Many people say that your desire for sex is like a barometer for your general well-being- (i.e. if your desire for sex falls, it could indicate that something isn’t quite right).
Very often, that’s around our mental/psychological health and well-being.
It’s really easy to underestimate the role our mind plays in dictating our levels of desire, but our mood and mental health has a key role in shaping how much we fancy having sex.
In particular, the impact of anxiety and depression.
Before we go on, we wanted to give a gentle reminder that it’s OK to not want sex. The levels of desire we experience vary- and responds to what is going on in our lives. Depression and anxiety, at whatever severity, can act as brakes to our sexual feelings. Or, it could be the medication side effects or lifestyle consequences that follow. This is really really normal, and sometimes your interest in sex will reappear at a later date. Sometimes however it’s not about “fixing” the situation, but rather learning to live with it and finding ways to navigate the impacts on your sex life.
Below is some more information on depression, anxiety and desire, and some really simple techniques, tips and resources to try that can have a powerful effect on your mental health to help you take control over your sex life.
However, I am not a medical or mental health professional (or an expert!) so do take any resources or advice given here with a pinch of salt. *Not literally either*. Be gentle with yourself if this is affecting you, and don’t be afraid to seek professional support for your mental health and well-being. There is no shame in reaching out and speaking to others if you feel that your ability to live your life/enjoy sex is compromised by how you’re feeling.
Anxiety really is a sneaky f*cker because it affects our sex drive in all sorts of ways, and is SUPER common (especially among women). Similar to the effect of stress, feeling anxious means our bodies are ready to “fight or flight”, not to start bonking.
Anxiety as a diagnosed condition or just worried thoughts can result in struggles to focus on making love, have difficulties getting aroused, to relax into sex or just let go and have a good time. This can mean losing touch with our body, so our awareness of what triggers our sexual response is dimmed and we’re less able to pay attention to them. And if sex is meant to be fun, pleasurable, ridiculous, anxiety can make sex feel the complete opposite!
How to reduce the impact of anxiety to revive sexual desire...
1. Learn more about the impact of anxiety
The more you know and understand about how anxiety impacts on your desire, the easier it is to understand why. Anxiety is a common sexual brake- you can read more about how anxiety impacts on your libido here.
Hearing others stories about dealing with anxiety and sex can also be really useful- heck out this article for more stories from Bustle on how other people with anxiety deal with having sex
2. Consider how to look after yourself outside of the bedroom first
Many of us have our own coping mechanisms around anxiety or worried thoughts. We might talk to our GP, be on some form of medication, attend counselling or CBT, or have particular tools and techniques we rely on to look after ourselves when we need to. Trying to manage anxiety and have ways that you cope can be a really useful way to start. Some of the ways we look after ourselves are below for inspiration:
Consider the impact of caffeine. Although coffee is for many of us our one true love, the cumulative impact of having a ton of caffeine in your system might mean your worried thoughts increase. Read more here about my personal story of cutting out caffeine and the impact on my desire (and life!) here.
Crack out your best pen and notepad… A diary can really help with anxiety as it’s a space to write out worries, ideas and fears. You can write as much crazyas you want- no-one else will see it- and then shut the book, turn a page, and crack on with living.
Get Appy- there are loads of apps that can help with anxiety that work similar to a journal, CBT counsellor and all round excellent listener. Try Youper for a great digital worry assistant.
Exercise is probably the most effective container for anxiety. We need exercise because without natural predators, our fight or flight instinct has nowhere to go and so manifests itself as anxiety. So to trick your body into thinking you are safe and shake off this innate fear, humans need to exercise. Try to find something you think you’d like to get good at (running, roller blading, hiking) and get going.
Speak your truth– Anxiety also thrives on shame, and the tales we tell ourselves can keep us isolated from those who love us. Brene Brown (an amazing speaker and academic) suggests talking to others about the thoughts in our head by saying “I am telling myself a story that…”. You can sense-check your thoughts with others, and as Brene says- “shame cannot survive being spoken and met with empathy”. So go out and speak your truth now- don’t stay silent!
Look up. Something about looking at space can make you feel so comfortably inconsequential that your worries just melt away. You’re just one of millions of people that live on a rock that spins in space. NOTHING will matter in ten years, one hundred years…. so why worry?
Let anxiety be your teacher- see it as a symptom rather than the truth. So if I notice myself feeling anxious, I consider what is behind them. Usually the things I look to first are- have I had enough sleep? Have I eaten good, healthy food today? Could this be sugar/caffeine related? Am I hungover? What other physical reasons could there be for me feeling anxious?
3. Learn how to stay present *in the bedroom*
Anxiety can make our minds race, and could mean we find it hard to relax. We might have distracting background mental chatter, or our bodies feel tense, which affects our ability to become aroused or our enjoyment of sex.
One brilliant way to practise being able to relax is mindfulness.
In her book “Better Sex Through Mindfulness” (affiliate link), Brotto demonstrates that through mindfulness you can slow down the mind and learn to focus attention when it drifts off by gently and compassionately bringing it back to ourselves. It is a way of paying more attention to the body to fully experience our feelings (without judging or trying to change them). Through mindfulness you can become more in touch with your body, sensation, and ultimately with your own arousal.
Brotto’s brilliant book (great alliteration there!) has some useful exercises in how you can incorporate mindfulness into your day, or read our guide to staying present during sex for a comprehensive overview of actionable techniques to enjoy the moment. Alternatively, consider other exercises that encourage you to relax such as deep breathing or yoga.
Whether you are going through a low spell or have a clinical diagnosis of depression, it can play havoc on your sex drive. A sense of numbness, the impact on your self-esteem, poor sleep or the effect of anti-depressants can all lower your desire for sex.
How to reduce the impact of depression to revive sexual desire...
1. Learn from the experts
Our favourite resource to point people to in regards to depression and desire is blogger The Redhead Bedhead, AKA Jo-Ellen Notte. She has been writing for a really long time about the impact of depression and desire, and has a wealth of resources available for anyone struggling with this issue.
Have you found any useful resources or have any great tips on how to reduce the impact of anxiety and depression on desire, or how to navigate the two?
We would love to hear from you in the comments below- lets share our thoughts and help each other ↓↓↓