Depression is a complex mood disorder that impacts every aspect of your life—including your sex life. In the general population, nearly 42% of men report sexual difficulties. One study looking at sexual issues in depressed males found 62.5% experienced sexual dysfunction, such as difficulties with timing or achieving orgasms, decreased sexual desire, and overall dissatisfaction.
Depression Impacts Your Sex Life
There are several ways depression can interfere with your sex life:
Symptoms of depression can cause problems. Feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, and fatigue are common symptoms of depression that don’t do your sex drive any favors.
You can lose interest in participating in any activities you used to enjoy, even sex. In more extreme depressive episodes, you can experience anhedonia, the inability to feel pleasure, effectively dousing your libido in cold water.
Treatments can harm sexual performance. Depression is an imbalance in chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. Antidepressants work to treat depression by targeting certain neurotransmitter balances. However, sexual desire will tell your brain to release these neurotransmitters to increase blood flow, jumpstart your sex organs, and so on.
Even if you were lucky enough not to experience a dip in your sex drive or performance during your depression, the antidepressants trying to rebalance your neurotransmitters can mess with the sex-related chemicals.
If you are concerned about treatments impacting your sexual performance, medication-free and alternative depression treatment options are what you should look into. Talk therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression are the least likely to interfere with your libido.
A lack of sex leads to a lack of sex. Your sex drive, or libido, increases when you have an enjoyable sexual encounter, making you want to do it again. The opposite is true as well, though. Think of your sex drive like a fire. When you are abstaining from sex, your sex drive fire starts to die down. What do you need to do to keep a fire going? Feed it. By having more sex, you can keep your fire roaring.
When you’re suffering from a depressive episode or antidepressants that are killing your sex drive, it can be hard to get out of the rut and remember how enjoyable it can be since your fire has died. So what can you do?
Tips To Stoke Your Sexual Fire
1. Stop Damaging Thoughts Before Or During Sex
If you have experienced sexual troubles in the past, it can be difficult to keep intrusive thoughts and anxiety about it happening again at bay. Once they start, they can trigger feelings that further interfere with your arousal and ability to perform.
These thoughts are another symptom of depression called rumination, where you experience persistent, repetitive, negative patterns of thinking. You can read more about negative thoughts here. When it comes to your sexual health, they can look like excessive worry, self-doubt or criticism, and the dreaded performance-related anxiety.
To combat these, try:
Deep breathing and meditation can ground you in the present to focus on your senses and desires instead of getting stuck in your head. Mindfulness is a relaxation technique that’s particularly effective by bringing your focus to the present moment. According to clinical psychology professor Dr. Brotto, mindfulness can help with erectile dysfunction and delay premature ejaculation, which in turn improves desire and satisfaction.
Open and honest communication can go a long way to dispel anxiety and fears. Voicing your concerns and feelings is vital for intimacy, creating a supportive and understanding environment to enjoy the experience with your partner.
2. Consider A Lifestyle or Medication Change
Reducing substance use such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can all have a positive impact on your sexual health. Eating a balanced diet, hydrating, getting enough sleep, and exercising will all boost your mood and libido.
If you are already taking medication for your depression or anxiety, speak to your provider if you think you are experiencing sexual side effects. Some drugs are less likely to interfere with sex drive or function.
3. Speak To A Specialist
If you are still struggling with sexual performance or enjoyment after eliminating medication and lifestyle causes, it can be beneficial to consult a sexual health specialist. They can provide additional guidance, interventions, and treatment options to help you get back to feeling yourself in the bedroom.
4. Get Depression Treatment
This study looking at sexual dysfunctions in depressed men found that they were much more likely to believe myths about masturbation, penile size, and penile shape; they were perhaps even ruminating on these misconceptions. After treatment, they were able to ignore these myths and saw an improvement in sexual satisfaction.
If your depression or anxiety is affecting your bedroom performance or fire, it’s time to get treatment. Remember to speak to your provider about therapies that are less likely to keep you down if that’s the main reason you’re seeking some professional help. Cognitive behavior talk therapy, other antidepressant families, and transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression are a few with the lowest risk of sexual side effects.