For years I didn’t make the link between sex and mental health. It is only in recent years (older and wiser?) that I really started to understand the relationship between the two. Now looking by on my life experience in this department, I can see the patterns between my behaviour when I feel good and not so good, and how my level of enjoyment is linked where my head is at.
In this article I share a little about how I discover the link between sex and mental health and more importantly what to do about it! Welcome to the Sex And The City episode of Me My Health And I! But first let’s get our facts right.
Sex is really good for our mental health
Yep. This is scientifically proven: sex improves your mental health. Yeah! What an awesome news!
How does it work, I hear you ask? Well, having sex improves your mental health because oxytocin, a happy hormone, is released during sex. Oxytocin is also released when you are hugging and cuddling, which is why it is called the love hormone. Could this be why I love hugs and cuddles so much?!
But we don’t just release oxytocin during sex. We also get:
- a shot of endorphins, which is a natural stress reliever,
- a bit of serotonin, which makes you feel calm and happy,
- men will also release testosterone, triggering a feeling of relaxation and positive energy, and
- women will also release oestrogen, which is responsible for the glow they have after sex.
In a nutshell sex is great for your mental health and in fact for your health more generally. Did you know the most efficient remedy for a migraine is sex? That’s because the hormones released act as a natural painkiller. Apologies to all the ladies who are using this excuse not to give love to their partners…. You are going to need to find another excuse!
Are you sold on the benefits of sex for your health yet?
So now the big question is: why aren’t we all using sex as a natural antidepressant? Well…
It’s not you, it’s the depression
When we feel down we don’t feel like having sex
Like with any other action that will relieve depression, the issue is that when you feel down, you don’t feel like doing what’s good for you. We have discussed his topic at length on this blog; depression is a vicious illness that will make you want to do things that will keep you down. The worse you feel, the more difficult it becomes to do what would improve your mental health.
But I have good news for you: what you can do to improve this situation is practice 😊 The more you do it, the more you will feel like it. And the reward is instantaneous so you will feel better as soon as you reach climax.
The importance of self-love and self-worth
The first lesson I learned from therapy in my very first session about 20 years ago was that you cannot give love to others, when you don’t love yourself. I am actually going to share with you something I have shared with very few people in my life: sex is the reason I first went to therapy. Or so I thought…
The first cut
If you have been following me for a while you will know that I really struggled with depression as a teenager. There was a lot going on at home and I was keeping it all within me. I wasn’t sharing it with friends or anyone else. And I wasn’t interested in having a relationship. I had other priorities.
I attempted to have a relationship for the first time when I was 19. There was this cute guy who was chasing me, and I wasn’t sure about it because of my personal mental health history. But a friend convinced me that he was rather quite mature and that he would be good for me. So I gave it a go. After 2 months of dating when I thought we were solid, I opened up. I only gave him a glimpse. And he broke up with me very quickly after that. That really affected me and possibly destroyed the very little self-worth I had. And so I went back to what I knew how to do best: not letting anyone in.
The second attempt
3 years later I was tempted to try again. This time the issue was, I simply could not enjoy sex with my partner. And that really affected him. I didn’t make the mistake again of telling him about my issues, oh no! But I felt something was wrong with me and I needed support.
This was a huge step for me; something I had never admitted before, even though I had been living with depression for over 10 years by that point.
So I made an appointment with a therapist and bravely explained what the issue was. The therapist listen and said those words I never forgotten since: “you cannot love another, when you don’t love yourself” like this was the most obvious thing in the world. And so that is what we worked on.
Negative talk during sex
When we feel depressed / anxious it is harder to relax and to fully enjoy sex. I have personally experienced a level of anxiety so high that it created negative self-talk during sex. Funnily enough orgasm is much harder to reach when this happens!
If this happens to you, it is a good sign that your stress levels are a little too high and that you need to relax. Try meditating, having a bath, or any self-care activity that help you calm your mind.
Antidepressant and sex drive
You already know my opinion on antidepressants. Check out the list of known side effects I listed in that article and you will find that decreased sex drive, impaired sexual function in men and abnormal orgasm in women are common side effects of antidepressants.
Yep. Antidepressants aren’t great for your sex life. I find it very interesting that a medication is that supposed to help you feel better is preventing you from enjoying something that would actually improve your mental health…
How can you improve your sex drive to improve your mental health
Work on your relationship with yourself
Therapy (any kind) will help. This is also something I focus on with my coaching clients. After all once you have fixed your relationship with yourself and you really feel deep down that you want what is best for yourself, life becomes a lot easier because you no longer accept anything toxic.
They key to self-love is no secret: you need to learn to forgive yourself, built self-trust by keeping the promises you make to yourself and giving yourself unconditional love. This is much easier said than done though as we are masters at beating ourselves up. Retraining these thoughts patterns is a process that takes time which is why therapy and coaching are useful methods to keep yourself on track.
If you want to give it a go yourself, have a look at the methods taught by Louise Hay in her book You Can Heal Your Life, such as mirror exercises and affirmations. The one I love the most is “I approve of myself”. Repeat this all day long and you will soon see results! The book is a step by step process of heal your relationship with yourself. Oh and Louise Hay totally agrees with me about the link between sex and mental health 😉
Practice makes perfect
Sometimes we need to have sex to feel like having sex. This is true with anything. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing because I am tired but once I get started, I love it. Have you ever noticed that your sex drive is a bit low until you meet someone and suddenly all you want to do is jump them 3 times a day? Maybe it’s just me…
And don’t tell me you have no one to practice with. Masturbation is a healthy substitute and is highly recommended for men and women.
Have fun with it!
The only boundaries you have in this department are the one you choose. Just remember that. It is ok to experiment and to change our mind.
Have you ever tried a tantric class? You can do this alone or with a partner (spoiler alert: it is a lot more fun with a partner!!). I did a few workshops with Diamond Light Tantra. It was a brilliant experience. It was fun and I learn a lot. I highly recommend Leora (and I am not getting paid to tell you that 😉). By the end of the workshop series, I had a deeper connection and much better communication with my partner. And we had a really good laugh.
For full disclosure my partner and I just went or fun, and for me very much out of curiosity. But they were a few couples there that were using the workshops as couple therapy, and we saw them getting closer and stronger over few weeks. This was really touching and a good reminder that no matter how long you have been together, you can always go back to the start if you want to.
Communication is key
If you don’t tell your partner what turns you on and off, they have zero chance to know because they are not a mind reader, and you will have bad sex forever. This doesn’t come easy to everyone but if you can voice your desires, the quality of your sex life will greatly improve. Unless your partner does not care about making you happy. In which case you might want to think about getting a new one.
Sex And Mental Health: The 6 Things You Need To Know – key take-aways
- Sex is really good for your mental health
- When we feel down, we don’t feel like having sex (even though it would improve our mood)
- You need to love yourself before you can love someone else (and this will translate sexually)
- Anxiety can prevent you from enjoying sex – try to relax your mind before getting started
- Antidepressants can ruin your sex life
- Turning things around:
- Work your relationship with yourself first
- Practice makes perfect
- Have fun with it
- Communication is key
Try these simple hacks and let me know how you get on
Have you noticed the impact of your mental health on your sex life? What did you do about it? What has worked well for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.
This article is part of the “Let’s Talk About Sex” Blog Carnival organised by Sheleen (In My Skin). I personally love Sheleen’s blog. My favourite article on her blog is Beauty is only skin deep (Part 1), which is a very moving blog where Sheleen shares her personal experience with us. Make sure you have a tissue close by!
And remember, happiness is a choice, and you are in charge!