Despite being so common, depression is still talked about in hushed tones. Countless people suffer from depression and a lack of knowledge about depression can lead them to suffer needlessly. In this article, I am going to discuss one of the most common questions I am asked, “Is Sex good for depression and can having sex can help?”
Sex and Depression Have a Complex Relationship
The Bad news: Depression can:
- Affect the libido thereby lowering the sex drive,
- Create performance issues,
- Affect the ability to orgasm
- Cause self-esteem issues and
- Creates lethargy and a reduction in physical stamina and performance
The Good News:
- Sex releases feel good hormones that can cause mood boosts and stave off depression.
- Sex reduces stress and anxiety. [Link to health benefits of sex article]
- Sex helps you feel close to someone and produces an overall sense of wellbeing.
Sexual Health and Depression
Chronic depression is very difficult to manage and is beyond the scope of this article. Some medicines that are used to treat depression such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants(TCAs) can also lower sex drive. Especially for men, when the ability to perform or get excited is present, further negative feelings are produced thus compounding the underlying depression.
Let’s face it, our thoughts affect and control every aspect of our sex life. In working with many, many clients over the years my experience is that the ability to have sex and enjoy sex lies entirely between our ears. In other words the more positive our thoughts, the more optimistic our thoughts are the better our sex life will be.
The better we feel about ourselves, the better our sex drive and performance will be. The worse we feel about ourselves, the thought of sex and pleasure gets buried in the quagmire of negative thoughts and feelings that consume us. Sex is often the last place that some will seek when depression is prevalent.
Sex and the feeling of connection and intimacy with another is a natural stimulant that will affect mood; having sex releases certain hormones and endorphin’s in the body such as serotonin that lead to the post-coital ‘feel good’ emotion. Intimacy with a partner can also open communication and lead to a connection that someone who is suffering from depression might be looking for. Orgasm, in both men and women, releases oxytocin, which can lead to feelings of happiness. Oxytocin is also known to limit anxiety and fear. Sex is also a well-known stress reliever; having sex can make you feel more relaxed.
The Dilemma, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?
If you are depressed, it is very difficult to have or enjoy sex because everything seems so dark and dismal. On the flip side, even though sex can help lift or at least temporarily lift the depression, it is sometimes impossible to get to the place of wanting to or even being able to have sex. What to do?
Experts say that the priority should be treating depression and it’s effects on sexual health can be dealt with later. Some patients are hesitant to take anti- depressants and anti-anxiety medicines as they can interfere with their performance and sex drive, which in turn can affect their relationships. The ramifications go on and on.
Is sex an anti-depressant?
A recent study linked anti-depressant hormones to semen. This study found that semen can help women stave off depression and is actually a mood booster. However, is that enough to forgo the condom while having sex?
In a study done on college age women, researchers found that women who used condoms during sex were more likely to be depressed than women who did not use them. In addition, the women who did not use condoms while having sex were more likely to be depressed the longer they went without having sex. Using a condom limits the exposure to seman[misspelled purposely] and thus this study supports the hypothesis that semen acts as a mood booster.
However, unprotected sex is a big risk and can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies so the question is whether the payoff exceeds the high amount of risk involved?
Even with a condom, sex can work as an antidepressant for both male and females so wait before you decide to chuck the protection.
In the same research, researchers found that men who were not having sex were more depressed than men who were, pointing to the fact that an active sex life can improve depression.
What to do?
Depression is a serious illness and hence needs to be treated seriously. Before figuring out how your depression or your partner’s depression is affecting your sex life, figure out how to beat depression. There is no quick fix; therapy, medication, and changes in lifestyle are all components of fighting depression.
Medication is one of the most important ways of overcoming anxiety and depression. Antidepressants can have an effect on sex drive. Talk to your doctor about this concern when you start medication and discuss options like lowering your dose or taking another medicine that does not affect sex drive or even consider herbal remedies.
Science shows that sex is good for depression but if depression itself lowers your sex drive then what do you do. The key is communication!
Chronic depression can change the way you think about yourself and your body and even affect orgasm. Talking to your partner about your concerns regarding sex can help pave the way for an improved sex life. Depression can negatively affect sex life and lead you to put off sex but talking about changing the way you think of sex can help. Try different things in the bedroom or try extended foreplay if having an orgasm is a problem.
Another benefit of having regular sex is that it can be great for overall health. Studies show that sex is great for blood pressure and bladder control. It also gears up the immune system, according to Yvonne K Fulbright, a sexual health expert, ‘Sexually active people take fewer sick days,”
Sex is good for depression yet maintaining your sex life while you are suffering from depression can seem like an enormous task. Keep in mind that the important thing is open and frank communication; talk to your partner about what is pleasurable and what is not and if you should change anything in the bedroom.
Communication and being understood by your partner will go a long way to naturally resolving sexual issues and sexual desire. The closeness created by working on a common problem together will do wonders for your connection in the bedroom. And most of all, make sure you seek the help of a qualified doctor or health care professional.
Rafael, my husband and I recorded a frank discussion about “Connection in the Bedroom” that you might want to listen to. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep in mind that the key is not just knowing how to get over anxiety as you try to maintain your sex life but also to keep your expectations reasonable. Keep in mind that depression is a complex and serious illness. Whatever your approach to eliminating the depression, be gentle with yourself and keep communicating with your partner as well as your health care provider.
Reading this is the first step.
Go for it. You are worth it.
Ahmed, S. A. (1990). Sex hormones and the immune system—part 2. Animal data. Baillière’s clinical rheumatology, 13-31.
Gordon G. Jr. Gallup, R. L. (2002). Does Semen Have Antidepressant Properties? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 289-293.
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). High blood pressure and sex: Overcome the challenges. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-and-sex/art-20044209
Semen is ‘good for women’s health and helps fight depression’. (2015, June 27). Retrieved from Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2190863/Semen-good-womens-health-helps-fight-depression.html
Author: Esateys Stuchiner
Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.
Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.
Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.
For more information, go to esateys.com.