How Depression Impacts Your Sex Life
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Did you know that depression affects millions of people in the U.S.? Did you know that it is equally common to get a cup of coffee or go to the gym as it is to engage in talk therapy, taking mental health "sick days" off from work, and using mental health medications?
It's true! There are many symptoms of depression that includes mood swings, but the negative effect it can have on your romantic and sex life can be devastating. Sufferers can experience anhedonia, which is a lack of pleasure in things that were once enjoyable. Partners witness their sex life diminish because their depressed lover may want to be left alone or feel tired among other reasons. Sadly, this is may result in depression spreading from one partner to the other, which would create a generally depressed relationship. Some report that when their partners are depressed and disinterested in sex, they feel rejected and perhaps experience a blow to their ego as they begin to feel selfish for wanting to have their sexual needs fulfilled. A vicious cycle may develop as the healthy partner strives to respect their partner's mental illness by giving them space, which results them failing to meet their sexual needs and eventually creates a mutually depressing situation. One of the most important aspects of romance, passion, adoration, affection, and all other emotional states that you share with your partner is sex - The physically intimate aspect of love and affection. This the foundation of deeper levels of romantic intimacy, intensity, and excitement in your relationship. A healthy sex life defines a healthy and happy couple.
First, seek professional help. Many mild or moderate depressive episodes respond well to cognitive behavior therapy, which is an approach defined by combating your negative thoughts and behaviors by replacing them with positive ones.
Think about medications. Yes, some drugs do have sexual side effects such as the numbing of sexual sensation, and they are known to diminish the brain’s neural pathways associated with arousal and orgasm in some. This can unfortunately add to your problem, but treating your depression is vital for beginning the path to recovery. The best course of action is to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing severe side effects from your antidepressants. There are types medications that have fewer sexual side effects than others and some may even help stimulate sexual interest. Drugs affect us all in a different way and the best treatments are with individualized programs. Through working in collaboration with your doctor, you may be able to find a balance of options that may help improve your mood without depleting your sex life.
Take a break from sexual pressure. At least for now, try other forms of intimacy. The connection with your partner is what's most important and that's what you need to focus on right now, so hold hands, hug, or kiss and put intercourse on the back burner.
When you feel ready for sex - go for it! When you’re depressed, it can be beneficial to simply put yourself through the motions of sex in order to revive your passion - Even if you don't feel interested at first. The brain is our most powerful sex organ and our 'feel good chemicals'- endorphins, serotonin, and opioids all get a boost when we experience an orgasm. Engaging in sex regularly can serve as a powerful antidepressant, so don't get too stressed about your current situation (which exacerbates depression) - Just relax, and see what happens. Sometimes we find it impossible to sexually perform because we are trying too hard to live up to imaginary pressures. In reality, not everyone has the most amazing sex all the time and orgasms are not achieved by all people every time they have sex.
In many cases your depression may be only temporary, therefore it's important that you don't let it control your life. Be positive and remember that the devastating effects sexual problems can have on a relationship is a common problem. Sexual problems may occur from a variety of reasons and not necessarily due to chronic depression or side effects from medications. Yet, treatment will require patience and understanding.
It is obvious that when you’re depressed, you feel alone and communication can be a struggle. It is paramount to communicate the side effects of your depression with both your partner and with your doctor. As a team, the road back to better sex and a better state of mind will be much easier and enjoyable when you work with others than isolating yourself and going it alone.
- Jeff Stein
I have suffered with my bouts of depression, and I am sure that many, if not most people have suffered. I believe that throughout the course of our lives, with a general life expectancy of approximately 75 years, that the majority of people who have suffered from depression did so without any clinical diagnosis. Essentially they suffered from it undetected and alone.
Without the professional diagnosis, I believe that we often dismiss the possibilities that we could have an illness or disorder. The impact that any disease or disorder has on a relationship is almost immeasurable.
I recall when my Grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer nearly twenty years ago. Approximately one month before his diagnosis, he and my Grandmother celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. No great party or loud fanfare, they just shared a quiet dinner out with my wife and I. To us, that evening together has become extremely special, memorable, and important.
At the time, his diagnosis was a near-certain death sentence. My Grandfather would have months to live - not years. Unfortunately today there is no cure, but treatments have advanced to provide some measure of hope for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Through the very brief period of illness that followed from his diagnosis, my family and I watched as my grandparents grew closer in most ways, but more distant in others.
We knew that the feeble hope was that any treatment would only pro-long his life, but not cure the disease. I cannot begin to fathom or imagine what his mental state during those final days might have been. I know that his faith carried from this life to the next. However, since then I have had a few conversations with my Grandmother about what was going on behind the scenes when it was only the two of them traversing the dying process. She told me that he often grew agitated if not angry and she would have to call into question the way he would talk to her. Knowing this man as well as I did, it seemed quite contrary to his daily persona, but in retrospect he was no doubt suffering from depression, as well as the physical discomforts.
At the time my grandparents were in their mid 70s, their form of sexual intimacy perhaps was not as physical as days gone by, but their intimacy was affected by depression nonetheless. How could it not?
Let’s put it into a slightly less morbid perspective. When my wife or I have a simple illness, such as the common cold, our sexual intimacy is squelched tremendously. If we add to that the stress and anxieties of life like extended family problems, kids, work, or unemployment, our attitudes certainly become depressed and inwardly drawn rather than externally focused.
Those are simply the mundane everyday challenges of life that tend to depress us. How much more would the serious challenges, like facing life or death challenges, affect our closeness? There is no doubt through my experience that the depression issues faced by individuals will affect every part of their lives, but especially the intimate life that they try to share. We try to carry our depression alone, but through doing so we shut out those who are best equipped to go through it with us.
Five ways to fight depression in the bedroom. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/22/fivefive-ways-to-fight-depression-in-the-bedroom