Mental health and sexual health are fundamental aspects of overall well-being, and they share a significant interconnection. The intricate relationship between these two domains demonstrates how one’s mental state can influence their sexual health and vice versa. Understanding this link is crucial for promoting holistic health and addressing the needs of individuals. By recognizing the profound interplay between mental and sexual well-being, we can foster a supportive environment that prioritises the holistic care of individuals.
In Singapore, while there is a healthy diversity of sub-cultures that exist and multiple sexual orientations and presentations visible across online platforms like Reddit and TikTok, actual discourse around the link between mental health and sexual health is not often discussed.
The inter-connected nature of mental wellbeing and sexual health
Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma can profoundly affect an individual’s sexual health. When experiencing mental distress, sexual desire and functioning may be compromised, leading to challenges in maintaining intimacy and sexual satisfaction. Conditions like depression and anxiety can diminish libido, hinder arousal, and cause difficulties with orgasm. Additionally, body image concerns resulting from mental health struggles may negatively impact self-esteem and sexual confidence. Addressing and treating mental health conditions is crucial for restoring sexual well-being.
Conversely, mental well-being can enhance sexual health. Positive mental health fosters self-confidence, body acceptance, and a sense of overall happiness, leading to healthier sexual experiences. A positive mindset enables individuals to explore their desires, communicate effectively with partners, and engage in pleasurable and fulfilling sexual activities. Emotional stability, reduced stress levels, and improved self-esteem contribute to increased sexual satisfaction and intimacy.
The importance of sexual health
In 2021, a study by local women’s hospital KKH showed that nearly 60 per cent of the Asian women in Singapore experience low sexual function, an indicator that they are at risk for future sexual dysfunction. The two most common sexual dysfunctions suffered by Singaporean women are vaginismus (an involuntary tightening of the vagina to prevent penetration) and dyspareunia (a persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after sex). However, as our understanding of sexual conditions has evolved, there have been further developments to deepen knowledge in this area.
Sexual health also plays a pivotal role in our mental well-being. Engaging in consensual, safe, and satisfying sexual experiences can promote positive emotions, reduce stress, and enhance overall mood. Sexual activity releases endorphins and hormones, including oxytocin, which can foster feelings of bonding, relaxation, and pleasure. These biochemical reactions can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and enhance self-esteem.
Moreover, sexual intimacy within relationships can contribute to emotional connection, enhancing feelings of intimacy, trust, and overall relationship satisfaction. Establishing healthy boundaries, effective communication, and a fulfilling sexual relationship can foster a positive sense of self and improve overall mental health.
Consider treating sexual issues holistically
Rather than reaching for medication, aesthetic or invasive treatment, it is worthwhile considering how emotional and mental wellbeing might need addressing when facing sexual dysfunction. Recognizing the intricate link between mental health and sexual health emphasizes the importance of adopting a holistic approach to wellness. Healthcare providers should be equipped to address the multifaceted needs of individuals, considering both mental and sexual aspects of their well-being. By integrating mental health screenings into sexual health assessments and vice versa, healthcare professionals can identify and address potential concerns in a comprehensive manner.
Promoting mental and sexual health education is also crucial. Encouraging open dialogue, reducing stigma, and providing accurate information can empower individuals to seek support, address concerns, and foster positive experiences in both domains. Comprehensive sex education that encompasses emotional well-being and consent is essential for fostering healthy attitudes towards sexuality.
Three things you can do to build your Sexual Confidence
1. Focus on health and well-being: Shift your focus from appearance to overall health and well-being. Engage in activities that make you feel good physically and mentally, such as regular exercise, practicing mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and nourishing your body with balanced nutrition.
2. Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Focus on your positive qualities and achievements rather than fixating on perceived flaws. Remind yourself that everyone has unique bodies, and self-worth goes beyond physical appearance.
3. Challenge negative self-talk: Identify negative thoughts and judgements about your body and actively challenge them. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and realistic perceptions. Encourage yourself with statements that promote self-acceptance and appreciation for your body’s capabilities and your sexual self.
- Written by Priya Jean Alexander, The Other Clinic
To meet with a professional psychologist or counsellor, call The Other Clinic at 8809 0659 or email us email@example.com.
Julia R. Heiman (2002) Sexual dysfunction: Overview of prevalence, etiological factors, and treatments, The Journal of Sex Research, 39:1, 73-78, DOI: 10.1080/00224490209552124