Are your sexual and mental health related?

Are your sexual and mental health related?

The stigmatization of both sexual and mental health affect one another

Sexual health and mental health are not separate entities: they are both part of an individual’s overall wellbeing, and because of this are intertwined.

Mental illness can affect all aspects of life, including sexuality. Our thoughts and feelings impact our ability to get and stay turned on.

Some mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, can greatly affect arousal, and many medications that treat these illnesses have sex-related side effects, such as lowered sex drive.

Having a mental illness does not, however, disqualify someone from having a fulfilling sex life or romantic life, but people with mental illnesses are often stereotyped as hypersexual, asexual, or undeserving of sexual lives.

These stereotypes have arisen because of the stigmas surrounding mental health and sexual health. This can make it difficult for people to access the care that they need. The feelings that stigma can stir up, such as fear and embarrassment, can prevent people from bringing up sexual and mental health related topics.

It is important for health care providers to be open to discussing sexual and mental health topics with their patients. If everyone is more aware of the language that they use and aims to be more inclusive, it will help enable people who are stigmatized to get the mental and sexual health care they need, instead of feeling neglected. 

In addition to the idea that mental health affects sexuality, sexuality can also affect mental health.

Sexual violence and sexual disorders are linked with various mental health difficulties, including depression and anxiety

Being a sexual minority can also impact mental health. Action Canada notes that research has found that LGBTQ+ individuals are at a higher risk for some mental health issues and report more unmet mental health needs.

The Mental Health Foundation, which is a U.K. charity, states that these impacts may be influenced by stigma, exclusion, discrimination, and ignorance. It may also be impacted by the fact that Canada does not have enough healthcare providers who are equipped to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. Action Canada indicated that only five hours of medical school are focused on LGBTQ+ health issues.

The historical oppression of certain individuals continues to impact reproductive and mental health. Until 1992, homosexuality was considered a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis. Sterilization impacted many groups of people, including Indigenous peoples. African Americans also experienced many injustices in recent history during slavery, including sexual abuse and rape.

These groups of people are still treated unjustly today when seeking out mental and sexual health resources. Additionally, when discussing mental health and sexual health, minorities often do not see themselves reflected in the discussion. For example, most textbook depictions and waiting room models of genitalia and reproductive systems are clearly based on white individuals.    

There is a clear correlation between sexual health and mental health, especially for minoritized groups, that needs to be acknowledged and discussed rather than stigmatized.

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