Sexual Disorders

How Depression Can Hurt Your Sex Life

The mind plays several critical roles in our daily lives. Unfortunately, many people overlook the importance of attending to their mental health.

When problems develop in a person’s life, they will often look at physiological causes. Sometimes, however, these problems originate from a condition that affected a person’s health’s psychological elements. 

Depression is considered a prevalent type of mental disorder. The condition comes in different levels, with major depression being especially concerning. Among the American population, it is estimated that about 16.2 million adults experience episodes of major depressive disorder. This accounts for 6.7% of the population. 

Both men and women who have depression may find that the condition affects their sexual health.

Erectile dysfunction is common in men who feel depressed. Among women, female sexual dysfunction also seems to be prevalent. We take a look at how depression affects a person’s sex life and how it can be treated. 

Depression And Sexual Health

Depression is classified as a mental disorder. It is sometimes also referred to as a type of mood disorder. The condition tends to have a major impact on people who suffer from it. In general, depression is associated with a consistent sad feeling. People may also have feelings associated with anger and loss. 

It is important to note that depression is not the same for every person. People tend to experience this mental disorder in various ways. The person’s own life and circumstances play a big role in the development and severity of depression. 

When a person is depressed, they may experience a number of complications. The person’s daily life may be disrupted. The mental health problems may contribute to poor productivity while the person is at their workplace. Even at home, depressed patients continue to feel unmotivated. A person with major depression is also at risk of experiencing problems in their relationship. This may sometimes be due to poor sexual health associated with depression. 

There are several ways that this mental illness can affect a person’s sexual function. Both men and women may experience sexual dysfunction when they are depressed. 

With this in mind, it is important to understand how sexual intimacy work. A person needs to be sexually stimulated before they participate in these activities. Once stimulated, the process of sexual activity starts in the mind. Arousal is the first step, which causes chemicals to be released. These chemicals act as messengers, which communicates with the rest of the body – including the genitals. 

Sexual problems among men with depression will often include not only a low libido but also erectile dysfunction. When the man is sexually aroused, their brain starts to send messages to nerves in the penis. The nerves cause muscles at the base of the penis to relax. This results in blood starting to flow into the penis, thus resulting in an erection.

When depression causes problems with sexual desire, it is sure to lead to additional physiological complications associated with erectile function. 

Over time, both men and women may find that depression causes them to experience a change in sexual behavior. This can make things worse. The man develops performance anxiety. He now fears not being able to perform when he participated in sex. This consistent worrying during sexual activity causes more problems with his libido and erection. This can lead to a reduced sexual satisfaction for both parties involved in the activity.

It is important to note that depression is not the only mental disorder that can interfere with a person’s sex life. It has been shown that other types of mental disorders may lead to similar adverse effects. A number of studies have been done on this particular topic. 

The International Society published one study for Sexual Medicine. In this study, researchers found a strong correlation between bipolar disorder and erectile dysfunction among male patients. 

Anxiety is another mental disorder that we need to focus on here. The widespread prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder is a concern in this particular case. Studies report a significant rise in the prevalence of these disorders throughout the last few years. Some studies show a link between the risk of erectile dysfunction and the presence of an anxiety disorder. 

The study found that anxiety causes a reduction of intimacy in a relationship. It causes communication barriers and reduces the number of sexual encounters among the two partners. These are some of the ways that anxiety can contribute to erectile dysfunction symptoms.  

Symptoms

When looking at the relation between depression and sexual dysfunction, it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms. With this in mind, we do need to focus on the symptoms associated with both issues. 

Before we dive into the symptoms that could develop, it is important to note that there is a two-way connection between sexual problems and mental disorders.

For example, a person with depression may find that the condition affects their abilities in the bedroom. The depression leads to a low sex drive and also affects a man’s ability to have an erection. These complications can make the depressive symptoms worse. 

On the other hand, a man who first develops erectile dysfunction would be at risk of depression. When he is unable to perform during sex, the man feels self-conscious about himself and his abilities.

This can lead to the development of sadness and anger, eventually causing depression. Anxiety also develops in this way, particularly when the man is about to have intercourse or participate in other sexual activities with a partner. 

When a person is acknowledged about symptoms, they can recognize the development of these complications early on. Early medical intervention often leads to a more successful treatment program and helps to avoid the complications from escalating into bigger issues. 

Depression symptoms tend to be similar among men and women. Some of the most common symptoms that people should look out for include:

  • One of the first symptoms is hopelessness. The person starts to feel like there is no outlook where hope can be found. The person feels like they are worthless. It is also common for a person to express some level of guilt and self-hate that is not appropriate. 

  • People who become depressed will usually lose interest in things they used to do. The person starts to make excuses when a group of friends wants to hang out, for example. 

  • If the person had a hobby, such as playing guitar or perhaps going out to walk the dog, they might become less interested in these activities too. 

  • Fatigue and tiredness are also common in people with depression. This is often combined with sleep-related issues. The person may not be able to fall asleep at night. In other cases, people with depression start to sleep more than before. During the day, the person feels tired. 

  • There are often noticeable changes in a person’s appetite when they become depressed. Some people find that they do not have an appetite when they feel depressed. In other patients, there may be an increased appetite. The appetite changes are likely to lead to weight gain or weight loss too. 

  • Studies have found that depressed individuals are more likely to commit suicide too. Thus, it is important to take note of when a depressed individual starts to talk about death. This could be an early symptom that the patient may develop suicidal thoughts later on. 

  • Being emotionally unstable is yet another factor to keep in mind. Depression is likely to make it harder for a person to be in control of their own emotions. 

Men

Apart from general symptoms, some problems happen in men, particularly when looking at a connection between depression and sexual issues. 

