Sex & The Blues
By Sophie Dila
Ever notice that when you’re going through a tough time, your sex drive can take the backseat? Let’s be real: life isn’t always roses and butterflies. It might be that the world feels upside down, you’re going through a stressful time at work, you’re trying to resolve a conflict with a family member, or you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. Whatever the cause, sometimes life events disrupt the balance of your mental health and overall well-being, and that can get in the way of a satisfying sex life.
Mental health issues are really common in America. In fact, about 1 out of every 5 people experience some type of mental health issue in their lifetime, anxiety or depression being the most common. These issues can prevent us from enjoying the pleasures of sex.
The mind-body connection is powerful. We often think of sex as a physical act that we do, but our thoughts and feelings play a huge role in the way we experience sex and intimacy, whether that’s with ourselves or in partnership. Our mind, emotions and nervous system are constantly communicating and interacting with our physical bodies, and vice versa. The mind and body are essentially inseparable, so when one is feeling off, the other is affected too.
If you have felt the sadness or worry that accompany some mental health issues, then you probably know that these feelings can change your sex drive. Even without a formal mental health diagnosis, most people endure feelings of stress, pressure, fatigue, irritability, doubt and insecurity at one point or another, and that can play out in different ways in the sexual realm. These feelings can manifest as decreased libido, erectile dysfunction or difficulty climaxing in orgasm.
Alternatively, some mental health issues can lead people to desire more sex or partners. Anxiety and depression can negatively impact self-esteem, and feelings of low self-worth can lead to increased risky sexual behavior, like sex without a condom. This can open the door to health risks such as STIs or unplanned pregnancy.
Bottom line, mental health issues and common everyday stressors can mess with your sex life. But don’t lose hope, Beforeplayers! There are ways to manage and overcome these challenges!
What To Do When You’re Feeling Blue
Be patient with yourself. If you’re going through a tough time and that means a lackluster sex life for a while, that’s ok! It’s common for the libido to retreat during times of stress, and when your spirits lift back up, it’s likely your libido will, too.
Some medications that treat mental health issues can dull the sex drive. If you think that’s the case, try talking to your doctor about altering or changing your game plan.
You might have heard about a study linking hormonal contraception to depression, but we want to share a little about that with you. This study’s findings were that women on the pill are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than women not on hormonal birth control. When the study was published, the internet went wild. Those who had believed all along that the pill caused or worsened depression expressed relief and justification. But others aren’t as convinced, especially since while it shows that birth control use is correlated to or associated with diagnoses of depression, this study does not prove that birth control causes depression. Some experts point out that there are numerous other factors at play that could cause depression in women, like emotional deregulation or relationship problems. So, the answer is, it’s not so simple. If you’re concerned that your birth control is impacting your mood, check out our Birth Control Method Selector and talk to your health care provider about your options.
Bottom line, mental health issues are common. As we always say at Beforeplay.org, just talk about it! Talk to your friends, your family, your partners, and ask your doctor for a referral to speak with a therapist or mental health counselor, who can offer you skills and tools to navigate back to a healthier and happier headspace.
What To Do If Your Partner is Feeling Blue
Communicating openly about the complexities of your worries, doubts and fears with another person can be difficult and scary. Add sex to the mix, and things can get complicated and confusing. Even in partners who do not have mental health issues, sexual relationships can be challenging to navigate. Be gentle with yourself and with your partner, and take it a step at a time.
Try to approach mental health issues nonjudgmentally and offer support. That might be just the tonic someone needs to feel more comfortable and get back in the mood. Remember that there’s still a lot of stigma associated with mental health issues. Rather than blaming a person for feeling anxious or depressed, try allying with each other to overcome the influences mental health has on your sex life.
If you’re having difficulty climaxing, remember that it’s not all about the orgasm, and penetration isn’t a necessary component of sex. There is plenty of pleasure to be had in pillow talk, massage, cuddling, kissing and foreplay.
Remember that sex is really good for you and your partnership. It’s a great form of exercise, and way more fun than the gym. Getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat helps quiet down the mind and busy thoughts. Communicating openly with your partner about sex and getting creative in the bedroom can boost your intimacy with your partner, making you emotionally closer. Sex and intimacy can improve your overall well-being.
On a final note, don’t forget that life is constantly changing. Just as the seasons change, so do the stages of our lives. So if you’re feeling the blues, hang in there, tap into your support network and know that you’re not alone.
March 30, 2017