Interrelation between Mental, Chronic Illness and Sex

Being kind is great. Doing something for your partner can build what is needed for sexual intimacy.

General Information

The most worrying and alarming facts are that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases affect 133 million Americans, which is representing more than 40% of the population of USA. The most alarming report is that by 2020, this number is projected to be an estimated 157 million, with 81 million having multiple conditions. Chronic illness can have profound negative effects on a relationship and sexual satisfaction. More Americans are living with not just one chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or depression, but with two or more conditions. Almost a third of the population is now living with multiple chronic conditions. All most all chronic diseases can cause problems with sexual functioning of human body. These conditions can include mental illness, diabetes, heart or cardio vascular diseases, neurological, and autoimmune diseases. Recent research suggests that sexual dysfunction in couples may be one of the least talked about symptoms of chronic illness.

Impact of Chronic Illness and Emotional Distress on Sex

Experiencing a chronic illness can be earth-shattering. Individuals who are chronically ill often experience emotional distress. This includes the person’s ability to engage in occupational, social, and recreational activities. But what is its impact on sex and the couple? Sex can involve a mix of feelings and emotions when battling a chronic illness. Life becomes uncertain and you both feel at a loss. Your partner feels overwhelmed because you feel shame. You may feel less attractive, less confident, and concerned about how your body works and adapts to an illness. You both become plagued with anxiety due to the worry of sexual activity, and with desire and arousal issues.  
When experiencing a chronic illness, some changes may be physical, such as the changes with your body, side effects from medication, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and pain. You may experience psychological changes such as depression and anxiety. Most of all, there is constant fear around your sexual ability and your sexual performance. We all know that physical intimacy is paramount to the quality of life, and it is still important if you are living with a chronic illness.

Effect on relationship as couple

Mental and chronic illness affect your relationship with your partner as a couple. This further damage the development and management of your life in a variety of ways. When the both of you are at the optimal balance between intimacy and autonomy, your boundaries touch yet remains distinct. It is critical that both of you are aware of each other’s needs and emotions. It is so important because, this will drive and determine the sexual intimacy in your relationship. It is considered very important to note that your previous success in resolving sexual intimacy concerns will determine how well the both of you will cope with an illness.

Coping Strategies

It is important to mitigate Stress/Chronic Illness to skillfully cope with sexual malfunctioning of our body. In order to do so, it is important to identify and foster strengths in your relationship that can mitigate the stress caused due to illness. Even during an illness, relationships should not be neglected. Illness can make each partner vulnerable to fear and loss and to loneliness. Taking time to communicate and to reduce the impact of the illness on intimacy is the key to maintaining happiness despite health problems. One part of that intimacy is sexuality. What people don’t know is that with a life restricted by pain and illness, sex can be a powerful source for comfort, pleasure and intimacy. You and your partner can learn what is possible as opposed to what was once achievable by enhancing their sexual awareness, communication, and sexual styles.


  • Discussion and CommunicationAlways discuss and communicate your needs with your partner and also allow your partner to communicate his/her needs. After communication adopt a team approach to solve the problem. State your emotional needs around sexual intimacy and the other factors in your relationship.
  • Do not hesitate to consult Sex therapistConsider consulting psychotherapy. In this regards it is recommend you and your partner consult a sex therapist. The reason is that because the sex therapist have the knowledge and skill to help you and your partner, out of this sexual problems such as the issues related to sexual dysfunctionalily. Moreover the sex therapist will also provide you with other suggestions to engage in if sexual dysfunction still persist which includes, desire and arousal issues, erectile dysfunction, and sexual pain etc.
  • Be honest to Conduct Self Study/Analysis.  The most important point is to study and analysis your physical and sexual condition and share this with your partner. This sharing of important information will bring you and your partner closer to each other, leading to build intimacy.
  • Monitoring each other for depression and chronic illnessIt is also very important for the partner who does not have a chronic illness, watch for depression in them and keep an eye on their health as well. The goal here is to be lover not a caregiver, but we find at times, the partner may take on this role. They may want to seek individual counseling. This is healthy!
  • Accept your illness and relationship. Although this is not easy to accept the illness and it implications over your relation. But remember that accepting your illness will help you to develop a strong relationship between you and your partner.  By acceptance your illness will enable you to think about your life in future on day to day basis. The ultimate goal is to accept condition and learn to live with it effectively and efficiently as a team, rather than becoming opponents or avoiders. By doing this a sense of hope will emerge and this sense of hope will promote a sense of possibilities leading to a healthier sex life.
  • Manage Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Chronic Pain.  The most important factor is to manage stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain as much as possible. You cannot avoid the stress. If you try to avoid the stress, it may lead you to anxiety, depression which can make the chronic pain worse or it cause a flare up, especially with the patients of fibromyalgia. Although it is difficult to manage stress, anxiety and depression but by managing some stressors like financial problems and the family issues will help to achieve the desired physical results.
  • Have a Socialized Life.  Those people suffering from Anxiety, Depression and chronic illness, always prefer to distance from the society. There social life is almost zero. For such types of people it is necessary to balance their lives activities. Sparing some part of their daily lives for social life will make them to feel batter and more positive toward





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