8 Tips for Having Sex When You Have a Chronic Illness

by Kinkly
Published: JANUARY 28, 2016 | Updated: APRIL 16, 2020
Chronic illnesses and disabilities are just as individualized as the people who are diagnosed. Your sex life is your sex life. Face it head on and find solutions that work for you.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is life-changing. It impacts every aspect of your life, and it's totally normal to wonder if some things you've taken for granted might ever be the same again. Like sex, for instance. How will your diagnosis affect your sex life? And not just from a physical point of view, but emotionally, too. The life you thought was ahead of you is irreparably changed. Depending on the condition you have, your sex life will likely change, too. I have multiple sclerosis (MS), and the major relapse that led to my diagnosis altered my ability to orgasm. It impacted my sensation from the waist down for several months. While some healing has taken place since then, sex is different now. I've made some changes, and things have improved. But what I really didn't expect is that what I once thought was a major loss is actually a bonus.


Don't worry; I won't hit you with some positivity spiritual bullshit about how I now appreciate sex more than ever before. What I will tell you about are the eight things that helped me embrace my sex life as a person with a disability and chronic illness.

Try Sex Toys

The more sex toys, the better. That's a good motto to have, right? Sensation is often a huge issue for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. For me, not always feeling enough can be rectified by using a vibrator while having sex. Discovering which parts of your body you like having stimulated (and this will depend on how your body is affected by your illness) can help you experience a better sex life. You can even practice alone if you want!

Be Spontaneous

I know that some people favor scheduled sex, but as a person with a chronic illness, spontaneous sex works so much better for me. If I'm feeling ill or having a bad day, sex might be off the table. Having a designated "sex day" would also cause me great anxiety. Letting sex be spontaneous, and having sex whenever possible, helps me work with my illness. Having a partner who understands this and is up for sex all the time works brilliantly too.


Shift Your Focus (Off of Orgasm)

I've had problems achieving orgasm since my last major relapse. There are various illnesses that can affect a person's ability to orgasm. And it sucks. But remember that sex isn't just about having an orgasm. Understanding that sex is about an entire experience is the key. Whether it's possible to reach that crescendo or not doesn't really matter. Being less goal-oriented has freed up my sex life, and made me feel more chill about sex in general. It's important to enjoy the entire act as opposed to feeling as if you've failed by not reaching the climax. (Read more in Stop Worrying About Orgasms. Seriously.)

Try Exercise and Relaxation

The idea of sitting still and meditating on my life fills me with dread. I know some people swear by meditation, but for me cardio has been the release I've found most helpful. High-intensity exercise makes my body and brain feel better. It leads to a more relaxed approach to life in general. I've tracked my sex life alongside my exercise regime too; there's a definite correlation between the amount of exercise I do, and improvements in my sex life. When I exercise more, I have increased sensation during sex. This has a lot to do with the specific illness that I have. Depending on your disability, different types of exercise will be advised. I recommend taking control of your body as much as possible. This is especially important because having a disability can often make a person feel like they're no longer in charge.

Use Lube

Even if your partner makes you wet, lube can come in handy for anyone! I often need to touch myself during sex in order to come since suffering my major MS relapse. Lube makes this feel so much better. No one wants to be rubbed raw (trust me). Invest in some good lubrication, and try out several brands before you decide which one you like best. There is more difference between them than you could even imagine. It can take so much longer to come when you have a chronic illness or disability. That makes lube extra handy. Don't get me wrong. Fucking for hours is a total positive, but it's good to be prepared. If you use sex toys, make sure that the lube that you choose is appropriate for your purposes. Some sex materials and lubes simply do not mix. (Gets some tips on how to choose a lube in The Ins and Outs of Sexual Lubricants.)


Stop Worrying About Your Appearance

Everyone has concerns about their body image from time to time. That's a totally normal thing to experience. But when you're ill, you don't always have complete control over your body. For instance, I'd like to exercise more than I do, but fatigue sometimes stops me. Letting go and not worrying about any extra weight I've put on as a result of this is so empowering. Being with someone who makes me feel completely comfortable with every aspect of my appearance, regardless of whether I've worked out or shaved my legs, makes the sex even better. The fact that another person digs the way you look, regardless of whether you're at your personal best, is awesome.

Find Your Time of Day and Prioritize Sex

Don't get me wrong, I'd have sex all night if I could. But figuring out a timetable that works best for your body and your illness is really important following any diagnosis. While sex at night works sometimes, the morning or afternoon can actually be better for me. On a day when you think you might be into sex, set aside time for it, and pace the rest of your day around that fact if you need to. There are no rules about when you engage in sex. If your energy is limited (mine is), it's fine to prioritize sex over cleaning house, for instance. The dishes can totally wait while you get it on.

Follow Your Fantasies

Most people enjoy a fantasy from time to time. Since being diagnosed, I've developed my repertoire of fantasies. Exploring them with another person is incredibly liberating, and anything that gives me the chance to get outside of my brain for a while and forget every problem that I have sounds great to me. It's totally up to you how far you want to take this one. Opening up about your desires can only make your sexual relationship stronger. For those who have trouble reaching orgasm, paying attention to detail and creating a whole new narrative can turn sex into a real event.


The most important thing is that you approach sex in the way that is right for you and your chronic illness or disability. I received a lot of varying - and often questionable - advice about sex from healthcare professionals when I was diagnosed. It was only when I faced the topic myself, and eventually found a partner I was able to be completely relaxed and honest with, that I started to learn what my newfound sexuality, post-diagnosis, meant.


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