Clinical depression affects all aspects of our lives, most notably our moods, interactions and personal relationships. While some patients become hypersexualised, the majority reports a decline in sexual interest. However, some manage to maintain a healthy sex life.
Whether the lack of sexual interest is chemical or psychological is not clear as this forms part of a relatively new field of study.
Self-esteem determines how we choose to express ourselves sexually and with whom we choose to do so. Sex in a healthy relationship can be a physical expression of your love for your partner, but – if they suffer from depression and need your love the most at this time – sex may very well be the last thing they want.
If you are a partner of someone with depression, be patient. Although they’re not tied up to hospital machines or visibly in physical pain, your partner is in great emotional pain. No two days are the same. Be reassured that the mood swings will stabilise with medication and therapy as they grow more self-aware. Remember that this state of depression will pass.
Find intimate things to do together instead of sex, such as taking a candle-lit bath together, slow dancing and – if they’re up to it – mutual masturbation. Don’t rush the process. Everyone needs to take their own time to understand, accept and then deal with their depression.
Seeking professional help goes a long way in one’s recovery process, but it isn’t cheap.
There are some nongovernmental organisations that provide counselling, but that alone may not be sufficient. Psychiatrists prescribe medication, while psychologists monitor and assess your behaviour while on medication, or they are simply there for you to confide in if you’re not on medication. If you are unable to afford a psychiatrist and psychologist, speak to your doctor about possible prescription medication. Take your treatment as prescribed.
Reduce your alcohol intake – alcohol is a depressant and, when consumed in excess, works against your treatment. Some treatments may reduce your sex drive or even affect your ability to reach orgasm.
Because this field of study is still at an early stage, most practitioners will tell their patients that treatment is a process that involves trial and error with each individual, and that the recovery process requires patience.
The most important thing for a practitioner to do will be to stabilise your mood and eradicate suicidal thoughts. Addressing the depression should be the top priority. Once your mood is more stable and you’re finding that your sex drive or erection strength still isn’t what it used to be, consult your health practitioner.
There are a number of options available to you, such as reducing or increasing your current dosage, changing your medication altogether or even going on to hormone supplements.
Light exercise a few times a week will release endorphins, which positively interact with the receptors in your brain. So, not only does exercise result in body strength, it boosts self-confidence and releases “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.
Depending on the severity of the depression, a healthy, balanced diet and routine can encourage healing.
Communication with your partner is crucial. Tell them how you’re feeling and always keep them informed to generate realistic expectations from them.
Be patient with yourself during your recovery. Depression is serious.