A common symptom of depression, apart from the ones listed above, is irritability. This particular symptom is often found to be more prevalent among men with depression. 

In terms of sexual side-effects, both low libido and poor erectile function may be noted among the male population. The man may not be interested in engaging sexually with their partner most of the time. The frequency at which the man does not feel like participating in a sexual activity tends to increase as the depression becomes more severe. 

When the man does participate in sex, he may show signs of erectile dysfunction. This could include an erection that is not rigid enough for him to penetrate his partner. Sometimes, an erection develops, but it goes away while the man is having sex. In this scenario, it would lead to reduced sexual satisfaction for both the man who has depression as well as their partner. 

In some cases, ejaculatory problems develop as a consequence of mental health problems too. When looking at depression and sex, in particular, the man may find that he takes too long to ejaculate. Premature ejaculation is yet another issue that needs to be mentioned here. 

Women

Some distinctive symptoms may develop among women with depression, particularly when discussing sexual dysfunction. 

Low libido is also one problem that develops with a woman’s sexual function when she is depressed. The woman will not be as interested in engaging in sexual activity compared to before depression developed. 

Additionally, some women may experience physiological problems too. One study looked specifically at how loneliness and depression would affect women during sex.

It was found that there is an increase in pain reported during sexual intercourse among depressed women. This indicates that depression could lead to a higher perception of pain. This effect then causes the woman to experience pain when she is having sex. 

Causes And Risk Factors

Depression is a complex mental disorder that has several potential causes. The specific cause varies from patient to patient. Sometimes, a medical condition is associated with depression. In other cases, it could be a problem related to the person’s genetics or events that they had experienced in the past. 

In this section, we want to look at some of the most common reasons people develop depression. We also address the risk factors. Some risks are addressable, while others cannot be avoided. People should learn what they can do in their own life to limit their risk of depression. 

  • Medical History: A person’s medical history plays a role in determining their risk. If a person has a history of certain mental conditions, they are considered at a higher risk for depression. 

  • Diseases And Illnesses: A number of diseases have also been associated with depression. Chronic pain problems, for example, leads to depression. This is caused by the disabling complications experienced. Depression is also often noted among patients with ADHD, insomnia, and chronic diseases. 

  • Poor Self-Esteem: People who generally have low self-esteem and poor body image will also be more likely to develop depression. 

  • Genetics: Some evidence shows that individuals with a family history of depression also seem to be at a greater risk of developing the condition themselves. 

  • Drugs And Alcohol: Abusing certain substances, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs, also causes a significant increase in the risk. 

Treatment Options

When the patient has depression and sex problems, the treatment approach can sometimes be a bit complex. In many cases, treating the depression would yield improvements in the patient’s sex life.

However, the major problem is that some antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), have been linked to erectile dysfunction as a side-effect. Some people also experience sexual side-effects with tricyclic antidepressants. However, it should be noted that this is not always the case when a patient is provided antidepressant medication to assist in treating this mental disorder. 

Among both adolescents and adults, antidepressants remain a good treatment option. The doctor may prescribe a specific antidepressant based on their findings. The patient then needs to take the drug for at least a month and report back to the doctor. Changes may be made if the drug causes worse problems with the patient’s sexual functioning. 

This medication may also be used in women with postpartum depression. In such a case, depressive symptoms generally develop following childbirth. At this point, it is generally considered normal for the woman to have a decreased libido, however. 

Management

Managing sexual problems as a result of depression can take time and require both parties’ dedication, even when only one is affected. Open communication should form the basis of the relationship.

It is vital that depressed individuals talk openly about their feelings with their partner. This helps them share what they feel and serves as an excellent way of improving their bond. 

The party not affected by depression also need to bring their part. For example, turning to pornography as a means of sexual stimulation can lead to relationship problems. The individual may even find themselves with a sexual addiction at this point or start developing their own sex-related problems. This happens when pornography leads to the person having inappropriate or unrealistic expectations when they have sex in the real world. 

It is also important to implement a few lifestyle strategies shown to help with depression and sexual problems. A healthy diet that provides balanced nutrition is important. The brain and body need a constant supply of vitamins, amino acids, healthy fats, minerals, and more. 

Exercise is also a great activity to consider. Studies have shown that physical exercise can effectively reduce depressive symptoms among both men and women. Additionally, exercise is known to improve self-esteem, boost endurance and stamina, and might be an ideal way to help the individual fight against depression. The increased blood circulation provided by exercise also benefits the male erection – as more blood can flow to the penis. 

By combining multiple strategies and monitoring the progress, both men and women can reduce the effects of depression on their sexual lives. 

Conclusion

Depression is a prevalent mental disorder that causes a low mood and unpleasant thoughts. In people with major depressive disorder, it is common to see co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety. Long-term depression can have a significant impact on a person’s sex life.

Both men and women may find that these mental health conditions interfere with their abilities in the bedroom. Understanding the symptoms and causes helps a person know their risks and what to look for. We also shared some of the most effective treatment options for these situations. 

Sources

  1. National Institutes of Mental Health. Major Depression. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
  2. Healthline. (2020) Depression: Facts, Statistics, and You. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic
  3. International Society of Sexual Medicine. (2018) Men with Bipolar Disorder at Higher Risk for ED, Study Finds. [online] Available at: https://www.issm.info/news/sex-health-headlines/men-with-bipolar-disorder-at-higher-risk-for-ed-study-finds/
  4. International Journal on Impotence Research. (2003) Anxiety and erectile dysfunction: a global approach to ED enhances results and quality of life. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12825100/
  5. HHS Public Access. (2018) Loneliness Mediates the Relationship Between Pain During Intercourse and Depressive Symptoms Among Young Women. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6035118/

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