Any illness can have a dampening effect on one’s libido. The general weakness and fatigue that accompanies sickness will naturally affect a man’s sex drive and ability to respond to stimulation. Also, depending on the nature of the affliction and its severity, his range of movement might be limited to the point where he is not able to engage in sex the way he used to.
In many cases, illness brings with it a certain amount of depression or despair, a feeling of inadequacy, and an image of one’s body as impaired. All of this can result in a decrease in sexual function, even if the illness itself does not.
Being Sick Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Be Sexual
Unfortunately, many sick men give up on themselves as sexual beings because they’re convinced they are no longer capable of virile, sexual activities. They might also become unreasonably fearful and refrain from all exertion, including sex-related exercise that could potentially benefit their condition.
Arthritis victims, for example, sometimes abstain from sex because the pain in their joints prevents them from moving around as vigorously as they would like. This is unfortunate. They are not only depriving themselves of some much-needed and well-deserved joy but also overlooking the significant ways in which sex can improve range of motion and relieve pain. My rheumatology colleagues tell me there is evidence that arthritis sufferers can experience relief from pain for up to four to six hours after having an orgasm.
Unfortunately, some physicians play into much of the negative mind-set of their injured or sick patients. When illness strikes, they advise these patients to limit their sexual activity, or even give it up entirely. A doctor who goes by the book might even tell a patient that he will never have “normal sex relations” again.
What terrible advice to give! Patients not only get depressed when they hear this but also take it to mean that they have to retire their penises and give up all sexual and sensual pleasures entirely.
Furthermore, the doctor’s negative prognosis is often flawed. Not long ago, physicians used to tell heart patients and people with back pain to avoid exercise. Today, we prescribe exercise programs for their rehabilitation and advise against being sedentary. In many cases, the same is true of sex. I advise and encourage my patients to use their penis to bring cheer to the sickbed, rather than allowing it to shrivel up before its time.
If your doctor tells you to abstain from sex, get a second opinion! He or she may be misinformed or may simply be old-fashioned.
Illness Might Limit Your Sexuality, But It Does Not Have to Eliminate It
For most individuals, the solution involves simply learning new habits:
- Your condition might mean it takes longer to achieve an erection, in which case you can learn to be more patient, and your partner can learn new ways to stimulate you.
- Your illness might make it impossible to make love in the positions to which you are accustomed. If so, practice the ones that do work.
- You might have to have sex less often or less vigorously, but instead of lamenting that situation, you can learn to fully savor the slow and gentle sensuality that you used to hurry through.
- If you have intercourse less often, you might be able to enjoy oral sex or mutual masturbation more
Such changes make sex different, not inferior. They should be viewed as opportunities for new experiences, rather than reasons to feel sorry for yourself or to give up one of life’s greatest pleasures.
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