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Am I asexual or depressed? This question might linger in your mind if you’re grappling with your sexual identity or emotional well-being. The confusion is understandable, as asexuality and depression, though distinct, can sometimes exhibit overlapping characteristics. Depression Open Talks aims to elucidate the differences between asexuality and depression, helping you to better understand these aspects of your identity.

What is Asexuality?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by a minimal or absent experience of sexual attraction to others, coupled with a limited or absent interest in engaging in sexual activities in general. It’s important to note that the approach to sexual intimacy varies among asexual individuals, making it more of a spectrum than a rigid set of rules.

For instance, some individuals may experience romantic attraction without a desire for sexual intimacy, while others may be open to sexual activities or self-stimulation without a strong attraction to others. Additionally, some may engage in sexual behaviors but not derive pleasure from them. These are just a few examples.

The first empirical study on asexuality (Bogaert, 2004) indicates that approximately 1% of the population is likely asexual, a finding supported by a recent investigation correlating sexual attraction with mental health in a numerous sample of high school students (Lucassen et al., 2011).

To put it simply, being asexual is a very personal experience; there is no one right way to identify or lead an asexual life. It should be noted that being asexual is not the same as not having sex for moral or religious grounds. Many situations can elicit sexual interest; it’s just rarely pursued.  In addition to sexual desire, you may also feel:

  • Romantic attraction: desiring a love relationship with someone
  • Aesthetic attraction: a person’s attraction to another person based on appearance
  • Physical or sensual attraction: the desire to caress, hug, or touch someone
  • Platonic attraction: the desire to have a buddy
  • Emotional attraction: desiring an emotional bond with someone

Asexual individuals may encounter prejudice and discrimination, affecting their mental health negatively, as evidenced by a 2016 survey reporting that 75% of asexual people face societal biases. Shockingly, the survey revealed that 49% attempted suicide, and 14% completed suicide.

Those suspected of being asexual may also face a heightened risk of hate crimes, such as sexual assault, stalking, or blackmail, particularly impacting the mental health of asexual women. Such crimes can leave them feeling unsafe, marginalized, and neglected.

How to know if you’re asexual

At times, individuals may not readily recognize their asexuality. This can be partly explained by the fact that asexuality is not as commonly discussed as other sexual orientations, such as heterosexuality or homosexuality, which has resulted in a general lack of knowledge on the subject. Some people may be unaware that asexuality is a recognized sexual orientation.

Similar to the process of realizing one’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer identity, acknowledging one’s asexuality may necessitate thoughtful introspection and time for self-discovery.

To assess whether you might identify as asexual, reflect on the following:

  • You acknowledge others’ conventional attractiveness but rarely experience sexual attraction towards them.
  • Minimal or nonexistent inclination towards having sex with others, including love partners.
  • Past sexual experiences were not particularly enjoyable; asexuality is still valid even if you’ve had sex before.
  • Limited or no interest in masturbation.
  • Preferring masturbation over engaging in sex, experiencing arousal without necessarily being attracted to others.
  • Engaging in sexual intimacy without finding it enjoyable.
  • Rarely initiating sexual intimacy.
  • Infrequent thoughts about sex; it’s possible to go extended periods without thinking about it.
  • Finding sexual intimacy unrewarding, unexciting, uninteresting, or unimportant.
  • Difficulty identifying with other sexual orientations like heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality.
  • Feeling bored or having trouble understanding discussions about crushes, sexual desires, or experiences.
  • Little to no desire to be involved in a romantic relationship.
  • Experiencing a combination of the above for an extended period, possibly since adolescence.
  • Distaste for graphic and sexually explicit content, such as porn and sex scenes.

It’s important to recognize the diversity within the asexual community. Asexuality is best understood as a spectrum, and individuals may fall anywhere on that spectrum rather than fitting into a rigid definition.

How asexuality works in relationships

Psychologist Sigmund Freud posited that sex serves as a fundamental motivator deeply embedded in the subconscious. In the context of asexuality, where an individual experiences little to no sexual attraction, this perspective raises questions about how such a primary motivator might impact an asexual person.

In the realm of romantic relationships, relationships can successfully thrive when one partner identifies as asexual and the other does not, given open and honest communication. This dynamic is akin to any other healthy relationship, requiring discussions about the types of sexual activity the asexual partner is comfortable with, if any, as well as establishing other boundaries related to sex.

An open relationship could be taken into consideration when both partners want a committed love relationship but one person has a noticeably larger sex drive than the other. This arrangement allows the partner with a higher sex drive to engage in sexual relationships with others while maintaining an emotional commitment to the asexual partner.

Crucially, both partners must express their needs transparently and acknowledge that while sexual attraction can evolve, it might not change. Assuming that an asexual partner will suddenly develop sexual attraction is generally unhelpful.

It’s essential to recognize the validity of having a high sex drive and a desire for frequent sexual activity. In cases where compatibility issues arise, especially if the asexual partner is unwilling to consider an open relationship, the other partner needs to reflect on whether the relationship meets their needs. It is entirely valid for individuals to assess the compatibility of their needs within the relationship.

🧾Related Reading: The connection between Male Depression and Emotional Affairs

What is Depression?

