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Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

Welcome @Shakeelah25!  Thanks for joining us.  I've got lots of interesting strategies to share so just hold on tight!  I'll check back in at the end to see if they're the type of thing you're after but feel free to ask anything more specific as we go along.

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

sounds good!

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

hi all, im just following on for tonight.

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

Hey @gopals1, lots of the survey respondents were both a carer of someone with a mental illness and someone living with an illness themselves so it's definitely possible.  Someone thought it was actually more helpful as there was more empathy and understanding.

 

What has your experience been?

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Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

Hello @outlander 

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

I'm going to be dropping some text in here summarising the findings of the survey.  Don't feel that you have to read and digest it all tonight.  It might be something you come back to later.  But also feel free to ask any questions that it raises.

 

So first off, let's get the stats out of the way.  It's pretty minimal...

 

There were just under 600 respondents who identified as being a partner or carer of someone with a mental illness.  It was so interesting that more than 300 of them were both someone living with a mental illness and caring for someone who also has an MI.  With two (or more) conditions to deal with, and the complications brought by the symptoms and medications, it’s understandable why so many were struggling with sex and physical intimacy.

 

85% told us their sex lives were impacted by a mental health concern.  And 70% said that it affected their ability to be non-sexually physically intimate. 

 

That’s high, right?  Certainly high enough that we need to be having more of the conversations and have more help available.

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

I heard once that if you are not in a relationship currently and have a mental illness then its best not to engage in a relationship until you are more stable

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

I was most upset when my husband was given a drug on a treatment order that resulted in sexual dysfunction and it was not discontinued until he was off order.

Re: Topic Tuesday // Sexuality and intimacy // Tues 24 July, 7pm AEDT

There were so many individual variations on the mental illness(es) played out but there were also some common themes:

 

  • Lacking confidence: people talked about not feeling worthy of a relationship or love within their relationship.  They felt insecure about their bodies and sexual appeal.  They doubted that their partners (or potential partners) could really fancy them.

 

  • The impact of the illness:  whether it was anxiety causing over-thinking or the inability to relax, or depression leading to exhaustion or anger, trauma creating flashbacks, OCD triggering fears, paranoia affecting trust….there were so many possible impacts from the conditions that people were living with that affected their desire or capacity to act on that desire.

 

  • Physical or emotional isolation: People talked a lot about needing space as a result of their illness.  Some described a cycle of become more unwell, which created a sense of emotional isolation, which then turned into a need for physical isolation.  Sometimes it could be a literal retreat or it could they could be physically present but disconnected. 

 

Based on their experiences people also talked about not wanting to be touched either at all or when they are unwell.  And about the need to build walls to keep them safe and limit the demands on them.  Of course this disconnection from their loved ones, or from people generally, impacted on sex and intimacy. 

 

Many had chosen to stay single as a result of their illness.  At the end of the conference presentation someone stood up to share that she felt that she had to choose between staying well and a relationship.  Relationships were too de-stabilising and challenging and it was enough for her to manage the illness without the complication of a relationship. But she was understandably sad that she felt she had to make this choice.   

 

Someone else summed up her experiences in one line:  I’m too busy having a relationship with my OCD! 

 

  • The impact of medication was also a big theme. It can reduce desire and the ability to orgasm.  It can cause weight gain that has a flow on effect on self-worth.  It can also contribute to general sense of disconnection and a lack of feeling.

 

That quite a list of barriers isn’t it?  And it’s certainly not the full list.

 

Does any of this sound or feel familiar?

 

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