- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Americans searching for security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are experiencing enlivened libidos, seeking what sex therapists call "terror" or "post-disaster" sex.
In some cases, it has meant the pursuit of one-night stands, just for the opportunity to get close to someone and to feel at least, temporarily wanted and secure.
"Just as people are reaching out to show compassion, they are also reaching out to some degree, for passion," said Jeff Michaelson, a psychologist and board-certified sexologist in McLean.
Karen Shanor, a D.C. psychologist and author of the book, "The Emerging Mind," said she had talked to patients who have dealt with their feelings of endangerment "by finding a quick sex partner"and by engaging in "less responsible sex."
"It's as if they are trying not to deal with the future. It's almost a death wish," she said.
Kate Wachs, director of the Relationship Center in Chicago, says that just as some Americans are eating, drinking or smoking compulsively to try to relieve terror-induced feelings of anxiety and stress, others are copulating compulsively toward the same end.
"They see terrorism as being a pervasive and long-term problem, and there's this incredible tension," and they keep engaging in sex often with different partners "to get that [temporary] release," the psychologist said.
For monogamous couples, "post-disaster sex" is an outlet for feelings of helplessness and insecurity, and to express love more intensely.
"People are more aware of other people and their own neediness right now, and sex is one of the ways for us to feel better. Men, especially, view sex as a way of bonding, and women like the foreplay, which makes them feel loved. Both partners feel good about being wanted," said Al Baraff, a psychologist and director of the MenCenter in northwest Washington.
"It's not necessarily that people are having better sex. It's that they have a better, deeper appreciation [of their lover]. People do need to cling to each other, to hold each other, and to help each other" in times of crisis, Mr. Michaelson said.
Ms. Wachs, who runs a dating service that tries to match people for marriage, said she has seen a 30 percent increase in applications since the terrorist attacks last month. "Things are scary right now, and everybody is trying to bond," said the psychologist, whose new book, "Relationships for Dummies," is due out next month.
"People are thinking, 'if the world is going to blow up, I'd rather have a partner than be alone,'" Ms. Wachs said.
Both she and Mr. Michaelson said they've noticed, in their private practices, that couples are bickering less than usual.
"People are appreciating their partners more," Ms. Wachs said.
Mr. Baraff said he has not seen any direct evidence of "terror sex" in his practice. "But we'll know in nine months whether couples under stress and trauma, who are feeling insecure, helpless and needy, tend to look to sex as a way of comforting and bonding," he said.

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