Keeping the Spark: Sex and Depression

The devastating effects of depression can rob you of a sense of joy and keep you from pleasure, even in the most intimate situations. In a seemingly cruel twist, antidepressant medications can also impair your ability to experience sexual arousal and orgasm, even as your depression dissipates. What, then, can you do when you want to have a fulfilling intimate relationship while living with depression? There are steps you can take to enhance your sex life while discovering new ways of connecting with your partner and creating a deeper, more meaningful bond.

Communication

Open, honest communication with your partner about what you are experiencing can help you both understand your feelings and limitations without blame or embarrassment. Loss of sexual desire and function is a normal symptom of depression and a common side-effect of psychotropic medications, and are not a comment on your partner’s desirability or skill. Laying a foundation of mutual understanding and empathy can provide a solid starting point to explore how you can work through sexual issues, meet each other’s needs, and enhance your intimacy.

Shifting Treatment

Some antidepressant medications, such as SSRIs, are more likely to produce sexual side effects than others. If you are being negatively affected by low libido or anorgasmia, talk to your doctor about switching your medication, lowering your dose, or adding a medication that can counteract these unwanted side effects. Connecting with a treatment program that incorporates intensive psychotherapy may decrease your reliance on medication and give you a path to healing and emotional harmony that does not interfere with sexual function.

Exercise

Physical exercise encourages endorphin production and improves circulation, enhancing your sexual desire and feelings of well-being.[1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/lifecoach/8308609/Lifecoach-Can-exercise-improve-your-sex-life.html] Increased blood flow to your sexual organs can heighten sex drive and the ability to both perform and experience sexual pleasure. A lesser-known effect of exercise is testosterone production; weight lifting increases testosterone levels and augments sexual urges in both men and women. Physical fitness can be an invaluable component of your overall depression treatment program and set the stage for increased desire and pleasure.

Non-Sexual Intimacy

Non-sexual touch such as cuddling, hugging, and massage can be profoundly nourishing and increase both your bond with your partner and your sense of balance. Skin-on-skin contact has been found to alter brain chemistry to enhance your sense of belonging, somatic wellness, and emotional tranquility through the release of oxytocin.[2. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/touching.makes.you.healthier.health/] Studies reveal that massage therapy decreases cortisol levels while enhancing serotonin and dopamine production.[3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447] Experiencing this form of intimacy with your partner can bring you closer while simultaneously providing relief from emotionally distressing symptoms and contributing to the establishment of greater psychological stability.

Find A New Focus

Often we become stuck in a goal-oriented pattern in which all sexual activity becomes focused toward the orgasmic end result. When orgasm is difficult or impossible to achieve, people are often at a loss for how to have satisfying sexual experiences, revealing just how ingrained the goal of orgasm has become. However, sex offers you a range of sensations and joys that can be enjoyed in their own right, and do not have to end in orgasm to be deeply pleasurable. Take this opportunity to explore different ways of giving and receiving sensual touch, investigate new ways of physically communicating with your partner, and discover what sex can be like when it is process-driven rather than result-focused. You may be surprised to find yourself reaching new heights of emotional and somatic pleasure free from conventional expectations.

 

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for depression using modern, evidence-based therapeutic modalities. We work with you to create a personalized treatment plan and medication protocols that minimize side effects and help you live a more balanced, fulfilling life. Contact us with any questions you may have about how we can help you start on the path to healing.