Intimacy and Mental Health—The Connection Is Stronger than You Think

Most people think that intimacy is something that can only be experienced with our bodies, but it actually greatly depends (or is impacted) on our brains and how their function. Therefore, mental health and wellbeing are closely connected to how we experience and show intimacy. Let’s explore that connection a little deeper.

Defining intimacy

There are two major types of intimacy, emotional and physical, and they can often be experienced at the same time. Emotional intimacy refers to emotional closeness with people, no matter if they are our sexual partners, family members, friends or pets. These emotional relationships are often filled with commitment, trust and love.

On the other hand, there’s physical intimacy which is characterized by the physical closeness between people. This type of intimacy can be expressed through sensual touch, hugs or handshakes.

Physical intimacy

Most humans require physical connections since we are social creatures. No matter if we are giving or receiving physical affection, this action can improve our mental health regardless of the form it comes in (hugging, kissing, sex). Research finds that people who are deprived of physical touch are more likely to experience feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

Some psychological factors might make it difficult for people to engage in intimate acts, especially sex. Depression and anxiety can affect libido and trigger some issues like painful intercourse or erectile dysfunction. Luckily, there are various ways one can address these issues. There are treatments, therapy or lifestyle changes that can help. Many people also report that keeping their sex life fresh might help with performance, so feel free to look into adult toys and buy something you and your partner find interesting. Aside from spicing up your sex life, you can also speak with your doctor and address these issues. 

Emotional intimacy

Past bad experiences and mental health issues can trigger intimacy avoidance where a person chooses not to develop close relationships with people. This syndrome is boosted by anxiety, fear of abandonment or emotional suffocation, or emotional and physical abuse. Mental health problems can also cause people to develop a fear of commitment, inability to express emotions or engage in certain relationship-sabotaging behaviors.

Depression can also cause people to distance themselves from people because they think their behavior will have negative effects on loved ones. At other times, people who suffer from depression simply lack the energy to go out and socialize or reach out to people. However, social isolation can reduce positive feelings of intimacy and further worsen their mental health.

If you experience these symptoms or know someone who exhibits the aforementioned behaviors, know that you can seek help in psychiatrists and therapists and get a good treatment plan. Adjusting your lifestyle can also help with your mental health, so do your best to get enough sleep, exercise, food and water.

The effect of medication

If you take medication for your condition, it’s important to know that it can cause side effects that might interfere with your intimate life. Some antidepressants can kill arousal, while other medications can result in erectile dysfunction or weight gain which can also impact intimacy. Make sure to ask your doctor about these side effects and read the medicine information. If you notice your medication is impacting your forms of intimacy, you can consult with your doctor and come up with a good and balanced dose that will affect your mental issues yet not affect your intimate health.

Both our bodies and minds crave closeness, emotional and physical, so in order to maintain good mental wellbeing, you should try to satisfy those instincts. Some mental health issues might make it hard to feel close to people, but if you seek help and consult with experts, you can stay intimately healthy and maintain good relationships with the people you care about.

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