Is your mental health affecting your sex life?

If your body is behaving weirdly, or you don’t feel like having sex, it’s natural to wonder if it’s down to your mental health.

woman looking a bit down

Something messing with your head in bed?

Is my mental health condition the reason I don’t want to have sex?

“This is a murky area,” says Dr Aaron, a psychotherapist for BBC Radio 1. “You can get into a bit of a vicious circle with it in the same way that depressed people often avoid exercise, even though it’s been proven exercise can be helpful for depression.”

“It’s a mistake we often make to assume that we all naturally feel like having sex all the time, when in fact sometimes we have to put effort into getting in the mood,” he says.

Talk to your partner and tell them what turns you on – communication is really important in making your sex life sexy again. Pay attention to things like eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise; these things will make a massive difference to how you feel.

Try not to fall into the trap of only having sex when you’re wasted – it only masks the issues that need to be addressed and could make things worse. “Be wary of self-medicating,” says Dr Aaron. “If you get really stoned or drunk it’ll affect your performance – especially if you’re a guy.”

Are antidepressants ruining my libido?

In men, antidepressants sometimes stop you being able to ejaculate or get a hard on, while in women they can reduce your ability to have an orgasm.

“Be clear and honest with your GP if you notice major changes in your sex life after you start taking antidepressants,” says Dr Aaron. “Keep talking about your options and about other types of therapy that might also be useful, like talking therapy.”

I find being intimate with my partner difficult?

Real, honest, intimate relationships are difficult,” says Dr Aaron, “because they involve two complex people interacting. What a lot of people don’t realise is that intimate relationships are a series of difficulties and successes. You can’t avoid the difficulties; it’s how you deal with them that’s the measure of a relationship.”

If you find yourself constantly getting into the same pattern in relationships and thinking,why do I always end up in this situation?”, it could be useful to speak to a professional. Having psychotherapy, either together or as an individual, will help identify your behaviour and allow you to work through it.

Is my mental health causing problems between us?

“Mental health is always an aspect of a person, not the whole person,” says Dr Aaron. “But on the other hand if you have a condition like panic attacks, personality disorder or attachment disorder then of course that’s going to affect your relationship in a fundamental way.”

Dr Aaron continues: “The key is managing your relationship in a thoughtful way, and that means acknowledging your condition and the challenges it presents and then communicating with each other.”

I have lots of one-night stands but I want something more

If you’re having lots of one-night stands but crave love, it’s possible you might be having sex for the ‘wrong’ reasons, such as fear of abandonment if they discover the ‘real you’.

“Are you doing it because that’s really what you want, or because you feel pressured, or because you think you have to sleep with someone in order to keep them?” asks Dr Aaron. “Having sex can be a really intimate experience that involves discovering one another, but, because of that, you find yourself vulnerable. Many people are scared of being vulnerable and so skip the intimacy bit in order to avoid the risk of rejection.”

Dr Aaron suggests trying to share your feelings with your partner to see if they feel the same way. Hard as it can be to open up, communication is fundamental to intimacy.

“No one says it’s easy,” he points out. “Making yourself vulnerable in order to be able to experience intimacy is one of the hardest things you can do, but also the most rewarding.”

Next Steps

  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Mental health can affect your love life in many different ways. Share a story or playlist on The Mix's Madly in Love campaign about how you or your partner's mental health condition has affected your relationship.
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 21-Jan-2016