Stress, Depression, and Sex
“Sexual dysfunction” can be a scary term that brings up visuals of pill bottles and medical tests, but in reality, sexual dysfunction is defined simply as disturbances in sexual desire or functioning (Laumann, Paik, & Rosen, 1999), which is something that many people experience at one point or another in their sexual lives. People who experience emotional problems, like depression, or stress-related problems are much more likely to experience some kind of sexual dysfunction or disturbance in their sexual desire. That’s not to say that everyone who has a stressful lifestyle will have low desire or some other sexual dysfunction, but stress and/or depression are often a factor when it comes to low desire.
Sex is an important part of keeping your romantic relationship healthy, both emotionally and physically. Many people suffer from stress related to jobs, family, children and a number of other factors. Not surprisingly, we aren’t able to compartmentalize our problems, and stress has a way of seeping into all areas of our lives. Stress can affect hormones in the body, which are related to the sexual libido (Castellanos, 2013). It also affects our general mood and how we interact within our relationship on a day to day basis. If you’re stressed, you often aren’t able to relax and enjoy your partner, in or out of the bedroom.
Depression is also associated with impaired sexual functioning and satisfaction. People who are depressed experience a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, a reduction in energy, low self-esteem, and difficulties experiencing pleasure (Baldwin, 2001). Considering these symptoms, it’s not difficult to imagine why depressed individuals may also experience problems in their sexual relationships.