Can Depression Ruin Your Sex Drive?
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Relax. Sit back and reflect upon any experiences of pleasure you had in the past week. Maybe a nice smell, something beautiful you may have seen, or a yummy treat you may have tasted. Are you drawing a blank? Are you finding yourself looking down and thinking, "ugh, I have NO IDEA what in the world will make me feel happy anymore"! Depression can seem like a subtle disconnection from the world - from feelings, people and activities. In a scientific sense, the disconnection caused by depression is real, and it does cause a person to lose interest or enjoyment in things that once pleased them.
Depression affects every area of a person's life and yes, their sex drive can be profoundly affected too. When people were questioned as to why they have sex, the most common answers are: for pleasure and to feel connected to the other person. These responses are from both men and women alike. So, what happens when a person's sense of pleasure is seriously affected in a negative way? For starters, a person's libido is weakened because their all of their motivations, especially their desire for sex goes down. Yes, even their fantasies about sex dissipates, so it's no surprise that many people with depression report decreased sex drives.
By adding this weight onto the shoulders of a person who already has a general sense of being overwhelmed, who is really exhausted and who also has difficulty functioning through daily activities, you can see why sex is just another part of their life in which they simply "go through the motions". Understandably so, frustrated partners want to know what they can do to make sex fun again. Commonly, they find their depressed partner unable to answer because they have lost connection to their own pleasure. We all react to stress, including depression, differently. Some people with depression actually say they have increased sex drives. They like having sex because they receive a physical boost and they also feel loved and accepted by another. All of us want to relieve ourselves of negative feelings or uncomfortable situations and we all develop skills for doing this by the time we are young, and we add to them over the course of our life. We learn habits that we know make us feel better, even in the short term like watching TV, going for a run, or by eating something sweet.
People suffering with depression feel badly most of the time and so their habits for self soothing often become automatic and fortified. Some of these habits are actually helpful and some sadly wind up making things worse. Turning to sex is helpful because it makes can make you feel good both emotionally and physically. Some people suffering from depression say that turning to sexual behaviors doesn't make them feel good in the long run because feelings about sexual performance, pleasure, and love can conflict with each-other. It can create a cycle that increases feelings of depression, leading to more drive to escape those feelings, and so on.
When we speak with people suffering from depression, we often discover we are speaking with a very critical mind, a tendency to have high, often unrealistic expectations and a pattern of focusing on the negative aspects of past experiences. Many sex therapists will say that perfectionism is an enemy to sexual performance and satisfaction, because putting unrealistic expectations onto a sexual experience can led to pressure, stress and difficulty being present for the fun of the moment. It’s commonly understood these days that some side effects of popular anti-depression medications can be reduced sex drive. Sadly, these side effects may contribute to ongoing depression in some people on their own.
The Bright Side
On the positive side, these side effects will not occur for everyone and some more modern antidepressants can actually reduce sexual side effects. If you are taking medications for depression, speak with your doctor about your sexual goals and symptoms. Remember that medication may still be the best choice for you and there are options to limit impact on your sex life.
If you are suffering from depression it is imperative to seek help. Find a therapist you are comfortable with and bring up what is concerning you related to your sexuality. If you are part of a couple, know that your partner is impacted by your depression as well, so couples therapy may be very helpful in talking about sexual concerns.
Start slowly. Think of a moment of pleasure and smile when you remember this. This is a good place to begin.
- Jeff Stein
Dahlen, D. (n.d.). Relationships / Blog. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/being-depressed-can-ruin-mans-sex-drive