Depression and Sex Life: Know the Facts

Representation of couple: A discontent partner and a partner suffering from depression.

“Nothing seems to make sense anymore”- Nandita told her girlfriend with a pale face when she was confronted about her declining libido. Losing interest in sex was one of the signs of her progressing depression, and despite being in a new relationship, Nandita and Roshni could not keep up the initial spark for long. Academic pressure was devouring Nandita acutely, and soon enough, she bid goodbye to Roshni with a heavy heart and the grueling coaching center for NEET.

Understanding depression

Depression is perhaps the most prevalent and widely known mental illness. It is a mood disorder that can come in different forms. A person suffering from depression generally experiences long periods of extreme melancholy. The condition typically puts a damper on one’s routine and the course of the major aspects of life, including career or education, family, leisure, and romantic and/or sexual life. 

Although the genetics of the individual can come into play, depression typically manifests as a response to traumatic events and crises, such as the death of a loved one, abuse, a life-threatening disease, losing a job, and prolonged exposure to stress. The most common symptoms of depression are emotional numbness, lack of focus, constant feeling of lethargy, increased irritability, overeating or loss of appetite, oversleeping or lack of sleep, decreased libido (sex drive), loss of self-esteem, recurrent thoughts of suicide, etc.

Despite the population being affected at large, mental illness is heavily stigmatized in India at a domestic level to social, making it difficult to have an open dialogue about depression and related problems. The National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, estimates that 1 in 20 people suffer from depression, out of which the majority are women residing in urban metros. Depression is also the second leading cause of suicide amongst the youth in India.

Read: Would you visit a counsellor for your mental health? I did.

Depression and sex life

While depression itself has a general tendency to result in a decreased libido, in various patients, lowered sexual desire can manifest as a direct result of the various outcomes of the condition, such as poor self-worth, body image issues, inability to initiate sex, or achieving orgasm, and miscommunication with the sexual partner due to emotional debilitation. Moreover, if you take antidepressants to treat depression, there is a good chance that they also contribute to the loss of your libido. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which can come with sexual side effects.

There are not as many differences in the ways depression manifests in men and women as there are similarities. Broadly speaking, it has been noted that “women are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.” And when it comes to sex, men are likely to feel much more tired to have sex, while women feel unworthy of it. Additionally, depression can cause erectile dysfunction in men and dyspareunia (painful intercourse) in women. As women undergo hormonal changes due to many biological processes related to reproduction, there are certain types of depression observed in them that directly affect their sex life. They are:

  •  Premenstrual dysphoric syndrome: A severe form of premenstrual syndrome that causes depression from a week or two before menstruation.
  •  Postpartum depression: Short-term to prolonged depression that occurs in mothers after childbirth.  
  •  Depression related to menopause: During menopause, there is a massive decline in the amounts of estrogen and progesterone produced in a woman’s body. This directly results in fluctuations in physical and emotional health, inducing depression. It is observed that women undergoing menopause are four times more likely to suffer from depression than younger women.

If you suspect having any of the above-mentioned conditions, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.

Sexless marriages

It is observed that depression and sex life have a strong correlation. Just like how the former can result in the loss of libido, a dissatisfying sex life, sexless marriage, or poor intimacy can in turn result in depression. Maintaining sexual intimacy is pivotal to the success of a committed relationship or marriage for some, and if they are not careful, long-term couples can easily slide into the habit of not having sex at all amidst work pressure and other engagements. A few reasons for sexless marriages are:

  • Long-term relationship reluctance: Long-term relationships can make sex with the partner or sex itself less exciting in some couples. Getting too comfortable with one another can result in monotonous bedroom habits if mutual efforts are not taken.
  • Infidelity: If you are cheating on your partner or the other way around, sex can seem less exciting and infrequent. Past infidelity can also result in a passionless marriage and the withholding of sex.
  • Low testosterone: Due to age, stress, and diseases, some men produce low amounts of testosterone. This directly lowers their libido.  

If you struggle with depression due to dissatisfying sex life, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.

How to help your depressed partner?

Partners of people suffering from depression often find it as challenging to navigate their relationship as their partners. Loving someone with depression can be exhaustive as he or she may not be able to fulfill your emotional or sexual needs for the time being. However, as a partner of someone with mental illness, you have to accept that depression is not a choice, rather a medical condition. If your partner has a broken arm, you would help him or her get better. Likewise, you can shift the view of being unattended by your partner to view your partner in need of help. A few strategies you can take to help your partner are:

  • Being an active listener: Depression can make your partner unfocused, and hence, he or she can seem unclear in what they are trying to convey. You can lend an ear to your partner whenever they are trying to say something and understand their position without prejudice. 
  • Ask the right questions: Do not always assume that your partner is asking for advice or help. Whenever they convey something, ask them whether it is a call for help or simply to vent. 
  • Encourage to seek professional help: As much as you help your partner cope with depression, it is crucial to acknowledge that you are not a mental health practitioner. Encourage him or her to seek therapy or consult a doctor without sounding patronizing and support him or her during the treatment with affirmative words. And if you think the depression stemmed from unresolved relationship issues, you can together take couple’s therapy.
  • Plan outdoor activities together: Sometimes, getting out of the house itself is an achievement for people with depression. You can plan activities such as swimming and go on a stroll together. These can help improve your partner’s mood. Remember not to push him or her, and adapt to their choice of activities.
  • Take your me-time: It can seem exhaustive at times to take care of someone struggling with depression. However, pausing from time to time and immersing yourself in things you enjoy doing can help both you and your relationship.

If you want to help your partner cope with depression, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.

Gaiety is a postgraduate in English from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. When she is not writing or editing the content you might have come across on the web, she watches rom-coms or sings along 80’s pop songs with her heart out. Her interests lie in cinema and culinary arts; and everything that brings people together.

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