First, there are many symptoms for depression, and if they last more than a few days or weeks straight, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss this. Here is a list of the symptoms (from WebMD) that would most disturb your intimacy:
- Feeling sad, lethargic, or apathetic during the day, especially after waking up
- Feeling fatigued or weak almost every day
- Having a lack of self-worth or feelings of shame almost every day
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions frequently
- Having less pleasure in acts that were previously pleasurable, or having no interest in them at all
- Sudden changes in eating which cause rapid weight loss or weight gain
That sounds like a perfect stew for low to no sex drive. I can testify that before I was on medication, I felt this way and my poor husband would go days and sometimes a week or more without intimacy because I would be too fatigued, too distracted, totally not interested in it, or feeling unworthy of intimacy. Others who suffer from this can have a lot of trouble getting in the mood while feeling like this.
It doesn't help when people always make light of your serious condition. They say things like “Just get over it” or “We all get sad from time to time” or “Man I’m so depressed today” without realizing how those things hurt a sufferer who has no control over the feelings they have to swim through every day. Sometimes I would break down and cry and miss who I was before the depression crept up on me. The fatigue made me so weak and sickly I had to quit my job because I couldn't hold up to the standard I had set and my supervisor didn't understand how a not physically ill person could be on the verge of passing out from cashiering. I can’t control the hormones and chemicals inside of me which cause this. What is wrong with me? My depression almost made me decline treatment because it would be pointless to waste money on someone as stupid and ugly as myself and I should crawl up and disappear and never bother anyone with my unwanted feelings anymore. Therein lies the good news; medicine helps balance the chemicals. When I take it I am almost back to normal, though I still feel it under the surface. I can take pleasure in intimacy again. I can start searching for a job now that I’m not as fatigued.
Bipolar Disorder is a different cup of tea entirely. People suffering from this disorder can be on top of the world one moment, and contemplating suicide the next. There are manic and depressive states that the sufferer swings back and forth between. Symptoms of the mania state (the happy side of bipolar) that can disrupt sexual relations include:
- a short temper
- fidgeting, or inability to relax
- unstoppable thoughts that jump quickly from one thing to the next
- a more active sex drive
Symptoms of the depressive state (the sad side of bipolar) that can disrupt sexual relations include:
- fatigue and weakness
- uncontrollable crying
(Symptoms list found at WebMD)
People who are in relationships with sufferers have to brace themselves for unexpected change. Imagine a partner who can’t get enough of you but has a short temper, then a couple days later hate themselves, cry constantly, and want nothing to do with you sexually. It’s easy to see how poor communication coupled with this disorder can cause serious strain on any relationship.
The bad news doesn't stop there. People are just as uneducated about bipolar as they are about depression. They say things like “It’s all in your head, you control it” or “Everybody has a bad day now and then” or my favorite “Your life is so perfect, what could you have to be upset over?" Like with depression, bipolar sufferers have no control over their mood swings and often feel like they are trapped on a roller coaster, unable to get off or take a break or ever be themselves again. They have to take drugs and attend psychotherapy. The “talk” therapy is important for allowing the sufferer to discuss their feelings and thoughts and how it affects their lives. Living with bipolar disorder is hard, and finding the loving and supportive partner to help you through it can be tough. Intimacy is still an important part of our lives and everyone deserves someone to love. Nobody should be discriminated against or have their feelings belittled by others who don’t understand their perspective.
Getting on Top
Depression and Bipolar Disorder are both serious mental conditions that require more attention. People are letting these mental conditions ruin their intimate lives and tear apart their relationships instead of seeking professional help or simply telling their loved one how they feel so they can tackle the problem together. If you or someone you know has thoughts of death or suicide, contact a health care professional, loved one, friend, or call 911 immediately.
Luckily there are medicines, therapy, and social circles to give support to sufferers and help them get back on top of things. Medicine can help manage symptoms until underlying issues are resolved and “talk” therapy with a professional or confidant can improve your overall sense of worth and well being. Remember, your partner is a person too who has needs and desires. Lovemaking is a great way to bond and release a natural cocktail of mood boosting hormones. If you fear you have one of these disorders, see your doctor right away and don’t be afraid to let the world know how it affects you. Education is the only way to stop discrimination.