/belief to be more healthy and  realistic? There are various  sexual activities I can engage in with my partner that as just as  enjoyable and intimate as intercourse.

Attitude  or Belief: If I can’t get my  partner off than I don’t deserve to orgasm either.

1.  How did I learn this or who taught me this? Past  partner put enormous pressure on me about “returning the favor.”

2.  How realistic is this attitude or belief? Not  very realistic.  It’s not that I don’t deserve to orgasm–I just  feel that way.

3.  How does this attitude/belief make me feel about my body?  My  sexuality?  My relationship with my partner? This  makes me feel depressed about my physical limitations when I am in  pain.  I feel like an inadequate sexual being and partner when I  don’t have the energy or pain threshold to meet their sexual needs  when he/she has been able to meet mine.

4.  How can I adjust this attitude/belief to be more healthy and  realistic? As long as my  partner and I are on the same page, it is okay if they want to  pleasure me despite not being able to completely return the favor.  I  can still be an active participant in helping them pleasure  themselves when I am unable to.

The  goal of this task is to set realistic expectations for yourself and  with your partner.  Make sure to tell your partner about the pain you  experience and the impact it has on you.  Both of you need to change  your expectations to adapt to your body’s needs.

Remember…Pain  is a factor that must be considered when you have sex.  However if  you can stay connected, communicate with your partner and have  realistic expectations, your pain does not have to be labeled as a  “problem” but rather another factor in your sex life. Making  these changes will also help you have a better and more intimate sex  life with your partner that also respects your body’s needs.