Mental illnesses, treatments can affect your sex life

Mental health can impact a person’s desire and ability to have sex, such as influencing libido and the potential to have an orgasm.

Chris Lynch, a professor and director of clinical programs for the School of Pharmacy, said that mental illness such as depression can have different effects on sex drive when treated.

“Some people, when their depression is treated, their libido is increased because low libido can be a symptom of this disease. Whereas, [with] other people, the medication itself can cause low libido and sexual dysfunction,” Lynch said.

Lynch said the effects medication can have on the body can vary based on many things such as biological sex, hormones and age.

“Women have a much more complex arousal pathway as well as orgasm pathways than men do. They tend to have more complicated reactions to both depression as well as treatments,” Lynch said.

Junior psychology major Braden Furlow from Christopher, Illinois, said that he believes positive mental health is crucial to help function effectively.

“Taking care of yourself mentally is sometimes more important than taking care of yourself physically because good mental health helps you take care of yourself physically,” Furlow said.

Furlow said he believes sex can also greatly affect mood and mentality, especially when you have an orgasm.

“For the majority of people, having a healthy and consistent sex life helps [mental health], especially if you get that normal chemical reaction with dopamine and serotonin whenever you [have an orgasm],” Furlow said.

Furlow said he does not believe that sex is the cure-all for mental health, and that bad experiences can cause poor mental health and issues such as depression or anxiety.

“If they’ve had a bad experience where their partner didn’t seem into it or voiced that they weren’t satisfied or if they feel nobody wants to have sex with them, it can really affect their self worth,” Furlow said.

Lynch said he recommends maintaining a healthy lifestyle to try and counter some of the effects that may come from either medication or mental health issues.

“Regular exercise, not using tobacco, limited alcohol intake and especially if the person has a regular partner, counseling for both can be very useful and scheduling time for intimacy,” Lynch said.

Lynch also said that while medications can have different effects on people, it’s important to talk to your health care provider about it before taking any other actions.

“We in no way want to encourage people to adjust or discontinue their own medicine based on these responses,” Lynch said. “It needs to be done in close coordination with your care providers.”

Dr. Misty Lynn Gonzalez, an associate professor for the School of Pharmacy, said sometimes people might not feel comfortable disclosing these issues or asking about them, so she tries to be as honest as she can about possible symptoms.

“Just to prevent non-adherence [to recommended prescription drug treatments], I always counsel individuals about sexual dysfunction and chances to gain weight,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also said she believes clients and clinical workers should try to talk about these issues more often.

“I think it’s helpful if the provider brings it up first and normalizes the subject,” Gonzalez said. “I speak about it very frankly when I speak to them and I tell them to not be embarrassed. This is something providers are used to dealing with and it’s not something you need to live with.”

Gonzalez urges people who have issues with having sex due to medication or mental health issues to talk to their doctors and solve the problem there before making their own adjustments with medication or other treatment options.

“If you bring it up and have that conversation, you can come up with a plan that everybody’s happy with,” Gonzalez said.

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