Sex and Depression

Photo credit: duncan c via Flickr

By Claudia Rutherford

In light of World Mental Health Day, I decided to do some research on the relation between sex and mental health (a bit of a specific area to express an interest in I know), but, at least in my experience, it’s a subject I’ve found to be shunned, brushed off lightly or simply laughed at. Too often when I’ve attempted to spur up discussions of sex, my friends have become bashful and don’t quite know how to respond. People (understandably) are shy to the topic of sex. But when issues of mental health become entangled in this already discarded topic, it becomes a danger. We need to speak about it and voice our concerns.
I’ll start with myself. When I was suffering through one of my more severe bouts of depression, sex was painful. Literally. Because my mind was elsewhere, I couldn’t relax or feel comfortable with my partner. Every time we’d try to have sex, I’d feel tense, anxious and totally unstimulated. I felt like I couldn’t communicate these issues to him because I didn’t understand them myself.
When we’d be together, I’d freeze and couldn’t perform. For someone who has had no issue with sex or relationships previously, this predicament was awfully confusing. I’d always been confident in myself and my body, so what had changed? I loved him, so why was it so hard? I questioned myself and assumed that I just wasn’t cut out for sex anymore. I had no idea that it could have been related to poor mental health.
Feelings of extreme sadness are emotions intense enough to interfere with your sex life. The mind is important for sexuality, because it helps to shape your experience of pleasure and how you define it. After spending time looking after myself and treating my mental health issues, I began to enjoy sex again. It’s wasn’t a permanent and it doesn’t last forever, but I needed time to take care of myself.
If you’re suffering, treat your depression first. Voice these concerns to your partner. They can help you recover. And if they don’t understand, then leave. It’s really not worth downward spiral. Your health and happiness take priority always.

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