Sex and Mental illness
Okay, I get it. This is a taboo subject. But it’s an important one. One thing I feel like I NEVER see is people talking about how their mental illness effects their sex life.
Everyone knows that poor mental health can take a major toll on your physical health. Binge eating comes hand in hand with a lot of mental illnesses, migraines can get worse with stress, depression can make you want to stay in bed all day instead of being active, etc, etc.
But how does poor mental health effect sex?
Sex is an extremely important part of life. It is necessary for reproduction, it is necessary in a relationship (for the most part), it’s just all around something that almost everyone participates it.
Sex feels good. Just like drugs do, or self harm does. It’s a rush of feelings and a rush of joy. But just like drugs, or self harm, the rush leaves quickly, and if you aren’t in a situation that makes you feel good, it can leave you feeling the same way. This is why sex is such a great choice for self destruction.
Let me tell you a personal story.
When I was in high school, I started being sexually active. Prior to this, I suffered with issues with self harm and was severely, severely depressed. I ended up getting past the self harm around 14 and became sexually active at 15. I literally replaced one way to be self destructive with another.
Every time I was having sex, I was also extremely drunk. I tied the two activities together. One didn’t happen without the other. I didn’t want to be aware of it happening. I didn’t want to be there really. It would happen, I would be ridiculed by not only my entire small-town school, but myself, and I’d spiral into an extremely dark depressive episode. I knew the repercussions of what I was doing, but I continued to do it. Over, and over again.
I realized what I was doing to myself and decided to be celibate for a while. This continued for about 2 years and when I reintegrated sex back into my life it meant something completely different. But my mental health still takes a toll sometimes.
I am SO not a professional in this realm, I struggle pretty often with this. But here are some things that could help you, and have helped me.
If you are in a relationship, communicate with your partner from early on that you may not have a conventional sex life.
Okay, I’m not telling you to tell your partner how you feel about sex on the first date. However, I’m sure at some point in the first few months, they’re going to realize if you completely avoid the topic of sex, or are constantly asking for it. Eventually, you probably are going to have to explain the situation, to an extent. If you are open from the get go, it may be easier to talk about it later on if it becomes an issue.
Talk to a friend you trust
I can’t remember how many times during my celibacy that I texted my friend saying “3 months” or “6 months” or my favourite “I’m the opposite of giving birth today” (9 months) It’s hard going from all to nothing, and it’s nice to have someone to joke about it with. On the other hand, if you are still in the self-destructive stage, it’s nice to have a shoulder to cry on, on the nights when you just can’t win against the urges.
Train yourself to recognize when you are being self destructive
If you find yourself on tinder, looking for a stranger to hook up with because you had a horrible day or week, you may be acting self destructy (a term I used with my therapist once). If you can train yourself to pick up on the behaviors you exhibit when self destructing, you can work on learning new behaviors to replace them.
Talk to a professional
If you feel like your relationship with sex has something to do with a mental illness, don’t be afraid to talk to a professional about it. Be upfront and honest and don’t leave anything out. It could be something that could be fixed with a medication, CBT, or just some solid advice.
And remember to always be gentle with yourself.