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Sexual relationships and behavior of depressed young women (03-03-2016)

A study examined the perspectives of depressed young women on sexual relationships and behavior. Purposive sampling identified female outpatients age 15-23 who were depressed and recently sexually active.

In an in-depth, semi-structured, audio-recorded interview, participants discussed how their depression related to formation and quality of sexual relationships, sexual intercourse attitudes, motivations, desire and frequency, and motivation and ability to be safe in sexual relationships. Interview recordings were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Interviews were conducted with eight young women with depression and sexual risk behavior. Participants reported difficulty in both developing and maintaining intimate relationships.

For some, not being in a relationship was a choice, out of concern for the effect of their depression on the relationship or the effect of the relationship on their mood.
For others, not being in a relationship was a function of less interest or drive to be intimate.

As a result, some women intentionally chose partners outside a relationship and sex was often detached from intimacy.

Although women reported less sexual interest and lower emotional energy for sex, several were having sex frequently to manage their depressive symptoms, e.g., to boost mood, to relieve stress, to escape, to feel less lonely, to feel wanted, to cope with negative mood, or to feel normal.

Some women engaged in sex as part of not caring about themselves or overt self-harming.

Several thought their depression made them vulnerable.

Generally, women described sex as being less safe owing to impaired judgment, increased impulsivity, apathy, and alcohol.
As a result, sometimes efforts to feel better led to feeling worse.

For more information
Journal of Adolescent Health
104. Less Intimacy, But More Sex: Young Women With Depression Talk About Their Sexual Relationships and Behavior