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What your stress and anxiety is doing to your sex life, and how you can combat it

Stress, anxiety and depression can have negative and lasting consequences on your overall quality of life and often impacts your sex life first. This is not ideal, especially when we know that poor mental health is already interfering with your productivity at work, your personal relationships, and your overall physical and psychological wellbeing. If maintaining or improving your sex life is important to you and/or your partner as part of your overall quality of life, there are some things to be aware of that may help address the situation.

I think it is important before going into more detail to distinguish between performance anxiety (which is related specifically to sexual activity and performance), and generalised anxiety. Generalised anxiety is defined as “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation) about a number of events of activities. The intensity, duration, or frequency of the anxiety and worry is out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event”. For those who experience generalised anxiety and depression, you may not ever consider that these are impacting your sexual desire. For others, particularly those who had previously boasted a frequent and fulfilling sex-life, the impact of stress, anxiety and depression can have devastating consequences on overall confidence and quality of life.

It is a perfectly normal part of life to experience some stress and worry if you are in a demanding job with an approaching deadline, have upcoming personal, familial and financial commitments, and/or are caring for loved ones (including unwell parents, dependent children, in-laws etc.). During these times in our lives, our desire for sexual closeness and satisfaction often falls to the bottom of the priority list.  Once the stressful situations are minimised or removed, desire for sexual satisfaction generally returns. When these stressors continue for prolonged periods of time however, it can have a negative effect on your sexual functioning and satisfaction, as well as intimate relationships. Not taking action when this happens can lead to a downward spiral as the negative effects on your relationship and sexual satisfaction will further impact your quality of life, mental health and intimate relationships.

Understanding your own levels of stress and anxiety at any given point, and communicating these with your partner and other close relationships is vital in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Being able to recognise the parts of your life that are causing you stress and anxiety is the first step to removing or reducing the negative impact on your mental health and relationships.

Once you have identified what is causing you stress or anxiety (whether it is work, time management, living arrangements etc.), focus on solutions to overcome these. In some instances, simply communicating what is causing you concern with your partner or family members will allow them to modify activities to reduce this stress for you. Other times when the answer is not so obvious, specialist intervention can work to decrease the negative impact on your mental health, and start to get your intimate relationships back on track.

If you feel that your sex life or relationship is suffering as a result of ongoing stress, anxiety and/or depression, make an appointment with Good Vibes Clinic to discuss your concerns and get develop a treatment plan to minimise the impact on your quality of life, sexual satisfaction and your intimate relationships. Sexuality and sexual functioning is just one part of an intricate machine known as the human body, and treatment requires a bigger picture view in order to ensure effective results.