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September 6, 2017

Most people don’t realize they're depressed until they start noticing the symptoms of depression playing out in their life. One symptom adults find particularly challenging is a loss of interest in sex. This can often trigger feelings of embarrassment and shame. You may think to yourself, "What is wrong with me?" or "No one would want to be with me." Unfortunately, these thoughts and feelings only make the depression worse.

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So, what can you do if you or your loved one is suffering from a low sex drive?

It’s important to acknowledge that there are two issues at play. The first issue is that you or your loved one is depressed. The second is that the depression is leading to the absence of sex drive. If you first solve the issue of depression, the sex drive will begin to take care of itself.

This is a simple enough concept, but unfortunately depression doesn't go away just because you want it to. Depression often arises when something is too difficult to handle, so your mind numbs your feelings. But it doesn’t just numb the feelings you were avoiding—it also numbs the feelings you want to feel, like sexual desire.

The brain, as we know, is critical in creating sexual desire. Chemicals released in the brain are essential to the sexual urge and the functioning of our sex organs. When depression is present, it disrupts these chemicals and can lead to a decrease in libido.

In order to deal with the depression itself, you need to get to the root cause of it—your mind. Aside from certain medical conditions and chemical imbalances, depression is a mental response to prolonged stress or difficult situations.

While dealing with depression as a whole is something each person should discuss with a qualified health care professional, there are several well-documented techniques that can help with the sex drive issue in the meantime. Now, everyone is different, so it’s important to find a treatment approach that works for each person's unique system. And you should know that getting back to a sexual baseline will require patience and practice. It's about creating new patterns of well-being in your mind and body.

Here are four ways you can help decrease the symptoms of depression and get your sex life back on track:

1. Talk to your partner—about anything and everything.

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Sex thrives on intimacy—without it, even nondepressed couples struggle. If you are depressed, share with your partner what's going on and how it makes you feel. The willingness to be open and vulnerable can deepen intimacy. It also helps release the feelings of shame and guilt often associated with a decreased sex drive.

In fact, a deeper connection may lead to an increase in desire and more resiliency with depression in other parts of your life. If you're not in a relationship, share your feelings with a trusted friend or a professional who can help you deal with the deeper issues causing your depression.

2. Practice mindfulness.

Releasing depression requires a willingness to get to the root cause. Meditation and mindfulness cultivate awareness and emotional strength to help you navigate your feelings. Meditation and mindfulness practices have been proven to decrease symptoms of depression.

As you develop a meditation practice, you'll gain the ability to notice warning signs of emotional overload before you get to that place where your mind needs to go numb. It’s easy to start and only takes 10 to 20 minutes a day. To learn, you can join a local meditation group or try an insight-based meditation app like Evenflow, which covers depression in depth.

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3. Exercise.

You can go for a run/walk, join a workout class, swim, or ride a bike. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain and reduces chemicals that can worsen symptoms of depression. Not to mention it will get your mind off your troubles and help you build confidence. Need motivation? Enlist a friend to be your workout buddy. Schedule workouts throughout the week and hold each other accountable.

4. Talk to a professional.

Even now, people often feel embarrassed to admit they might benefit from professional help. If you're suffering from depression, you may already be dealing with feelings of shame and worthlessness. Admitting that you might require professional help can be difficult or embarrassing and that often stops people from seeking the very help most need.

It’s important not to think of depression as something that's wrong with you. It isn't. And taking the step to get help when you need it actually means that something is right with you. It demonstrates an ability to problem-solve proactively and a self-awareness many people lack. Often, the people who seek the help of personal trainers aren't the ones who are in physically terrible shape. They're people who are in good shape but want to take their health to the next level. Similarly, seeing a therapist does not suggest that you are on the verge of a breakdown. It simply means you recognize that you could be doing better, feeling better, and you're not too proud to ask for help in getting to that point.

Experienced professionals are trained to help you get to the root of your depression and teach you the skills to keep depression away. And one of the great side effects of this strategy is that it will ultimately renew your sex drive to its full force and vigor.

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Ian Hoge, LMFT
Ian Hoge, LMFT

Ian Hoge, LMFT, is a meditation teacher of Evenflow, leads group mindfulness classes at Peak Brain, and provides one-on-one mindfulness training for youth, adults, and families. Ian received his Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University and is also a graduate of the Inner Kids Mindfulness program and Mindful Schools curriculum training.

Ian is the director of the Mindfulness Program at The Stephen Wise Elementary School, a marriage and family therapist intern, and is a certified yoga instructor at Corepower Yoga.