Ugh, depression. Almost all of us will suffer from depressive symptoms or episodes at one point or another. Whether you’ve got a case of the blues or a full-blown major depressive disorder, depression deliver a tremendous blow to your sex life. Your sex drive can disappear, orgasms can become elusive, you might not have the energy for intimacy, and the things you once found pleasurable may no longer feel good.
Depression doesn’t have to obliterate your sex life altogether. Here, seven manageable steps you can take to help preserve some semblance of your sexuality while trying to manage your depression.
1. Focus on your depression first.
It can be easy to get freaked out about your sex life when you’re feeling the onset of a depressive episode. I’ve had clients who resisted talking to a psychiatrist about medication because they were so worried about losing their sex drives. Unfortunately, ignoring depression can make it even worse. I’m obviously a huge proponent of the importance of sex, but there are times where other things come first. Don’t forget about your sexual identity entirely, but prioritize getting your mental health back on track. Doing so will lessen the overall impact on your sex life.
2. Talk to your doctor about your medications.
If antidepressants are a necessity for you, talk to your doctor about trying out different medications. Many doctors aren’t particularly sensitive to the effects that antidepressants can have on libido and sexual function, so it’s up to you to be your own advocate. Based on the severity of your condition, you can also seek out alternative forms of treatment, like therapy, Eastern medicine, or herbal remedies.
3. Talk to your partner.
I’ve worked with dozens of couples where one partner was depressed and the other wasn’t. They always come in stating that the depression has ruined their sex life, but what we often discover together is that the lack of communication has as much -- if not more -- of an effect than the lack of sex itself. Be honest with your partner about what you’re going through and how you’re feeling, especially in regards to your sex life. Of course he or she is going to feel disappointed if they’re not getting to have sex as regularly as they’d like, but being clued in to what’s going on with you will help soften the blow. Help your partner understand that it’s the depression that’s turning them down for sex, not you, and find other ways to show your love and affection.
4. Prioritize the things you enjoy most about sex.
Sometimes the idea of the whole shebang can seem too overwhelming. It’s too much time, too much effort, too much everything, so you give up before even trying. Instead, focus your attention on your personal favorite parts of sex. Do you really like making out? Erotic massage? Cuddling? Make the time and space to do those things. In some cases, you may find that they become stepping stones to something more.
5. Explore other ways of having sex.
Depression can make make your usual ways of having sex problematic or near-impossible. Antidepressants can make it difficult to reach orgasm. They can also make it harder to get and maintain an erection. You have an opportunity to expand your definition of sex beyond your usual routine. You might discover that masturbation, long dry-humping sessions, or oral sex without orgasm become your new version of sex. Or you may find that acts that you didn’t like in the past aren’t half bad now. I know it sucks to not be able to have intercourse or an orgasm when you want it or in the way that you want it, but there are lots of other ways to be sexual.
6. Just do it.
You may find it helpful to occasionally have sex even if you’re not 100% in the mood. I’m not saying to force yourself to do anything you really don’t want to do, but sometimes pushing yourself a bit can produce surprising results. I’ve heard from a number of you in the comments sections of other articles that it can take being mid-coitus to realize that sex is actually way more fun than you remember. And of course, sex also gives you an endorphin and hormone high that can often alleviate mild depressive symptoms.
7. Be kind to yourself
Depression is an unbelievably rough experience to go through. It’s easy to get lost in the suckiness of your situation, but try to remember to be gentle with yourself. Get as much sleep as you can. Eat as well as you can. Get outdoors as often as you can. There have been some greatarticles here on xoJane about managing depression. You can also also find ways to take care of yourself that acknowledge the fact that you are still a sexual being, like reading an awesomely cheesy romance novel or buying a silk negligee that makes you feel like a '50s pin-up girl.