If you’ve noticed that a gentle touch, a kind word or a reassuring look from somebody you love can help you calm down when things get too stressful to bear, you’re not alone. However, this is just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to the correlation between your mental health and the intimacy you share with others. Not only can your mental state affect the emotional and physical intimacy you have in a relationship, but it goes the other way around as well. Here is how mental health and intimacy are connected.
The effect of emotional intimacy on mental health
All those who manage to establish good emotional intimacy in their relationships usually achieve this by building trust, understanding and compassion for each other. Through these, people can achieve a level of closeness which makes them feel comfortable and safe in everything they share. In such cases, when one of the partners is struggling with mental illness, they’ll be more likely to talk about it and let their loved one know what they’re going through. This is very important, since accepting that you even have a problem is a huge step towards trying to solve it. When a person you care about deeply tells you that they have a problem, you’ll surely want to help them, and you’ll have a fresher perspective on the whole situation. This means that, if you realize you can’t help them enough on your own, you’ll do your best to get help for them elsewhere, so that they can begin their recovery. In addition, just the fact that they have you to talk to openly is plenty of support to begin with.
The effect of physical intimacy on mental health
Most people long for physical contact with others, especially those they are attracted to for one reason or another. For some, a simple hug and a kiss on the cheek will do, but others want something more meaningful and more intimate, such as kissing and sex. It’s no wonder then that satisfying physical connection can have a positive impact on your mental well-being.
First of all, the fact that somebody likes you and want to touch you can improve your self-esteem, while the very act of sex, which can be observed as physical exercise as well as an expression of intimacy, causes your brain to release the feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. And this applies to all sorts of sex you have with a partner, whether it’s vanilla, or you want to experiment with some fun sex toys for women and men. All of this means less stress and pressure, which can at least temporarily relieve you of different symptoms of mental illness. Plus, you’re likely to sleep better after sex, which is another benefit of physical intimacy.
The effect of mental health on emotional intimacy
People with history of mental health problems can sometimes develop a fear of intimacy and try to avoid building strong connections with others. This can come from anything, ranging from anxiety, fear of abandonment or even some form of abuse in their past. They may have difficulty committing themselves to a person or a relationship, which can drive them to sabotage the whole thing before they get too close to somebody. For instance, they may try to pick fights, over-criticize or they’re simply unable to express their true feelings in a constructive way. In addition, when a person is aware of their mental health problems and is afraid that they may resurface at any point, they may try to keep those they care about far, in order not to hurt them. They may try to pull back from being intimate and hide into isolation, which can have a negative effect on their relationship, but also on their mental health. If this is something you notice in a loved one, talk to them openly and find a way to get them help from a certified professional, such as a psychiatrist or a therapist. Finally, with some corrections to your lifestyle, you can both become healthier, so spend more time outdoors, eat more fresh food and try to sleep regularly.
The effect of mental health on physical intimacy
Much alike the effect of mental health on emotional intimacy, it can have a negative impact on the physical aspect of a relationship, too. Namely, anxiety, different forms of trauma or plain fear of being close to somebody can prevent you from becoming physically intimate with another person, no matter how much you love them. Furthermore, if you have to use medication to treat some mental health problem, you may experience performance issues and decreased libido. It can go as far as causing you pain during intercourse. Again, therapy and certain lifestyle adjustments can be helpful, but it’s crucial not to do anything without consulting a doctor or a therapist. Above all, you should never simply decide to stop using your medication, but rather talk to doctor who prescribed them and find a way to change the dosage in order to function better.
When you love somebody, you’ll do whatever’s in your power to make them feel healthy and happy with you. It’s important that you know that there are people who feel the same about you. So, whether you want to help somebody deal with their mental health problems, or you’re the one who needs help, trust your partner and you’ll realize that you can do more together than either of you can do on their own.