Depression is alternatively a condition related to mental health. It’s characterized by persistent sadness, a loss of interest in activities, and a range of emotional and physical problems. Unlike asexuality, depression can affect your overall functioning and quality of life. Key characteristics include:

  • Feeling extremely sad, hopeless, or anxious. Anger may be more noticeable in kids and teens than melancholy.
  • A diminishing enthusiasm for activities that previously were enjoyable.
  • Easily becoming irritated or frustrated.
  • Variations in eating habits leading to either excessive eating or not eating enough, as well as changes in weight.
  • Disturbed sleep patterns, such as insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Experiencing low energy levels or persistent fatigue.
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Physical symptoms (e.g. stomach aches, headaches, or sexual dysfunction)
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Am I asexual or depressed?

When contemplating the question, “Am I asexual or depressed?” It’s important to distinguish between the absence of sexual attraction, indicative of asexuality, and the diminished interest in activities, which is often a symptom of depression. A key difference is that asexuality is a part of who you are, while depression is a treatable condition that affects how you feel and function.

Am-I-Asexual-or-Depressed

Effects of depression on sexual desire and identity

Depression can significantly impact various facets of an individual’s life, particularly their sexual desire and identity. The following are common ways in which depression may influence sexuality:

  • Decreased Libido (Sexual Desire): A prevalent effect of depression is a reduction in libido, leading individuals to experience diminished interest in sexual activities.
  • Changes in Arousal and Orgasm: Depression can influence the physiological components of sexual response, causing difficulties in becoming aroused or achieving orgasm. Patterns of sexual response may also undergo alterations.
  • Negative Body Image: Depression often contributes to negative self-perception, extending to body image. A person’s comfort and confidence in sexual circumstances may be impacted by this bad body image, which may lead to a decrease in sexual activity.
  • Relationship Challenges: Depression may strain relationships, including the sexual dimension. Communication issues can arise, and the emotional distance created by depression might lead to a decrease in intimacy.
  • Sexual Orientation and Identity: While depression itself does not alter sexual orientation or identity, it can influence how individuals perceive and experience their sexuality. Some may reevaluate aspects of their identity during depressive periods.
  • Medication Side Effects: Commonly prescribed antidepressant medications can have side effects impacting sexual functioning, such as decreased libido, difficulty achieving orgasm, or erectile dysfunction.
  • Coping Mechanisms: Individuals with depression may adopt coping mechanisms that indirectly affect their sexual behavior. For instance, some may turn to substance use or engage in distracting behaviors, further impacting their ability to participate in healthy sexual relationships.

It’s critical to understand that each person’s experience of depression’s impact on sexuality is unique. Not everyone with depression will undergo identical changes in sexual functioning or identity.

Intersection of asexuality and depression

In a 2020 survey conducted by The Trevor Project, asexual youth reported higher rates of depression and anxiety when compared to the broader LGBTQ+ sample.

A well-planned research by Nurius in 1983 sought to find out how common depression was in various groups, such as bisexuals, heterosexuals, homosexuals, and asexuals. The results showed that asexuals had greater rates of despair.

Nurius suggested that the likely explanation for this outcome could be the societal stigma and prevailing beliefs. Asexual people may have negative effects from breaking the social norm in a culture that places a high value on sexuality, which exacerbates their distress and mental health issues.

The mainstream societal perspective on sex tends to portray it as desirable, normal, healthy, and positive. Consequently, those who lack interest in sexuality may be perceived as deviating from the norm and may even face judgment, potentially leading to the perception of having a disorder.

Asexuality is sometimes misunderstood or stigmatized in society, with individuals facing pressure to conform to societal expectations regarding sexual relationships. This pressure can contribute to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and potentially exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Depression can impact self-discovery and identity exploration. Asexual individuals may face additional challenges in understanding and accepting their asexuality, especially if societal norms and expectations suggest that sexual attraction is a fundamental part of the human experience.

For asexual individuals, forming and maintaining intimate relationships may involve communication and negotiation around physical intimacy. Depression can complicate these discussions and interactions, making it important for individuals to communicate openly with their partners about their needs and boundaries.

Who to seek help from?

The 21st century has marked a significant shift in sexual awareness, education, and the understanding of depressive states. More individuals are now embracing their preferences without succumbing to societal pressures. There’s an increasing availability of public support for diverse sexual orientations.

You can also join the largest online asexual community, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, gaining access to extensive resources on asexuality to stay informed and updated. You can connect with people who have similar experiences to your own by sharing your own and listening to others’ tales in this community.

For any medical concerns impacting your sex life, it is advisable to discuss them with your doctor. If you’re worried that your feelings toward sex may be linked to an underlying condition rather than your sexuality, seeking advice from a healthcare professional is essential.

Answer to Am I asexual or depressed?

“Am I asexual or depressed?” is a question that reflects a desire for self-understanding. Recognizing that asexuality is about sexual orientation, while depression is a mental health condition, is crucial in finding the answer. Both experiences are valid and deserve understanding and support. It’s important to approach this journey with patience, openness, and the willingness to seek professional advice when needed.

References

\/. (2023, June 16). YouTube. Retrieved November 19, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032723000356

Asexuality And Depression (an Evidence-based Explanation). (n.d.). OptimistMinds. Retrieved November 19, 2023, from https://optimistminds.com/asexuality-and-depression/#article-heading-1

Kuehnle, F., & Ferguson, S. (2021, November 17). Asexual: What It Means, Facts, Myths, and More. Healthline. Retrieved November 19, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-asexual#Asexuality,-defined

Schneider, D., & Garbacz, A. (n.d.). How to Know If You Are Asexual: 5 Signs to Consider. wikiHow. Retrieved November 19, 2023, from https://www.wikihow.com/Know-if-You-Are-Asexual

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