Casual Sex and Mental Health – Be Careful

Casual Sex and Mental Health – Be Careful

Sex – huge topic, mental health – even huger topic. But what happens when you have to combine them both? Because, believe it or not, they do go hand in hand. In particular, what impact could casual sex be having on your mental health?

Before we begin to explore that, let’s have a quick look at sex and mental health in general. Firstly, some people might feel under pressure to be having sex all the time, or feel guilty when their libido doesn’t match that of their partner. Rather than accepting this as the normal thing it is, lots of people look to blame their mental health for these discrepancies in desire. And whilst it’s certainly possible that it could be having an effect on how often you want to get hot and steamy between the sheets, it’s unlikely to be the sole cause of any problems, it’s more likely that it’s just a factor. It’s perfectly normal to not want sex all of the time, although we can often be conditioned that it isn’t. If you’re in a committed relationship then lots of problems can be ironed out by simply communication. Talk to your partner, tell them what you want, tell them what turns you on, spell out your specific sexual needs, and if they do the same then you’re on the same page. There are also some physical things that can affect sexual desire or performance and antidepressants are a good example of this. Some of these medicines can make it difficult for men to achieve orgasm, or even to get an erection. Likewise, with women, they can make it more difficult for them to orgasm, often creating a sort of ‘numb’ feeling down there. The good news is that you do have different medications options to you, and different types of therapy, e.g. talking therapies. And so, onto casual sex and your mental health.

Casual sex – what is it?

The exact definition is different for different people, but basically casual sex (also known as hook-ups or one night stands) is that which you have outside of a marriage or committed relationship. There’s usually no (or very few) emotional ties or expectations, it’s not a romantic relationship. The lines are blurred slightly when you have casual sex with the same person, that’s what’s known as ‘friends with benefits’ territory, and there are often feelings involved there, even if they aren’t romantic ones. Generally, it’s there for a physical release and not much more.

Is casual sex right for me?

To answer this question you need to take a good look at your situation and what you’re liking/disliking because it can have a huge impact on mental health. We all know what the recommendations are for keeping our bodies in good shape physically, but when it comes to mental health, things can get tricky. So, if you want sex, but you aren’t in a relationship, then considering these things might help you decide:

  • 1.Are you sexually frustrated enough to seek a no-strings situation? Masturbation is an option and lots of people find that enough, especially with sex toys and virtual sex being added into the mix. But if that’s not enough for you, then casual sex could be a good choice.
  • 2.Be clear about your expectations. If one party goes into it with different expectations than the other, there could be trouble. So set out what you want right from the word go so you’re both on the same page.
  • 3.Are you actually looking for a relationship? Some people get confused about this. It’s easy to let physical desire to cloud your view, only for you to discover that actually, you are looking for more commitment than a Friday night hook-up. Be honest with yourself.
  • 4.Is your mental health strong enough to cope with the potential feelings about the situation. Are you going to feel rejected and hurt if your potential partner bails on you, or changes their mind?
  • 5.Do you envisage yourself having casual sex with the same person? If so, then you’re skating dangerously close to friends with benefits territory and that can be a confusing no-mans-land of emotions.
  • 6.Are you intending to hook-up with total strangers? If that’s the case then contraception needs to be your first and foremost thought, not only for preventing unwanted pregnancy, but also for protecting yourself against STDs – super, super important if you don’t know your partner’s sexual history. Condoms are an absolute necessity, and with the huge range that are available on the market you can have even more fun adding extra sensation to your experience. Different flavours? Yes. Different textures? Yes! Ones with different lubes already applied? Yes, yes, yes!

Essentially, if you’re craving sex, and self-pleasure isn’t cutting it, then taking the more casual route could be right for you. Just be sure that it isn’t going to affect your mental health – no amount of orgasms is worth compromising that for.

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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