WZZM had author Dr.Elizabeth Vliet on the air this week. Dr. Vliet has written several books about Women, Hormones, and Sexuality that highlight how many people are not getting adequate help, even from many well meaning, good hearted professionals. Many clients come in to therapy due to Depression symptoms, and it appears that their sexual vitality is an afterthought. Similar to Dr. Vliet, I find that in some cases, clients have been working for years with a therapist who focused on all aspects of their depression except sexual dysfunction issues. For older men and women, hormonal changes that lead to (or complicate existing) Depression issues can dampen a once robust sex life and decay a once happy relationship. Depression is known to be more commonly diagnosed in women, perhaps 2 times as many women are treated for Depression than men. Further, one study showed that as many as 70-80% of depressed women experience some form of Sexual Dysfunction. What we are talking about here is a Quality of LIfe issue and it matters!
Viewers should know that the treatment of any Sexual Dysfunction whould be part of Depression Treatment. If you have been in counseling and have not addressed these issues, raise them with your counselor today. If the counselor is not experienced or comfortable talking about these issues, find one that can work with you. Sometimes people "grow" us a little, and we need to hire new consultants or guides to takes us to the final destination. A good therapist knows what they are good at and what they aren't and they don't take these things personally.
Don't minimize the importance of sex in your life - it is a great stress reliever, and an important "glue" in a relationship and it is a big distinguisher between a friend and a romantic connection. People who have lost the zest for sex will often discuss the death of their sexuality with an air of resignation. As a Marriage and Sex Therapist with over 15 years of experience, people often ask me, "Remi, does a dysfuctional relationship cause depression or does depression cause a dysfunctional relationship?" That is an excellent question and I do believe there is a relationship both ways. Sexuality begins in our brain - its a sexual organ. If our chemistry is off, our sexual system will be effected and when one partner stops sending or being receptive to the signals of desire for closeness, the other partner hurts. Unfortunately this can lead to all kinds of destructive reactions like distancing, angry outbursts, and vulnerability to affairs and divorce.
I am not a physician and can't give medical advice, but I will share some tips I have learned from my work with clients over the years for improving your Sexual Vitality:
1.) Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Exercise, Eat Healthy Foods, Take Vitamins appropriate to your age. Don't over work and over schedule yourself.
2.) Have a Regular, Annual Physical. Report changes to your doctor. Request to have your Hormone Levels checked with a blood test. Sometimes clients have been being treated for depression but after seeing a specialist, begin hormone therapy and no longer need depression medications. If you have been getting hormone therapy and are continuing to suffer, consider getting a second opinion by a specialist. There are many good doctors, and you might have a long standing relationship with yours, but you have to work with one who is able to help. Dr. Vliet offers a great website for more informtion: www.herplace.com
3.) Review any Depression Medications with your physician. Sometimes a switch to a newer or different class of Anti-Depressant can make a big difference in Sexual Functioning.
4.) Take time EVERY day to connect with your significant other. Research shows that in a great sexual relationship, Intercourse is a small sliver of the relationship "pie." That phone call to see how your day is going, the snack you pack your loved one, the text that says I'm thinking of you and the hug when you get home, are all powerful forms of foreplay. In fact, research says even "eyeing" your lover and telling them what parts of their body are appealing and sexy ("lusty objectification") is a correlate with a great sex life.
5.) Have Maintenance Sex. Research says that couples who are very satisfied in their relationships are regularly engaging in sex, even when they don't necessarily feel a great degree of desire. It seems that regular sex is necessary for high-temperature, erotic encounters to be born.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with a therapist in Holland or Grand Rapids to discuss these or other issues, please contact Remi at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 616-990-4400.
Remi Spicer Rakipi, LMSW is an Individual, Couples, and Family Therapist at Great Lakes Counseling Services, LLC www.counselinginholland.com