In a Nutshell:
- Over 17 million Americans have experienced depression.
- This mental health condition affects relationship quality and sexual satisfaction.
- 75 percent of people with depression lose their sex drive.
- Studies point to the connection between depression and ED in men.
- Couples dealing with depression often experience difficulties in intimate communication.
- New research shows that talking about sex can help couples maintain intimate connection in spite of depression.
- Finding the right moment and words are key to good sexual communication.
Depression affects the lives of millions of people around the globe. In the United States alone, over 17 million people have suffered from at least one episode of this mental health condition. According to the CDC, approximately 13 percent of the American population use antidepressants.
Depression can wreak havoc in your life and relationship. The good news is that scientists have found a solution to sexual problems caused by depression. All you have to do is talk.
How Depression Affects Sex
Depression affects the quality of life, relationships, and sexual satisfaction. Couples who deal with this condition report many difficulties, including:
- not enjoying time together
- irritability leading to conflicts
- emotional absence of the partner
On a sexual level, depression is a pleasure killer. It feels like you are unable to be happy and enjoy anything. It becomes more difficult to get aroused and have an orgasm. 75 percent of people with depression lose their libido. If both partners have depression, this can turn into a case of a sexless relationship. If one partner has lost their sex drive, the other may feel guilty for having sexual needs.
Depression can lead to a vicious circle of self-blame. You may start doubting your ability to nurture the relationship. Some people say they feel like a burden. Partners may lose confidence and sacrifice their own sexual happiness.
Medication is often necessary to manage depression. Unfortunately, many popular treatments have negative side effects, such as difficulty becoming aroused or feeling pleasure.
ED and Depression
For men who struggle with depression, ED is a serious concern. One Korean study of older men revealed that depression was associated with the severity of erectile dysfunction. The connection can go both ways. For men prone to depressive states, ED can be one of the factors that destabilize emotions. Erectile dysfunction can also be one of the components of a depressive episode.
Taking certain antidepressants, known as SSRIs, can lead to ED. If you feel your medication is causing problems with erections, talk to your doctor. You might be able to switch to another drug that doesn’t put your sex life on hold. Interestingly, recent studies suggest that certain types of ED medication may have antidepressant properties.
How Depression Impacts Couples’ Sex Lives
Couples dealing with depression tend to feel stuck in unproductive patterns. Researchers have identified two factors responsible for relationship problems when one or both partners are depressed:
- Relationship uncertainty happens when you don’t feel secure in your relationship. Your partner’s emotional states make him or her unpredictable. You feel like you don’t know where your relationship is headed.
- Interference happens when your partner acts in a way that interferes with your daily life. You feel out of balance and forced to constantly adapt and give up on your plans.
Both relationship uncertainty and interference can mess with your bedroom life. You may notice you two drifting apart and losing that intimate connection. The longer these problems persist, the more difficult it gets to talk about your sexual needs and challenges. And even if you discuss your problems, you may feel like your communication is not effective.
Surprising Way to Fix Your Sex Life
Some couples have found a simple way to heal their sexuality. Results of a 2020 study suggest that good communication helps people maintain their sexual connection in spite of depression.
The study took the form of an online survey of over 100 heterosexual American couples. Participants were mostly white/Caucasian and married. In 41 couples, both partners had been diagnosed with depression.
The study confirmed that relationship uncertainty and interference made it more difficult for couples to engage in a meaningful exchange about sex. Researchers suggested that practitioords — for example, therapists — could teach couples how to manage those complicated relationship dynamics.
Good intimate communication between partners acts as a protective mechanism for the relationship as a whole. Couples who are able to discuss their bedroom problems in a positive atmosphere have a greater chance of avoiding the negative effects of depression.
Tips for Successful Sexual Communication
Mastering communication skills is key to sexual happiness for all couples, not only those with depression. One study showed that an online communication skills program can lead to more satisfaction in bed. Participants learned techniques to talk about intimate matters. They also felt empowered to start these conversations.
Here are some tips to help you improve your sex talk skills:
- Find the Right Moment
Starting a discussion about ED and similar problems after a failed attempt to have intercourse may not be the best idea. Find a more neutral setting to talk about your intimate difficulties. A walk in the park might be a better option.
Use the time after sex, even if the whole thing did not go as planned, for building trust and connection. Find one thing that you enjoyed and share it with your lover. Appreciate the fact that you got together and did something positive as a couple.
- Find the Right Words
Most people avoid talking about sex because they don’t have the right vocabulary. Many of us never received sex education in school. It’s time to catch up and to read a few books about sex. Learning proper names of intimate body parts and erotic techniques will give you more confidence.
If you feel like medical terminology is too cold and unsexy, go ahead and invent your own code words or cute names! Reminding yourself that sex is playful can feel very refreshing.
- Practice Talking to a Health Professional
If your depressive states have led to the loss of libido or erectile dysfunction, gather the courage and talk to your doctor. It can be a great way to practice discussing sexuality in a more neutral situation. Doctors are used to talking about most intimate things. Learn from them!
In any case, it’s good to examine the connection between depression and ED with your doctor. He or she can prescribe medicines that don’t cause problems with erections.
Still unsure if you’re ready to talk to your physician? Visit eDrugstore.com and take advantage of a free, confidential consultation online. A licensed physician will help you select the best ED treatment and issue a prescription. This could be a good way to practice talking about your sexuality with another person.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.