Did you know that the biggest sex organ in your body is your brain? Yes, that gray matter between your ears is responsible for a lot more than reminding you to eat lunch or pay that parking ticket. As the center of all emotion and thought, the brain is a key component of our sexual desires and functioning. So, it’s no surprise that there are several mental health issues that can affect our libido, or sex drive.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to regulating your libido and understanding the connection between sex and mental health. And while it’s a personal journey, information can help. Read on for descriptions on how common mental health issues can affect your sexual health and desire.
One of the hallmark symptoms of depression is a loss of interest and pleasure in things you once enjoyed. This, not surprisingly, includes sex. The fatigue, apathy, and low self-esteem that comes with depression can fundamentally affect your ability to enjoy pleasure.
If you are experiencing this, you are not alone. According to Web MD, depression is the top cause of disability for people in the United States between 14 and 55. Talking with your doctor about medications or therapy can be helpful, as is discussing your situation honestly with your partner.
It’s hard to get into a sexy frame of mind when your mind is jumbled with a constant stream of worries. There is literally room for nothing else.
Feelings of anxiousness can increase the body’s production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, according to the National Library of Medicine. Cortisol then works to suppress the sex hormones that control desire. This equation equals a lower libido.
Those with chronic anxiety may retreat from physical contact when feeling overwhelmed. But even when engaged in physical acts, tensed or clenched muscles can make sex difficult or even painful. Medications that are used to treat anxiety may also interfere with your libido. Talking to your doctor about the right medication may improve some of the symptoms.
It may be hard to become intimate if you have obsessive or compulsive tendencies, according to the Boston Medical Group. OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is described as unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to compulsive behaviors. It’s also known to distract from sexual stimuli and impair sexual arousal. In turn, this can decrease the body’s ability to direct blood flow and produce lubrication.
Obtrusive thoughts like concerns about hygiene or repetitive obsessions, and all other byproducts of the disorder can interfere negatively with one’s sexual function and desire. On the flipside, OCD can present as a high libido due to hyper-fixation on sex and sexual encounters, which can be equally as concerning. Talk and exposure therapies can be helpful towards a solution, but the first step should always be talking to your doctor.
Bipolar disorder is classified as heightened periods of euphoria and depression. During a manic episode, one may experience hypersexuality, or an increase in sexual partners. This can put a person in an at-risk position where negative effects, such as sexually transmitted infections, may be possible. During a depressive episode, those dealing with bipolar disorder may experience hyposexuality or a decrease in sex drive.
In addition, nearly all of medications that are used to treat bipolar affect sexual function in one way or another. One of the biggest culprits is Lithium, which is known to interfere with sexual desire, according to WebMD. After talking to your doctor, try keeping a sex journal where you keep track of your feelings and desires towards sex from one day to the next in order to understand any patterns.
According to a recent study by the International Society for Sexual Medicine, people with ADHD/ADD experienced higher sex drives than those in control groups. For some, this can create a discrepancy of desire with partners, as well as compulsive sexual thoughts or behaviors. At the same time, distractibility and inability to focus can make sexual activity unfulfilling. Medications can help lessen symptoms of ADHD but they may also lessen your libido. There can be a happy medium. Open communication with partners as well as a comprehensive plan with your doctor can help.
While it seems that there are several mental health issues that could affect your libido, it is important to not get discouraged. You are not alone! Open communication with your doctors and your partners is your best defense against warding off any worries that might arise. Sex should be fun. Learning about our bodies and how they work is a life long journey.