Negative Effects of Depression on Sex and What Helps

Depression and sex can get complicated, but that's no reason to write off your love life. Here's how to save your relationship from the effects of depression.

Depression and sex issues are common, and problems with intimacy don't always get better with treatment. Sexual desire starts in the brain, so it's surprising that mental illnesses like depression affect a person's ability to enjoy a fulfilling sex life. Whether you experience pain during intercourse, problems achieving orgasm or an unwillingness to engage in intimacy, it's no secret that depression and sexuality don't exactly go hand-in-hand. So how can you protect your relationship when depression strikes? Here are some tips to help you navigate depression and sex.

Depression and Sex: What’s the Problem?

Sex, when you have depression, can bring all sorts of issues to the surface; after all, loving someone with depression has its challenges. The good news is that, while problems with sex can lead to other relationship issues, there are plenty of treatment options for sexual problems related to depression. This means that being open with your doctor about your challenges between the sheets is key to overcoming them.

Although seeing your doctor about such a personal problem can feel uncomfortable, most medical professionals deal with these kinds of complaints all the time. The most common issues faced by those with depression in intimate relationships are:

People with depression can, on the other end of the spectrum, become addicted to sex as a way to self-soothe and feel better. However, a dramatic increase in your libido can be a sign of mania, which is symptomatic of bipolar disorder. It can also be a side-effect of some medication.

The bottom line is, you should see your doctor if you notice any significant changes to your sex drive – whether or not you have been diagnosed with depression – as there might be an underlying cause.

Depression and Lack of Sex Drive: How to Protect Your Relationship

Understandably, issues with sex and depression can also lead to other relationship problems, such as poor communication, arguments and withdrawal. Here are some tips to help you navigate depression and a lack of sex drive without damaging your relationship.

Talk to your partner

Many couples shy away from the topic of sex during everyday conversation. Sex needs to be a part of your relationship, whether you have it or not. You must remain open about your feelings and encourage your partner to do the same.

It’s important for neither of you to blame or criticize during this process. If you both have different wants and needs when it comes to sex, it can help to talk with the support of an intermediary – such as a sex therapist – who can help you find some middle ground.

See your doctor

Both depression and antidepressant medications can affect a person's desire for sex, which can seem like a cruel joke when you're trying to get better and improve your relationship. If you're not happy with your lack of libido and it's causing problems in your relationship, your doctor may be able to switch your medication and explore ways to increase your sex drive.

Your doctor may do tests to rule out other causes of your low libido, or you may be offered testosterone supplements, Viagra medication or a drug with a dopamine component. You may also be referred for sex therapy or couples counseling.

Don’t force it

No one should feel forced to have sex when they're not in the mood, and nobody has the right to demand intimacy. It is your body, and only you can call the shots. Forcing yourself to have sex out of guilt will only make you feel more negative about intimate experiences with your partner, and it won't make either of you feel very good.

Instead, work with your partner to create an intimate scenario you might be happy with. If sexual contact feels too overwhelming, you can start by spending time kissing, holding hands on the sofa or just being close to one another. If you do this, it's vital that both partners agree to the terms beforehand, and that no one tries to pressure the other to take it further.

Stay positive

Sex and depression can be incredibly tricky to navigate, and you may feel like you're starting back at square one if you're struggling to be intimate with your partner. If you're both willing to work on it, however, there are plenty of ways to move your relationship forward and both enjoy a healthy sex life.

Remember: this is temporary. A person's sexuality undergoes many changes throughout their lifetime. Learning to coast through these challenges and uncertainties as a couple is a part of being in a long-term relationship. The main thing is to stay focused on positive action, rather than dwelling on a situation you cannot immediately change.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2022, January 4). Negative Effects of Depression on Sex and What Helps, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: January 10, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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