There’s been a lot of buzz around mental health lately. Countless mental health experts have appeared on social media. Athletes are pulling out of interviews and Olympic games to protect their mental health. And don’t forget countless mental health tips during the pandemic from every platform. This movement of taking mental health very public and destigmatizing it is a powerful culture shift that we are very proud to be witnessing.
But there is one connection that has been missing in the conversation: sex. Humans are social creatures who crave physical intimacy – we love sex. But sex also comes with responsibility. Great sex doesn’t just involve consent, lube and regular STI testing. It’s also about being mentally self-aware and how your mental health can affect your sex life.
The Brain is the Most Important Sex Organ
During sex, the brain releases natural chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin – neurotransmitters that enhance feelings of happiness and relaxation as well as curb stress hormone levels. In fact, the role of touch is so powerful that those who are “touch-deprived,” as many were during the pandemic, are more likely to experience higher levels of stress or depression.
Here’s how common mental disorders can affect your sex life:
- Anxiety – one of the leading causes of sexual dysfunction is anxiety, whether related to performance ability, sexual pain, past trauma, and other related health issues.
- Depression – this can cause a variety of issues such as low libido, loss of desire or body insecurity. Medication may also play a role – if your prescribed medication is causing unpleasant side effects, you have the option of talking to your doctor about it.
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) – may bring about chronic anxiety, inappropriate sexual desires, or the inability to focus fully on the sexual act.
- ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) – is a mental health disorder that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Some people may experience really high “highs” followed by really low “lows” that can lead to episodes of depression and insecurity.
- Eating Disorders – self-esteem, libido, and physical insecurity – all areas connected to sexuality – can be greatly distorted.
If you or your partner are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek support. Consider therapy with a sex therapist or counselor can help reduce psychological barriers. You can also work with your partner(s) on mental techniques like sensate focus (introduced by the Masters and Johnson team) that help calm the anxiety impulse during intimacy by keeping the mind more focused on the five senses. In other words, enjoying ‘being in the moment.’