Anxiety can hit you ‘out of the blue’

I have battled depression and anxiety all my life. I have had a lot on my plate lately and cannot give my boyfriend the intimacy he craves. He makes me feel so guilty but I cannot help it.

Depression and anxiety over long periods can be very exhausting and debilitating.

Chronic depression affects every part of daily life, including sex drive. Yet sex can boost your mood and is important in intimate relationships. Breaking the cycle can be difficult but there are many ways to treat this condition and not allow it to ruin your sex life.

What’s important is to get treatment as soon as possible for the depression and anxiety. Your GP will assess, diagnose and treat your depression with antidepressants which usually help to alleviate the anxiety symptoms as well.

When depressed, the chemicals in the brain that regulate your mood don’t function optimally and with a depressed mood, sexual interest becomes severely impaired.

People with chronic depression can experience a loss of desire, take longer to orgasm, and simply find sex unenjoyable. The whole process of sexual arousal starts with the ability to anticipate pleasure, which is lost with depression.

Psychiatric drugs that treat depression can release sexual function from the grips of depression.

Some anti-depressants can also affect sex drive but this can be monitored by you and your doctor, which may indicate that your dosage should be changed or that you try a different anti-depressant until you find a suitable one.

If you feel that you have too much on your plate, then I would suggest that you take an inventory of your life and responsibilities so that you can determine which ones are priorities and which ones can be reduced, delegated or completely done away with.

Sometimes, we think that we have to do all things handed to us and be the martyr, sacrificing our needs for the sake of others.

Additionally, we may allow other people to hand their responsibilities over to us by not saying “no” and setting boundaries with them. Some people will take full advantage of the “permission” you give them to use and abuse you.

You have to protect yourself and value yourself enough to make time for you so that you can be fully present in your life and enjoy all the aspects of your relationship.

I read the article about anxiety and have so many questions. For the past month I have not been able to sleep, my chest is always tight, my stomach feels like it’s turning, and when someone speaks to me it feels like I am being screamed at.

I’m so afraid of leaving the house alone. I don’t even want to take my five-year-old daughter to school. I’ve tried to figure out why I am feeling this way but I just can’t get to it. I’m not stressing because I don’t have major problems. I am happy and I have a very supportive husband. In the morning when he leaves for work, it feels like I want to cry because I don’t want him to leave as I am afraid to be alone. Please, I need advice.

Severe anxiety is different from day to day worries and has many contributing factors including a family psychiatric history of anxiety problems, both maternal and paternal; traumatic events from childhood or adulthood which were not treated or processed emotionally; excessive stress in work and family life; a highly sensitive nature coupled with stressful life events such as the death of a loved one or the loss of an important job or any similar stressful situation.

Sometimes severe anxiety symptoms are not experienced immediately but may only start months or even years after the stressful or traumatic event. The person could be getting on with their lives after the tragic or stressful event, but they then seem to experience panic attacks or extreme anxiety symptoms as you mentioned, “out of the blue”.

It is common that people with severe anxiety problems including post-traumatic stress disorder or a panic disorder, feel overwhelmed by simple tasks, fear leaving the safety of their home and being alone. However, over time and if left untreated, this can become severely restrictive in your life and cause various other difficulties.

I would suggest that you visit your GP for an assessment and treatment as well as seek counselling from a mental health professional to be able to work through the emotional aspects of your anxiety.

In the meantime, I would suggest that you learn a breathing/meditation technique to calm yourself and help manage your anxiety when it arises. This is most effective when practiced on a regular basis.

I am worried about my 16-year-old niece who seems to be sexually promiscuous and enjoys the attention of men.

I am not sure what you mean by “sexually promiscuous”, i.e. whether she is actually engaging in sexual activity with men or just flirting with them. If she is having sex with different men and you are fully aware of this and not assuming this, then I think it would be important that her parents or you have regular talks with her regarding her need for attention and whether she feels she needs to have sex with guys in order to feel loved and accepted by them.

She may have been emotionally neglected by her caregivers and it could be that she is seeking love and attention by making herself available to men who are noticing her now sexually developed body. To her, this attention is better than no attention at all.

Children need love and attention and if they do not get this from their loved ones, they will be susceptible to attention from others around them, even if negative.

This would leave them vulnerable to being used and abused sexually. She needs her caregivers to give her this attention and time.

However, it’s also developmentally appropriate for adolescents to desire to explore and experiment with sexuality. If parents or caregivers speak to their children about sex education from a young age, they will be more likely to respect and protect themselves and their bodies.

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist in private practice. While she cannot enter into correspondence with individual readers, she will try to answer as many queries as possible through this column or refer you to organisations that can assist. You can write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774. Ensure you provide sufficient information about your difficulty as this will help Carin to give you a more considered reponse.