Psychiatric Disorders and Sex

Sexual desire, or libido as it is called, has an important place in humans’ life. It is not just related to sexuality, but to many aspects of life, as sexuality and sexual desire are interrelated with behavior, emotions, and social issues. Although sexual desire is predominantly regulated by hormones it is also affected by environmental, physical and emotional processes. Particularly in people with psychological problems we see alongside of emotional and behavioral changes also a deterioration of sexual desire and sex life.

Depression is one of the disorders that affect sexuality. In women and men who suffer from chronic depression a drop in libido, arousal difficulties and inability to enjoy sexual intercourse are quite common. As person’s suffering from depression experience intense emotions like sadness, despair and sorrow, sexuality which involves pleasure seems to contradict with this state. Mostly the person is unable to experience pleasure and desire which are important for the sexual act. Looking at the relationship between depression and the brain, it is known that the chemicals in the brain are affected. Neurotransmitters, which play a role in the emotional state and have a function in providing blood flow to the genitals during intercourse, are affected by depression. Therefore the sexual drive, desire and activities can deteriorate.

Bipolar, or also called manic depressive disorder, also causes changes in the person’s sexual life. This disorder harbors two opposite extremes, the manic state and the depressive state. During the manic phase the patient has an excessive sexual drive whilst in the depressive phase, like in depression there is a decrease in sexual desire. During the manic phase the person’s sexual drive increases and frequent masturbation, preoccupation with thoughts of a sexual nature and getting involved in risky sexual relationships are common. Although during this period they may be involved in a large number of sexual activities satisfaction may not be experienced.

Schizophrenia is another disease that affects sexual life. Persons diagnosed with schizophrenia can display unusual and inappropriate sexual behavior. Examples for these are masturbating in public, displaying sexual desire towards inappropriate people or things. The person can display sexual urges that are inconsistent with his own personality and which he would not do in normal life. Furthermore, some schizophrenic persons are rendered more vulnerable due to the disease and be at bigger risk of being the target of sexual harassment.

Sexual function disorders are also common in persons with anxiety disorder. The reception of the sexual stimulus by the brain and the subsequent stimulation of the sexual organs may be blocked due to anxiety. For this reason we may see sexual apathy, arousal dysfunction. Furthermore, persons with performance anxiety can suffer from premature ejaculation or orgasm dysfunction.