We all know that sex is good for us. It’s excellent exercise and a serious mood-enhancer, releasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine. It can be the glue that holds our intimate relationships together. But when either you or your partner is suffering from depression, it’s very likely that you will have to deal with sexual issues and dysfunction alongside the depression.
Sexual dysfunction experienced during depression includes:
- Difficulties achieving an orgasm
- Impaired libido
- Inability to initiate sex
- Feelings of insecurity and anxiety
- Decreased pleasure during sex
Difficulties achieving orgasm
Depression affects the ability to orgasm in both women and men. In women, it can cause an impaired orgasm. In men, the depression itself can cause ED (erectile dysfunction–the inability to achieve and maintain erections). But other times, when a man seeks help for his depression, the lifeline he is thrown has unexpected side effects. Antidepressant medication often causes ED, which can make a man feel frustrated, sad, angry, and insecure and compounds his depression.
Both depression itself and antidepressants can cause decreased libido.
Dr. Christopher Fox, a sex and relationship therapist from Melbourne, tells his clients to “consider libido to be the upper areas of moods, along with high levels of happiness, or motivation. When a person is depressed, these areas of mood are harder to tap into.”
Dr. Streicher, an assistant OB-GYN professor from Chicago, says that “not only does having sex make sex better, it also improves your libido.” This is because the more sex you have, the more you want. And vice versa.
Inability to initiate sex
Great sex will make you feel better. It eases stress, improves your sleep, lowers your blood pressure, and boosts your immune system. The problem is that when all you want to do is crawl into your bed and watch Netflix all day–just getting up and showering is a struggle–sex is often going to be the last thing on your mind.
Feelings of insecurity and anxiety
It’s hard to get in the mood when you are distracted or you are worrying about a million other things, and you are caught up in these thoughts.
A Vancouver counselor and sexual health educator, Daniel Kline, explains that although “we think of sex as something our bodies are doing, a lot of our sex life takes place in our brains. It’s important to realize that, for all genders, our thoughts and feelings play a vital role in getting us turned on and keeping us that way.”
Decreased pleasure during sex
Even when people suffering from depression do engage in sex, they may not enjoy it as much as they used to.
Dr Frederick Goodwin, a psychiatrist who specialized in bipolar disorder and recurrent depression explained it like this: “The whole process of sexual arousal starts with the ability to anticipate pleasure, which is lost with depression … People who are depressed are locked in the moment of their suffering.”
Because both having no desire for sex and having no sex can seriously impact your physical and emotional health and wreak havoc on your intimate relationships, if you or your partner is suffering from depression, it’s important to seek medical attention. A sex therapist is trained in these issues and can provide support during a difficult time.