By Raye Weigel 

With an understanding of the factors that lead to a person saying “no,” it’s easier to make sex a consensual and safe environment. Mental health is among the many reasons a person would not want to be intimate with their partner. Any combination of past trauma and preexisting conditions can make it difficult for someone to want to have sex.

Depression

A 2004 study found that “in line with previous reports, women with a history of recurrent [major depressive disorder] reported experiencing less frequent sexual arousal, less physical pleasure, and less emotional satisfaction within their current sexual relationships.”

The study was based on the past six months of the women’s lives.

Another study delved deeper, finding that depression correlates with decreased sexual function and higher sexual risk behaviors. Those diagnosed with depression were more likely to seek help for their sex life from a medical professional.

Based on these two studies, there seems to be a correlation between depression and a lack of sexual interest. It is important to note, however, there are plenty of other reasons a person can have less sexual interest, and there is nothing inherently wrong about that. This is an observation, not a judgement.

Antidepressants could be a factor, with one of the well-known side-effects being sexual dysfunction, including inability to orgasm and decreased libido.

Exposure to childhood abuse, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, can be a risk factor in depression. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there is often an instigator for depressive episodes. Childhood abuse can be one of them.

Dissociation

One aspect of depression can be dissociation. People have written accounts of loved ones dissociating and looking at them as though they are a stranger.

Dissociation during sex or intimacy is one factor of why someone may have difficulty.

A study found that women are more likely to experience dissociation during sex if they experienced childhood abuse. However, they can experience it for a variety of reasons.  

Dissociation falls under two main categories: depersonalization and derealization. With depersonalization, a person can forget or feel distant from their own identity. With derealization, they feel as though the material world around them is not real.

Anxiety

Anxiety on its own makes sex difficult for some. Constant thoughts of whether or not their body looks good, if they’re pleasing their partner and even whether or not they will enjoy sex can be distracting.

Anxiety affects people during sex in various ways.

One of the effects of anxiety in people with a penis is  the hormones released restrict the blood flow, making it more difficult to have an erection.


For people with vaginas, it can also impact ability to feel pleasure.

When someone says “no,” it is not always personal. It can be a combination of factors including mental health and past trauma. This seems obvious, but encountering it in person it can be almost invisible.

Even without an in-depth understanding of the psychology or physiology of the problem, it is helpful to understand the reason a person doesn’t want to have sex can be linked to an invisible and relevant disorder.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Epicantus’s Flickr account.

Raye Weigel is a junior multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at rayanneweigel@gmail.com

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