3 posts tagged “chronic condition”

“Not tonight”: How health conditions can affect your sex life + relationships

Posted 1 month ago by

Personal (but important) question: How’s your sex life? Explore how your diagnosis (and symptoms and treatments) can impact your romantic relationships, see what members are saying about the topic on PatientsLikeMe — and learn what you can possibly do about love-life struggles.

Intimacy, interrupted

According to sexologists, people with a variety of health conditions can have some common issues with intimacy, such as:

  • Loss of interest in sex following a life-changing diagnosis
  • Physical and emotional stress and fatigue that zaps energy and self-confidence for sexual activity (or dating and romance, in general)
  • Disruptions related to physical symptoms and treatment side effects. Just to name a few examples: Parkinson’s disease can cause rigidity and tremors, digestive and neurological disorders can bring bowel incontinence, and chemotherapy for cancer can bring nausea and weakness.
  • Some side effects (whether mental or physical) can be even more sex-related, such as vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, issues with orgasm and low libido. (join PatientsLikeMe to read more about the sexual side effects of anti-depressants here in our forums).

Sex therapists say that people often push intimacy issues aside after their initial diagnosis because they may have seemingly bigger fish to fry. But sexuality doesn’t end when illness strikes, and research has uncovered the many mental and physical benefits of sex — so it’s an important topic.

Ignoring intimacy issues can have a snowball effect, Newsweek reported in an article about cancer and sex. “A lot of folks think it will get better over time, and it doesn’t, or years go by, and they’ve lost intimacy in their life,” says Catherine Alfano, vice president of survivorship at the American Cancer Society and a rehabilitation psychologist. “Sexuality is a very understudied area for the same reason it’s an undiscussed area in clinical practice: People just don’t want to talk about it—not in their research, not as a patient, not as a provider.”

So what can you do? Talk about it

Include intimacy issues on your “must-discuss” list when you see your healthcare provider. Could any adjustments help improve your sex life? For example, ask about different medications or dosages, tweaking your medication schedule to avoid sex-related side effects some days, and any tips that could make sex feel better (such as using pillows for body positioning or lubricants for dryness issues). Showering before sex may help loosen your muscles and clear your mind for the main event.

Also, talk with your partner about how your condition has affected your romantic life and what you can do together to improve your intimacy. That may mean more foreplay and less intercourse, or making a conscious effort at hand-holding, cuddling, dancing, date nights and other activities that can help bring back some closeness.

Consider seeing a counselor or therapist (solo or with your partner) to talk about the changes and challenges you’re experiencing, and get advice on treating related mental health or self-image issues and affirming your relationship.

On PatientsLikeMe

Nearly 35,000 members with a wide variety of conditions say they’re interested in the topic of relationships. What kinds of conversations is the community having about sex? People are sharing about everything from mental health conditions affecting their sex life to self-image issues when they’re dealing with lots of physical symptoms.

How is your condition impacting your sex life and romantic relationships? Join our community and this forum discussion to help make this important issue less taboo.

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5 tips for practicing self-care when your chronic illness is trying to take over

Posted August 14th, 2017 by

As a woman with bipolar disorder I and PTSD, I can pretty safely say that no two days are the same. There are days when the world is sunshine and roses; life is grand! Then there are days when the inside of my brain is trying to run the show without me, and it’s leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. There are floundering relationships, self-harm incidents, and half-hatched big plans laying strewn about, and I stand in the middle of it all, trying very hard not to let the illness win.

When I can really stand back and take stock of things, I find that self-care is paramount to my feeling better, or simply not getting worse. The following are some of my “go-to” self-care strategies.

1. Coloring. I know, I know. You’re already rolling your eyes at the screen, wondering what the heck I’m even talking about. But coloring has turned out to be a Zen activity in my life. My manias are not euphoric, but angry and aggressive, and I have found the act of coloring to bring me down in the moment.

It’s also extremely helpful with my anxiety and PTSD symptoms. We’re lucky that the adult coloring movement is upon us, so you can go anywhere and find books and pencils and markers for very little money.

2. Singing. This strategy is actually backed by science. More and more studies show that the act of singing (in the shower, in the car, on a stage) helps to bring a person calm and joy. Non-judgment is the key: find an album or song list you like (vinyl or online), throw it on, and start singing. It can be of any genre of music, any artist, any arrangement. All that matters is that you sing with abandon!

3. Massage. This is a once-in-awhile self-care treat for me. If I had the money, I’d get a massage every week. But I don’t, so I try to do this for myself once every few months. Massage has been used as a relaxation and health treatment for thousands of years, and there are myriad reasons why — but the bottom line is, it makes you feel good! I know many people with chronic illness of all kinds who make sure they put time aside for massage on a regular basis.

4. Journaling… outside. Anyone who’s been treated for a chronic illness for a while probably wants to scream every time someone says “Have you tried journaling?” No, I’ve never heard of this. What is it? Ugh.

All sarcasm aside, though, journaling in the outdoors when I can, or if I’m really not feeling well, has been incredibly helpful for me. The outdoors make you feel like you’re a part of something more, if you want to, or that you’re the only person in the world, if you want to. It’s really all about how you want to take the best care of yourself at that time.

Also, just like in coloring, the actual physical act of writing can help to bring calm and focus. Write a journal entry, write a thank you note to a friend, or write your grocery list for next week. Content matters less than the fact that you’re writing for yourself in the great outdoors. Put a lawn chair out in the backyard, find a nice park with lovely-smelling flowers, or float in your pool with a trusty notebook and pen! (If you’re from the Boston area like me, I’d suggest this activity be taken indoors December-March, unless you really like snow.)

5. An ingestible treat. Self-care is really about utilizing the five senses in an attempt to make you feel better, or at least to bring you to a more manageable spot until you can talk with a doctor or therapist. I have a short list of things that smell and taste good that I make myself (or ask for). Really good coffee or a chai latte are at the top of the list. Being able to hold a warm cup, smell something wonderful, and then take time to taste that wonderful thing involves three senses in a matter of seconds.

These are just a few tools that anyone can use to help make things a little better in the moment, or to be consistently good to oneself. Sometimes one tool on its own is enough, sometimes a few need to be combined. I have a little list on my refrigerator so that when things get bad, I have it in front of me and can start caring for myself.

What’s on your list? How might you practice self-care today?

On PatientsLikeMe

Thousands of members are sharing what helps them manage their mental health and other conditions – from coloring and journaling and to massage and outdoor time. Join today to learn more about self-care and treatments!

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