Depression and Sex
By: Beth McHugh 2008
In a surprising report, an Australian study has shown that women who are depressed have more sex than women who describe themselves as “happy.” This phenomenon occurs in both single-status women and those who are in committed long-term relationships.
The survey was conducted among women in Melbourne, Australia, and was presented at a recent mental health conference. The researchers concluded that women suffering from mild to moderate depression have over 30% more sexual activity than their happier counterparts.
They also reported that their sex lives consisted of a more varied range of sexual activities, and, if single, were more likely to participate in casual sex than a long term relationship. They also possessed more sexually liberated attitudes.
Clinical psychologist, Sabura Allen of Monash University stated that there was “more sex and more of everything.” Dr. Allen concluded that depressed women were likely seeking out sexual activity to help them feel more secure.
When I read this report, I was rather surprised, expecting that depressed women would have less inclination for sex due to a general slowing down of the body which accompanies clinical depression. On further thought, I believe it is possible that mild to moderately depressed women are also likely to be self-medicating with the feel-good hormones that accompany the sexual act in an attempt to change their mood.
It appears that engaging in sexual activity promotes a feeling of intimacy, so necessary to depressed women and indeed, men. One of the accompanying symptoms of long-term or recurrent depression is a sense of isolation, so having sex more than usual would help to offset the profound feelings of loneliness, invisibility and detachment that are one of the hallmarks of depression.
But the resultant hormonal rush that accompanies sex could also help to offset these feelings, if only on a temporary basis. Hence the need for more and more “hits,” and thus more sex. This could be yet another reason for depressed women reporting increased sexual activity.