–  Things are changing during the coronavirus panemic

It has been more than 6 months since the world first heard the term COVID19. In the past 6 months the coronavirus has caused havoc globally. In South Africa the national lockdown was announced at the end of March, causing stress in all aspects of life.

The one thing that I have noticed in my practice is the effects the corona pandemic has on sexual function. 

Mary is a 42 year old lady who complains of the inability to reach an orgasm. She is married, has 2 kids and all of a sudden, out of the blue she can reach an orgasm. When tracing it back we realised that it started in April, shortly after the lockdown. The stress of working from home and having to home school her two kids is just too much!

John is a 36 year old man. He is worried about his libido. He is in a committed relationship for the past 5 years but is worried that his sexual drive has decreased. It started a few weeks into lock down. He is under a lot of stress at work, he didn’t receive his full salary for 2 months and is uncertain what the future holds.

So what is going on? Everyone is talking about coronavirus in the sense of one’s physical health, how to wash your hands and wear a mask to prevent infection, but what about our mental health, what about the effects on your relationship and your sexual health?

What are the effects lockdown on sexual function?

Across the world sexual health experts have been seeing changes and started to investigate. A study done in Italy found that women had experienced a decrease in sexual desire, arousal, orgasm and general sexual satisfaction since the implementation of social distancing. A study from China showed an overall decrease in sexual activity and frequency. It is obvious that if you isolate you will not have contact sexual partners, but a lot of these studies looked at couples staying together. The fact that they are isolating themselves from friends and family are starting to take its toll.

Sex is a fine balance between excitement and inhibitions. Imagine a see saw… on the one side we have sexual excitement and on the other sexual inhibitions. If excitement is enough it will block inhibitions but if there are a lot of inhibiting factors it will block excitement. During pandemic there are serious inhibiting factors…

The list of inhibiting factors goes on and on… The stress of a global pandemic is just too much. 

Peter is a 27 year old male who has sex with men. He is worried that he might have an STI. He is not in a relationship but had multiple partners over the past 6 months, he says that having sex is the only way he can deal with his anxiety.

For others we are seeing the total opposite. Many are having more sex and are involved in more risky behaviour as a coping mechanism. COVID19 is not the only infection that we should be worried about, don’t forget about all the STIs that have been around for ages.

How does the pandemic affect your relationship?

We all need our own space, our own time. But during lockdown couples are forced to be in each other’s space 24/7. The kids are not at school and the whole family is getting irritated and frustrated with each other. You are not alone, most families are experiencing it. How do you initiate intimacy with your partner when all you need is space? How do you have sex with your partner if they are working on the frontline and you are worried about getting sick? How do you have sex with your partner if you have been exposed and are worried that you might be the cause of your partner getting sick? Is sex safe during COVID19 pandemic?

I wish I had all the answers for you, but all I can say is that communication is very important, now more than ever. Although you are seeing more of each other it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are spending quality time together.

We can talk for ages about COVID19 and speculate on how it affects us now and how lockdown will affect our emotion and sexual wellbeing in the long run. But the truth is we don’t really know, we have never dealt with a COVID19 pandemic before. The one thing I do know is that we are seeing more sexual problems. You are not alone, this too shall pass, don’t be too hard on yourself.