For most couples, intimacy is a critical component of a
relationship. But if you suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and
depression, or even things like fatigue and chronic stress, your libido might
suffer, as well.
For many, the stress that comes with a decreased libido and
the potential problems it causes in a relationship only exacerbate mental
health issues, causing a vicious cycle. It’s important to understand the link
that exists between mental health and sexual desire. Then, you can discover
ways to communicate with your partner and help minimize the effects your mental
health has on your desire to have sex.
Understanding the link between mental health and libido
One thing many people don’t realize is that libido is
closely tied to the brain. Neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain send
signals to other parts of the body that get you in the mood. This is why mental
health often has such a major impact on arousal.
Studies show that problems like depression and anxiety are
linked to reduced libido, with a majority of people reporting a lack of sex
drive alongside poor mental health. These conditions alter the chemical
balances in the brain, simultaneously affecting the parts of the brain that
control libido. If you are feeling depressed or are having intrusive thoughts
because of anxiety, it can be extremely difficult to feel confident and sexy or
want to put energy towards intercourse.
Exhaustion and stress can also affect libido. When you don’t
feel happy, energized or alert, you’re less likely to want to have sex. If
you’re hounded by stress, you will likely have both mental and physical
reactions that hamper your desire for sex. Mentally, you’ll likely be so
preoccupied by your stressors that you’re unable to get in the mood. You may also
begin to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, as well as have a cranky
or irritable mood that makes sex sound unappealing. Physically, your body may
react negatively to stress. Stress commonly causes feelings of fatigue. You may
even get sick if your stress is ongoing.
Of course, no one’s body reacts in the same way to mental health
problems or severe stress, and your libido may even fluctuate over time while
these issues are present. However, it’s important to remember that you are not
alone if you are experiencing these problems. They are very common today.
While mental health can worsen libido, so can medications
like antidepressants. One common side effect of medications is decreased libido
in both men and women, and this can be difficult to manage. While it’s
important you remain on your medication, sometimes switching medications helps
find a balance between mental health and side effect management. Speak to your
doctor to see if there are other options available to you.
Helping yourself get in the mood
Although it’s common for mental health and stress to take
their toll on libido, all hope is not lost. There may be a few ways you can
work on regaining intimacy and boosting your libido in spite of exhaustion,
depression or stress.
First, make sure you’re communicating with your partner
about the issues you’re experiencing. You are, of course, under no obligation
to engage in sexual activity if you do not want to, but you should be open with
your partner so you both are on the same page about it.
From there, try taking it slow and work on building intimacy
in non-sexual ways. Often, bonding through physical proximity and other signs
of love can help reshape your state of mind and improve libido. Massages,
cuddling and kissing can all release endorphins and get you in the mood. While
engaging in these activities, avoid putting pressure on you or your partner to
have sex, as this can worsen the problem.
Other things you can try include finding forms of stress
relief and mindfulness so you can relax and reduce your problematic symptoms.
Yoga and calming baths can help you unwind. Deep breathing and meditation can
help refocus your mind and connect your brain and body and may even help you
become aroused by focusing on sexual feelings. Aromatherapy may also be
useful—certain essential oils are known for their stress-relieving and arousing
supplements may also be effective, utilizing a blend of aphrodisiac herbs
to heighten arousal. These are likely best used in conjunction with stress relief
and symptom treatment techniques to help solve the root of your mental health
If at-home methods are not effective for you, consider
visiting a doctor to find solutions for your depression or anxiety, or perhaps
individual and/or couple’s counseling to work through your libido issues with a
Overall, simply understanding how your mental health and
sexual desire are linked can make a world of a difference for your self-esteem
and awareness, so you can begin to address the root of the issue and take
charge of your health and happiness—both in the brain and the bedroom.