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Sex and Mental Health

Updated: May 5, 2023

Overall decent quality life according to WHO is one with good;

  1. Psyche; meaning body image, positive or negative feelings, spirituality, thinking/conscience and self-esteem.

  2. Envionment; including home environ, services, safety, finance, leisure, information, transport and physical environment.

  3. Physical; not excluding mobility, energy,sleep,work, activities.

  4. Social relationship; encompassing sex, personal relationships and social support.

  5. Sex; including sex science, sex eduacation and confidence &joy.

The link between these aspects of a good quality of life can be a long discussion but today we shall focus on the interlink between the psyche and sex. In other words sex and mental health or sexual mental health. Why is it important to understand this intersectionality? Sexual health refers to physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being in relation to one's sexuality.

The SH part of SHRH (Sexual health and Reproductive Rights) and mental health are closely interconnected, and changes in one area can have an impact on the other. The way we feel about ourselves, our relationships, past experiences, and cultural/societal factors can all play a role in our sexual and mental health. Understanding this intersection is crucial for individuals to prioritize both aspects of their well-being and seek professional help when needed. Let’s look at how this occurs;

Psychological well-being: Sexual experiences can impact an individual's self-esteem, self-worth, and overall sense of well-being. A healthy sexual relationship can improve mental health, whereas negative experiences such as sexual abuse or sexual dysfunction can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Relationship dynamics: Sexual health is often linked to the quality of intimate relationships, which in turn can impact mental health. Issues such as lack of intimacy, infidelity, or conflict can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Biological factors: Sexual activity triggers the release of hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine, which can affect mood, motivation, and pleasure. Certain medications for mental health conditions can also affect sexual function, and can impact an individual's overall sexual health.

Stigma and discrimination: Stigma surrounding sexual health and sexual orientation can lead to social isolation, depression, and anxiety. Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ or those who have experienced sexual trauma may be particularly vulnerable to these issues.

Past Trauma: Past sexual trauma can have a significant impact on an individual's mental health, leading to symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Trauma can also affect an individual's sexual health, leading to difficulties such as sexual dysfunction or avoidance of sexual activity.

Addiction: Unhealthy sexual behavior can lead to addiction, which in turn can negatively impact mental health. Individuals with sex addiction may experience shame, guilt, and anxiety, which can lead to depression and other mental health issues.

Cultural and societal factors: Cultural and societal factors can also affect sexual and mental health. For example, cultural norms and beliefs about sex can impact an individual's attitudes and behaviors towards sexuality, which can have implications for mental health. Additionally, societal factors such as gender inequality and discrimination can contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

It is important to prioritize both sexual and mental health and seek professional help if you are experiencing any difficulties in these areas. Mental health professionals, such as therapists and psychiatrists, can provide support and help you develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Healthcare providers can also provide guidance on sexual health issues and help you address any concerns. However, knowing this it is my hope you are able to understand yourself and show up wholly in spaces and relationships you occupy.

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