Depression and Sex in Philly

Sex and sexuality as a window into your overall health: A  fulfilling, mutually pleasurable sex life can be representative of the overall  condition of the relationship. Intimacy during sex is a two-way street, as it  requires physical contact, as well as being emotionally present with each other.  In its most raw form, intimacy can trump having a deep conversation, because to  be physically close can induce anxiety in even the most gregarious of individuals,  who may be using speech as a form of avoidance.  Some people believe that sharing your sexual self is a window into an inner world that words will never convey.

Depression and sex: When  an individual is suffering from depression, their feelings of lethargy,  hopelessness, sadness, loss and dissatisfaction with self and others impede  their ability to be emotionally present and sometime even physically have sex with their partner.  In either situation, the depression creates a block in their intimacy that both people crave.

Of  course, there are those individuals who turn to the momentary high of reaching  orgasm as an escape from their depression and overall listlessness. Their  partners, however, will most likely notice the lack of intimate connection.

Bridging  the gap between a satisfying sex life, and being in a healthy mental state, is  two fold. You firstly need to understand how your sexuality has been affected  by your depression, and then you need to build strategies in order to cope with  your depression.

Answer these questions  about depression and sex as honestly as you can to determine how your sexuality is influenced by depression:

  • Do you masturbate in order to escape your feelings of depression? Does masturbation give you a momentary high, or at least relief from your depression?
  • Do you have sex with your partner, or individuals, in order to avoid your feelings of depression?
  • Sometimes are you angry (resentful or upset) when your partner does not want to have sex with you?
  • Does it take you longer to become sexually aroused when you are depressed?
  • Do you need more overt cues from your partner to engage in sex when you are depressed?
  • Does it take you longer to reach orgasm when depressed?
  • Are you taking medication that could produce sexual side effects?
  • When you’re feeling depressed, do you prefer to be alone or with somebody?
  • When you’re feeling depressed, does touch comfort you?
  • Does bad sex make you feel much worse?

 

Various  coping mechanisms exist to minimize the issues around depression and sex include, but are not limited to:

  • Make sure you are on a  healthy sleep cycle. Ask your partner to take a nap with you, or go to bed  earlier with you.
  • Speak to your partner  or friends, and let them know that you are depressed. If this is too difficult  to say, let them know that you haven’t been feeling yourself lately, and you  would appreciate their support.
  • Maintain a healthy  diet. Limit your alcohol intake, which acts as a depressant. Ask your lover to  help you incorporate proper eating into your life; share this goal with each  other.
  • Increase the amount of  carbohydrates that you eat. Decrease the amount of sugar that you eat. Although  the initial rush will seem worth it, the crash isn’t.
  • Drink water!  Dehydration has been linked to depression.   If you find the concept of 8 glasses a day too boring, do a water-tasting  test with your partner. Purchase different types of bottled waters together,  and then determine your favorite. Kind of like the Coke and Pepsi challenge,  but healthier!
  • Exercise! If it isn’t  already a part of your lifestyle, it is a very important addition. Even by  taking a light walk, you are releasing endorphins that help combat depression. Exercise  includes sex, a daily walk, playing basketball, and / or taking  dance class with your partner! Don’t limit  yourself to just one form of exercise, try something new!
  • Try meditating, which  can help to relieve stress. Do something simple, such as breathing in and out  for five minutes, noting the rate of your breath and any other sensations you  experience.  In the bedroom, focus your  energy on the sensations that you are experiencing — as opposed to letting your  mind wander.
  • Surround yourself with  a supportive network of friends and family. If there is no one you feel  comfortable speaking to about your depression, consider seeing a counselor.
  • Teach your friends and  family about how your cycle of depression works. What specifically can they do  to support you as to cope with it.
  • If you have a partner,  ask yourself how you feel when you are with him / her?  Does his / her behavior towards you make you  feel worse or better?
  • Increase your social  life! Call a friend back who you have been ignoring. Go out one night every  week. If this seems too drastic…
  • Consider group  therapy. Isolating yourself from others only increases the depressive symptoms.  A group can be a means of support, as well as a means to decrease isolation.
  • Make sure you are  receiving enough sunlight, as a lack of sunlight increases the release of melatonin,  which lowers your overall body temperature and gives you lethargy.  Maybe this means scheduling a weekend get-away  with your lover to Florida!  Again, think creatively.
  • Keep busy. Though  inspiration caused by an activity may not occur, it is important to entertain  the thought of taking the art classes you have been meaning to sign up for, or  various other activities. Additionally, this is a good time to ask your partner  if there are any tasks that she/he wants you to accomplish. Maybe you can paint  a room together, help your partner with a project, or redecorate your bedroom.
  • Volunteer at an  organization you care about. Or, if you’re worried about a time commitment, help  a friend or person in need.
  • Focus on developing  your own skill sets.  Set small goals. In  the next four weeks I want to accomplish XYZ. The goal(s) could be anything  from finishing your resume, applying to five jobs, attending the gym 4 times a  week, getting good at giving oral sex, learning how to have an orgasm.
  • Trade in your all  black ensemble for something more vibrant, such as a red. Brighter colors can  help lift your mood. In addition, dress sexy! The sexier you feel about  yourself, the more confident you seem, and this confidence will be contagious  to your partner, who will love your new vibe!.
  • Smile. It is a  universal statement that is understood through all cultures. See how it lifts  your mood, and notice the response you receive from those around you.  You might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Let your loved ones  know how much their support means to you. When they recognize that you are  grateful, they will be more likely to offer support with pleasure in the  future.

This tip about depression and sex was written for Sex Therapy in Philadelphia / Center for Growth by a certified sex therapist living in Philly.