We’ve learned a lot about mental health in the past few decades. Nowhere near enough, but the complexities of the mind and the various chemicals and hormones that impact it are just starting to emerge from the mist that keeps our mental health a mystery. Every new development gives more people the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.
But there is one part of mental health advancement that is still lagging far behind—and may require a significant attitude shift in the medical community.
Since different medications have been introduced to handle the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, the myriad of side effects have been noted and are, generally, well-discussed by prescribing physicians. Well, most side effects. How these medications impact patients’ sex lives is still something the medical community desperately needs to address and improve.
Issues not addressed
Of all people and places, your doctor’s office should be a place you can openly and honestly discuss sexual issues of any sort. And particularly those that are being caused by the medication you’ve been given. Some doctors will give a cursory list of potential side effects, but rarely are those issues, which can include lack of libido, erectile dysfunction, loss of sensation and much more readily discussed—until the patient exhibits those issues. I wonder how many people would readily accept a drug that could diminish their sexual experience if they were fully aware of the side effects in advance?
It is impossible to fault doctors for wanting their patients to have the best lives possible—and that is what they strive to achieve. And for some people, a loss of sexual interest won’t be the biggest problem they have to deal with. In fact, pulling that might not even affect their lives.
However, for many other patients, taking sex out of their lives is pulling a crucial aspect of happiness off the table. If the person taking the medication is in a relationship, the loss of sex could result in diminished intimacy with their partner, which could then lead to other issues which would further complicate their mental health situation.
Self love as self care
And even those who aren’t partnered could suffer greatly. One of the easiest, cheapest and most ready forms of self care is self love. Masturbation is the warm hug you can give yourself anytime. The dopamine and oxytocin released during masturbation and orgasm can greatly help some people who are dealing with difficult mental health problems. However, some medications will lessen the desire for self love, even if the patient remembers and thinks about how much that would soothe or comfort them.
All of this is a wicked Catch-22. Some antidepressants and mental health medications are, literally, lifesaving and life-sustaining. Some folks just won’t be able to function without them. But the medical world needs to start addressing sex-inhibiting side effects in these important medications. And then, if the patient still chooses to go ahead, start thinking of action plans that can help the patient deal with sexual side effects. Because without one of life’s most simple forms of happiness, will the person really get better?