How the Pandemic Affected our Sex Lives

couple in counseling

In a 2021 survey for the National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH) over half of Americans ages 18-35 reported sexual difficulties during the pandemic, including mismatched sex drives, low interest in sex, and problems having orgasms.

The following information is adapted from an article about that study.

As an outcome of the study, NCSH’s Guide to Sexual Concerns and Pleasure (launched in December of 2021 and available free online) was written to help Americans enjoy more satisfying sex lives during the pandemic and beyond.

“A lot of people assume sexual difficulties take the greatest toll on older Americans,” Dr. Lehmiller said. “However, our study revealed that reports of sexual difficulties were unexpectedly consistent across age groups, including among younger adults. While physical health issues are more likely to cause difficulties in older populations, psychological issues often take a major toll on young adults’ sex lives.

“During the pandemic, young adults felt disproportionately stressed and lonely, both of which are known causes of sexual problems. Since young adults are also less likely to be in established relationships, they may be less comfortable discussing sexual matters with their partners, which can make it harder to find solutions,” Dr. Lehmiller added.

Turning Things Around

The survey showed 47% of people in relationships increased their communication with partners to deal with sexual problems vs. only 15% of singles. Sixty percent of people in relationships tried new sexual activities. Only 42% of singles did so.

Solid communication is essential, but a good sex life starts with understanding and exploring your own body, what arouses you, and what gives you pleasure.

Talking about Sexual Health with Your Doctor

While COVID may have aggravated sexual problems, other factors such as chronic health conditions, side effects from medications and changes related to age can also affect sexual desire, arousal and performance.

If you suspect your sexual concerns could have physical causes, it is good to see your doctor. Yet, according to this survey, only 5% of women and 13% percent of men consulted their doctor or any kind of therapist for sexual issues during the pandemic.

Talking about sexual concerns can feel awkward. But, suffering in silence can be worse. If your health care provider doesn’t bring it up, you could start the conversation with, “I’m having some trouble in the bedroom,” or “My sex life isn’t satisfactory.”

A good health care provider will take care of your whole body, and that includes your sexual health.

While sex can do amazing things for your mood, mind and emotional intimacy with your partner(s), mental health conditions can also cause sexual difficulties. Sexual trauma can also affect sexual desire, arousal and the ability to orgasm.

Speaking about any of these concerns with a sex therapist can not only help you improve your sex life, but also your overall mental health and well-being.

Seeing a Sex Therapist

“Sex therapy is talk therapy. You keep your clothes on, and there is no physical contact. These licensed mental health professionals have specialized training and can address a variety of concerns that might be hampering your sex life, such as premature ejaculation, pain during penetration, or why sex went from exciting to feeling like a chore.

Sex therapists like Kim Ronk in Charlotte are trained to listen to your concerns and recommend problem-solving techniques that support your needs, including communication strategies, reflective and practical homework, and exploring new options for sexual expression.