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What Is the Connection between Mental and Sexual Health?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jen Ainoa
  • Edited By: Amanda L. Wardle
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The connections between mental and sexual health are quite numerous and rather complex. Mental health determines emotions or moods, which have an enormous impact on the choices an individual makes. A person with poor mental health may be more likely to have poor sexual health due to the choices that arise out of negative emotions and moods.

Mental health is influenced by a number of factors, including inherited conditions such as anxiety or depression. Physical well-being is also connected to mental health; sometimes, mental health is directly proportional to the improving or declining physical condition of a person. One interesting connection between mental and sexual health is that good physical health can actually counteract poor mental health, even when it is due to genetic conditions. This implies that physical fitness can bring about a better state of both mental and sexual health.

Sexual health can be adversely affected by some medications, and this is an unfortunate side effect that sometimes outweighs the benefits of the drugs. For example, certain antidepressants cause a form of impotence in which men may not be able to develop an erection and women may have difficulty reaching climax. This can have compounding consequences on already strained mental health by contributing to a sense of failure or disappointment. In this way, there is a physiological connection between mental and sexual health.

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One of the most troublesome connections between mental and sexual health is the rate of sexually transmitted diseases in individuals who suffer from impulsive or addictive disorders. These disorders have been linked to having unprotected sex with multiple partners, the consequences of which can be devastating, even deadly. Even when unplanned pregnancies and disease have been averted, there may still be an emotional sense of shame that follows the sexual behaviors, and this can lead to further decline in mental health. This cycle, sometimes known as sexual addiction, is self-perpetuating and difficult to overcome.

A positive self-image can lead to making choices of respect for the body, which bring about improved mental, physical, and sexual health. Conversely, making safe, healthy choices, both physically and sexually, brings about a more positive self-image. Taking steps toward better health in any one of these areas can ultimately lead to better health in the others. In severe cases, though, professionals may recommend addressing all three areas at once. An example of this would be making positive changes in diet and exercise, attending counseling or psychological therapy, and practicing safe sex.

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