This week's Sex Stories We Love discusses the many ways our sexual health can be affected by our mental health. I have bipolar disorder. It has definitely caused some issues for me sexually. I hope this week's stories will resonate with readers and give us pause for thought on many issues and concerns.
Meds and Sex
One of the first things people confronting mental health conditions and situations need to deal with is the potential of taking medication. Some people accept this. Some people rebel against it. The possibility of a daily dose is a daunting thought and should be discussed with your medical team. One of the reasons folks are reticent to receive meds is the potential for side effects - and different mental health conditions can have an effect on your sex life. That could mean a decreased or increased libido, erectile dysfunction, or other concerns. It is, again, important to keep your medical team in the loop. They need to understand the physical concerns as well as your personal needs and desires. Mental health medication can make the difference in having a happy life for many, but ignoring sexual side effects could diminish that likelihood.
The Pain of Swiping
The idea that our increased use of and reliance on digital technology could affect our mental health isn't new. However, the thought that it could creep into our sexual mental health could gain some traction. Dating sites and hook-up apps are lauded as a much easier way to meet people, whether the goal is a long-term relationship or a couple hours of fun. The "bar scene" was routinely mocked as a situation of rejection and failure. However, rejection and lowered self-esteem happens with online dating, too. If you're swipin' and swipin' and not connecting, that has to hurt. If you're going out once and getting ghosted, that has to hurt, too. As it turns out, rejection and pain share the same sensations in our brain. take care of each other out there...and online.
One of the most controversial discussions around sexual mental health is the psychological treatment of sex offenders. These are people, predominantly men, who commit sexual crimes, everything from flashing to sexual assault, being treated by teaching empathy and better skills. It's been recognized that therapy can help prisoners on the long run when released into society. However, because their victims, the women, children, and men harmed, are able to speak their hurt, fears, and damage, there remains more stringency placed upon those convicted of sexual crimes. Those voices always need to be heard and considered first and foremost. Yet, where does the potential of rehabilitation start and stop? Can weeks or even years of therapy in and out of prison walls help these people if they will still be confined?
Safe Virtual Space
Speaking of victims of sexual crimes, could a virtual reality environment help provide a safe space to work through issues? This intriguing possibility is creating a place where survivors can be reintroduced to spaces and situations that could be triggering, but in the safety of VR and not having to go through the trauma of a real-life situation. It seems this same idea is being used to treat phobias, even homophobia. Where there are still challenges, such as cost and the need for ongoing technological improvements, this option could be a way for some survivors to continue healing.
Community Confronting Challenges
The news from the porn industry was grim through late 2017 and early 2018. Five female performers were lost because of issues that fall within the mental health and addiction spectrum. These tragic events, all in such a short span of time, brought the need for increased mental health resources for porn performances to both the community's and the public's attention. The porn industry can be a hard world to live in, whether or not you have mental health issues. If you try to get help from the outside, the stigma of your work can colour the potential of getting help. So the porn community is rallying and doing something that is has down well in recent years: looking after its own. Various networks of resources are popping up. Performers and advocacy groups are helping each other. If you work in porn and need help, hopefully these resources will be an aid to you.
Refuse That Right
Finally, in the not-surprising-at-all section of sex news, right to refuse laws harm the mental health of those being denied. And here we thought those being denied would happily understand and accept bigotry steeped in religious dogma.