Depression and Sexuality: A Vicious Cycle

Depression and sexuality are negatively intertwined, as one pressures the other. Depressive symptoms such as impulses to drive, pleasure and disinterest have a negative effect on sexual activity. Sexual dysfunction, on the other hand, can impair self-esteem, increase depressive symptoms, and strain the relationship.

Depression and sexual disorders are thus mutually strong and connected with each other. At the same time, these aspects are often taboo in the partnership and are rarely taken up by the doctor. But it is worthwhile even though in most cases to address this topic is very difficult for many people indeed.

How Does Depression Affect Sexuality?

The relationships and interactions between depression and sexual disorders are diverse. Sexual disorders are a very common symptom of depression.

In some cases, they are even the first sign even before the disease manifests itself in other areas of life. In addition, sexual problems can first lead to or increase depression. And also antidepressants can cause sexual dysfunction. In the worst case, this can lead to a vicious circle.

Which Sexual Problems Occur?

During depression, sexuality is impaired in the majority of cases. The major depressive symptom of interest is joyless, of course, also it affects the realm of sexuality, and so the diminished sexual desire is among the most common depressive symptoms of all.

Depressed people usually have a very negative self-image, consider themselves unattractive or unlovable.

This can lead to self-hatred or disgust in front of one’s own body. Often also fears of failure occur. In men also often impotence. Ejaculation or orgasm disorders or pain during sex are also common.

In exceptional cases, an abnormally increased sexual desire can occur, which can also cause suffering and guilt because it does not fit the other depressive experience.

What Are The Consequences Of Sexual Dysfunction For The Depressed Partner?

With the depressive partner, shame, feelings of guilt, fear of failure and a negative self-image can be triggered or intensified.

This can lead to complete avoidance of sexuality, often affecting tenderness and closeness in general. Partly there are fears, the other one could leave one or go astray.

Nevertheless, if the depressive patient still sleeps with his partner – in order not to lose them or because they’re being pressured – the associated negative experiences can further increase the sexual and depressive symptoms.

And What About The Healthy Partner?

It is important that they do not personally refer to the diminished sexual desire of the other person. It just does not mean that the other one no longer loves or no longer finds them attractive.

Otherwise, there is a risk that they develop feelings of guilt or become annoyed because they feel misunderstood, rejected or helpless. An understanding partner respects diminished or altered sexuality during depression and does not press the other partner. It can help to realize that this is a serious illness.

How Can A Couple With A Depressed Partner Deal With Sexual Disorders?

The partnership is often severely burdened by the sexual disorder. Even if it’s hard, those affected should talk as open as possible. A careful exchange on the subject is usually less damaging than silence. False assumptions, misunderstandings, and unfounded fears can thus be eliminated from the world.

Often, the lack of sexual gratification is not the greatest perceived lack, but the lost feeling of closeness and security, acceptance and trust. These needs can be temporarily satisfied even without sex. In addition, it can be a helpful alternative to adapt sexually during the depressive phase to the changing needs and opportunities rather than stopping them altogether.


Sexual disorders that have first occurred during depression generally improve with a decline in affective disorder. If drugs are responsible for sexual dysfunction, a changeover can help. This should always be done under medical supervision.

Sexual disorders are often the cause of stopping antidepressant pharmacotherapy, which can lead to the onset or worsening of depression. If sexual problems persist after depression, and organic or medicinal causes can be excluded, specific therapy for sexual dysfunction may be indicated. If a partnership conflict plays a role, couple counseling or therapy can help.

Recent Content

link to How To Manage Anxiety And Depression During COVID-19 Lockdown

How To Manage Anxiety And Depression During COVID-19 Lockdown

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, many of us, even those who have not been infected by the virus, will choose to quarantine in our homes for the upcoming weeks. Capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety […]