My doctor prescribed orgasms to cure my depression
PENNY Sullivan* had been struggling with her mental health for decades when she was finally diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder.
After years of anxiety, anger and depression, the diagnosis was a big relief. She had felt like her life was spiralling out of control and now she had an answer.
"Manic depression has always been part of my make-up, I've battled with it since I can remember," the mother-of-three Penny tells whimn.com.au.
"Over the years I can now see that it manifested in different ways, like pulling my hair out as a kid, anorexia and bulimia throughout high school and my twenties, and general anxiety in everyday life."
Now, finally, it seemed like help was here - and it ended up coming from a very surprising source.
Penny's doctor prescribed medication, suggested she give up alcohol and take up exercise - so far, so standard.
But he also prescribed sex, and as much of it as she could handle. As someone with a naturally high sex drive, that was a lot.
So she followed the doctor's orders and was shocked to discover that regular sexw with her husband did in fact help stabilise her mood condition.
"We don't always have to have intercourse either, simply touching, cuddling or just fooling around and being connected can be just as great to get those feel goods," she says.
"It has definitely solidified our connection with each other, as after three kids it did get lost. It may be coincidental, but the intensity and the quality of our love life has improved 1000% and we get a little kick out of the fact that by simply engaging in this act of love, that we are helping to keep the balance in my crazy brain. Happy wife, happy life, right?"
While engaging in intimacy can help boost your mood, being consistently knocked back, or engaging in unsatisfying sex can have the opposite effect. Elanore Moran found the black dog of depression crept up on her when her sexual and emotional needs were not being met.
"Sex was never great with my ex-husband and he never enjoyed it either," she says. "He didn't enjoy foreplay, and he ejaculated early so I didn't really get to enjoy sex.
"I became deeply unhappy as my ex-husband never initiated things and my self-esteem was rock bottom."
Elanore experienced painful reproductive health issues, which led to a hysterectomy at 31 years old. She hoped this new lease of life would bring them closer together.
"The hysterectomy made such a difference to my sex drive as I was finally able to enjoy penetration without fear of pain or bleeding. However, my ex-husband still showed no interest in me and as a result I became quite depressed. When I did ask for more sex, he actually laughed in my face and that was a turning point for me."
In the same month Elanore was prescribed medication for her depression, she also found the courage to leave her unhappy marriage.
Elanore has since met a new partner and their sex life is "hugely satisfying". Although she is still using medication for her mental health, her overall well-being has changed dramatically.
"Yes, the meds definitely have a part to play but it's my support network and new partner who have been a huge help in making me love myself for who I am."
Biologically speaking, it is little wonder sex can make us feel magnificent. It releases a range of hormones that relaxes us, and helps to lower our cortisol (stress hormone) level, according to sexologist, Isiah McKimmie.
"Sex elevates our mood through the release of hormones and endorphins it causes in our brain. It increases oxytocin (a love and bonding hormone), serotonin (a happiness hormone) and dopamine levels. These help us experience feelings of love, connection and happiness," says Isiah.
"Additionally, semen contains mild anti-depressant compounds. Women who have unprotected sex with their partners have been shown to have elevated moods compared to women who always or mostly use condoms."
Due to this sexy cocktail of hormones and endorphins created via intimacy, sex can assist in lowering feelings of anxiety and depression, while also helping to boost our confidence and self-worth. On a physical level, regular sex can lower blood pressure, reduce our risk of heart attack and stroke and boost our immune system.
The danger, of course, is engaging in physically or emotionally risky sex in order to get that high.
"I think we need to be mindful that sex doesn't get relied on too strongly for us feeling good," Isiah says. "It's important that we develop other ways of coping with our emotions and feeling good also.
"Increasingly, people are seeking help for compulsive and addictive sexual behaviours, also known as sex and love addiction.
"Mental health issues can have a negative impact on our sex lives, so we may need to 'work harder' to feel in the mood. Certain medications may also lower feelings of desire and the ability to reach orgasm, so talk to your doctor or a sex therapist if you're experiencing these symptoms."
*Name has been changed