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6 People Reveal How Their Mental Illness Affects Sex

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Editor's Note

This story has been published with permission from the individuals.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Mental health can impact so many areas of one’s life, especially one’s sexuality. This is an area people often find difficult to talk about. I have decided to break some of the silence surrounding mental health and sexuality and have collected a series of anonymous testimonies from people experiencing varying forms of mental illness. Below is a series of accounts of sexuality from a mental health standpoint. The purpose of this is to not only allow people to express their lives but to also spark conversation and assure others they are not alone. Thank you to everyone who was brave enough to share these intimate details with me. Enjoy!

1. “‘Concentrate; focus, dammit or you’re going to blow this whole thing!’ I keep repeating this to myself like a mantra. I’m in the throes of passion and for the life of me, I can’t keep my mind on the task at hand. One of the things I’ve found with Asperger’s syndrome, particularly as I’ve gotten older is, I have only two modes of concentration; either I’m hyperfocused or can’t keep my mind fixed on one single thing for more than five or ten minutes. Sometimes, watching a single movie on Netflix can take several hours because I’ll stop to watch part of a YouTube video or walk around my apartment listening to music. The same holds true for sex. If I’m being honest, most of the time during the act itself my mind is elsewhere. The specific instance I mentioned at the beginning occurred this past summer, where I failed to finish because I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not reconstruction after the American Civil War was always doomed to failure. Each time I have sex, I seem to have the same ending; I lose my focus first and then my energy so I can’t finish. I feel horribly guilty afterward because much of the time, it leads my partner to question themselves and feel inadequate. The woman I slept with this past summer was my girlfriend, and our relationship dissolved in no small part because of my reluctance to sleep with her (editorial note for my ex: just to be clear, it wasn’t the entire reason we broke up). I’ve had this happen with every partner I’ve ever had, and it’s getting to the point where sex is such an ordeal that I’m not sure when or if I’ll have it again.”

2. “When I was 11, I was raped by my father’s homosexual partner. This went on for four years until I was old enough to get out. I did not say anything for years. Staying on the topic of mental health and sex; because of this, I have never been able to climax during oral sex. I must always concentrate on pleasuring my partner as I only climax once every several attempts during sex, and only ever with someone I have been with and built trust with. During a one-night stand, I can never climax. I crave finishing constantly and need to masturbate three to four times a day. I can bring myself to climax but even then, it takes 20 mins of my time. I have a lot of fetishes and like to control my partner, so I feel safe. I have faked my orgasm as a male just so the woman I am with does not feel like it is their fault. It has affected some of my relationships where they felt like they could not give me what I need.”

3. “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) doesn’t affect my sexuality itself, but it affects my ability to have sexual relationships. My priority is keeping myself safe, and it’s easy to start to feel like someone is trying to become enmeshed with me or intrude on my space or influence my thoughts, and then I break up with them. I also dissociate whenever people touch me in any way, including nonsexual touch like hugs, and I’ve had partners take this personally even though I tell them not to, which makes me feel so hurt and alone. It’s a visceral response I can’t control and doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to a partner, but I feel like I might as well not even try because they’ll just judge me for it.”

4. “This is an interesting question. For me, the process of dealing with my mental health concerns has also opened up my recognition and acceptance of my sexual identity and others’ sexuality. In the past, my mental health affected my sexual desire in ways that made feel out of control, but with therapy and time I feel more present in my own wonderful sexual self.”

5. “I find that the casual gestures of physical affection are an inconvenience sometimes because my anxiety is blanketed by staying busy, but I don’t want to be rude by saying “can’t this wait” because I want to be with someone who wants me. I love to have sex every day; I usually do. How much I accomplished that day with my routine and directly relative mental health status affects how affectionate or to the point I am. My boyfriend would say he knows what kind of day I have had if it feels more like making love or if it’s strictly a damn good romp.”

6. “I have bipolar disorder; lack of impulse control and hypersexuality are part of the disorder. In the past, I have done a lot of things (or… people) that were not well-advised. Part of me regrets certain choices I made, but I have mostly managed to forgive myself. Once I was diagnosed and started taking medication, I discovered that my thinking about my own sexuality changed drastically, and certainly, I consider things more before deciding I want to be naked with someone. (Really, it would have been hard to consider them less.) At the moment, I haven’t been with anyone for quite some time — almost two years. This is partly due to the fact I really would like to make having sex a conscious decision with forethought, but also because I am grieving after the death of my long-term lover. To be honest, I’m having a hard time with the idea of dating at all, but most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I have needed time to come to terms with my illness and defining my own needs, as well as learning to make decisions that are not made by impulse alone. I figure I’ll eventually meet someone who really floats my boat, but for now, I’m trying to figure out myself. I miss sex, of course, but not so much that I feel overly deprived. I have considered maybe it’s that medication has dulled my sex drive, but mostly I think it’s a conscious decision based upon my healing process.”

Mental health affects so many people’s sexuality, it has even affected mine. I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to spark such amazing discussions and share such humbling stories. I believe the takeaway from this should be that all of these struggles can be overcome. If you resonate with one of these stories of struggle and wish to speak with someone, consider sending me a message in the section below. 

Thank you for reading! Stay strong, my friends.

Photo by Zelle Duda on Unsplash

Originally published: July 3, 2019
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