Sexual intimacy and mental health are more intertwined than you may think. For many, sexual health and intimacy is a very important aspect of life. How we interact with our partner(s) sexually is largely influenced by how our mental health is doing. There are so many different life experiences that impact our mental health and our beliefs and values around sex and intimacy. For example, think of how one’s experiences with trauma may impact their mental health status. When we experience trauma, our body and brain are completely shocked and go into fight-or-flight mode. This in turn impacts how we function in, and react to, our environment. If a person experiences a sexual trauma at any point in their life, their understanding of sexual intimacy and safety may be compromised. Along with trauma, there are many other life experiences that can impact your mental health and sexual functioning. This blog post will explore the various aspects of how mental and sexual health intertwine.
To understand how mental health and sexual intimacy are intertwined, we must first acknowledge that every aspect of our mind affects our body and vice versa. Everything in our body is connected and this also translates to our sex drive. Our mental health not only influences our energy and motivation to have sex, but it also affects our confidence and how we feel about ourselves. Think about a time in your life where your self-esteem was noticeably lower. Perhaps you weren’t doing well at work, or you weren’t feeling great about your lifestyle or health. How did these barriers for positive self-esteem impact how you viewed yourself? How did your low self-esteem impact how you engaged with your partner(s) sexually? Our self-esteem can significantly affect how we are going to experience sexual intimacy. When our self-esteem is low, we may not even have much of a sex drive. If this is something that you are having a hard time identifying or communicating to your partner, therapy may be a helpful outlet to explore these issues.
As previously mentioned, factors such as trauma and low self-esteem can impact your sex drive and therefore your sexual intimacy with your partner(s). Another factor that may impact your libido is a major life transition or overall increased stress you may be experiencing. Each couple’s sex life is unique to them and their relationship, so no need to compare each other’s libidos or sex lives. However, if you’re noticing a decline in you or your partner’s sex drive that seems unusual, or if either one of you starts feeling rejected because of this decline, this may be negatively impacting your relationship.
Mental illness and disorders can be another contributing factor for decreased sex drive. If you or your partner is suffering from (or managing) a mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or schizophrenia, it’s possible that the disorder has impacted the sexual health of your relationship in one way or another. It is completely normal for your mental health disorder to sometimes negatively impact your sexual intimacy. Factors such as medication and difficulty with symptom management can be impacting you or your partner’s libido. Checking in with a psychiatrist or medical professional about these issues may beneficial.
Overcoming mental and sexual health issues is possible, especially if you have the support of your partner(s). Having open communication with your partner around the sexual health of your relationship is important. You both need to support one another through these difficulties and can do so by providing each other with a trusting, nonjudgmental space. Make sure that neither one of you feels pressured to perform sexually in any manner, and be open to seeking outside help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental and sexual health related issues, therapy may be a great first step in working through some of these difficulties. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our compassionate clinicians today!
Some of the information used for this post was referenced from Katie Smith’s article, How our Mental Health Affects our Sex Drive.