Hi, I’m Amy and I have depression. (Plus anxiety, PTSD, and a whole fun laundry list of Brain Stuff! But today we’re focusing on depression).
My depression and I have learned to live with each other over the years. It’s not exactly a good relationship, but we’ve reached an uneasy truce of sorts. One of the biggest challenges for me has been navigating the impact of depression on my sexuality.
To that end, here are some of the things I’ve learned about sex on bad depression days. Take the ones that work for you, discard the rest. We’re all different, and what works for me might not work for you.
It’s okay to not have sex
I feel like this should-be-obvious-but-isn’t point is often missed out of conversations about sex and depression. If you just can’t right now, that’s okay! You’re no less of a partner or a sex-positive person if you sometimes can’t or don’t want to have sex at all.
If you don’t feel like it? Give yourself a break and let your libido return in its own time.
But you’re also allowed to want sex!
There’s a school of thought (that I hate) that says it’s not okay to have sex with a depressed person. Well if that was the case, I wouldn’t have gotten laid at all since… March?
If you want to have sex, even while you’re depressed, that’s okay! As long as you have capacity to consent, there’s no reason not to go ahead and enjoy having sex if you want to.
One of the worst things past partners have done when I’ve been depressed is decline sex (that they otherwise would have wanted) to “protect me from myself”. A depressed person is still a grown-ass adult capable of making choices, and doesn’t need to be protected from their own desire for sex.
See sex as self care
If you’d like to have sex and think it would make you feel better, why not conceptualise it as being in the same category as drinking a glass of water, going for a walk, or meditating? That is, as an act of self-care.
I find this particularly useful when it comes to masturbation. If I push through the fog and get myself to masturbate, an orgasm will invariably make me feel better… or at least help me sleep (which will make me feel better).
Have low-energy sex
For many people, including me, one of the primary symptoms of depression is debilitating exhaustion. When I’m in that space, four-hour marathon fuck sessions in all kinds of creative positions are just not going to happen.
But lying back while my partner fucks me? Crawling over their lap for a spanking? Pushing a wand vibrator against my junk (possibly through clothing) and just leaving it there until I come? That I can do!
Use the physical to take you out of your head
Lots of people find intense workouts or adrenaline-fuelled challenges comforting when they’re depressed. This is because focusing on something very physical can take your focus away from the dark places your brain is going to.
For me, that intense physical experience is sex and/or kink. If I have highly physical sex, it allows me to focus on something else besides the hell my brain is dragging me through. Whether it’s the thud of body-on-body or the slap of a heavy flogger across my butt, physical sensations take me out of my depression spiral and ground me in the moment.
Honour where your body is at
Sometimes, depression can mess with physical arousal. In other words, the brain might be willing, but the body has other ideas. For people with penises, this might result in difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. People with vulvas might struggle with a lack of natural lubrication.
The best way to have great sex on bad depression days is to honour where your body is and meet it there. That means staying curious, staying adaptable, and trying not to get frustrated or cast blame.
If you can, see it as an opportunity for learning and experimentation. If you want to have sex but your penis just isn’t getting hard today, why not pleasure your partner with your hand, your mouth, or a toy? And if genital stimulation is difficult right now, you could trade massages, experiment with kink, or just hold your partner and whisper filth in their ear while they jerk off.
Use the tools that help
Sex toys are amazing any time, but they really come into their own for me on bad depression days. If a partner’s bio-dick isn’t getting hard (or they don’t feel like using it), they can use a dildo on me. If I’m not up for penetration, clitoral vibes can provide tonnes of pleasure.
Then of course there’s probably my favourite depression-sex tool of all time: lube! When I’m sad, I can be mentally turned on but my body might not have the physical response to match. Tonnes of lube keeps things painless and fun.
So there you have it – my sex-and-depression tips. I’d love to know if any of these work for you, or if you have any favourite strategies I’ve not thought of!