In the Mood

By Melby, Todd | Contemporary Sexuality, June 2011 | Go to article overview

In the Mood


Melby, Todd, Contemporary Sexuality


The intersection of negative mood and sexuality

Anxiety and depression donâeuro(TM)t lead to sexual activity.

While thatâeuro(TM)s true for most people, a series of studies by scientists at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction shows thatâeuro(TM)s not always the case.

âeurooeWhen youâeuro(TM)re down, it should be over,âeuro? is the common refrain regarding the intersection of negative mood and sexuality, says Erick Janssen, PhD, a Kinsey researcher. âeurooeBut thatâeuro(TM)s just not true for everybody. Weâeuro(TM)re trying to figure out how it works for different people and why.âeuro

Janssen has co-authored at least seven studies exploring the relationship between negative mood âeuro" usually defined as anxiety and depression âeuro" and sexuality. The research has focused on straight men and women and gay men.

Understanding the impact of negative mood on sexuality has critical public health implications.

âeurooeIn men, the tendency to experience increased sexual interest or response during negative mood states has been linked to sexual risk-taking behaviors (e.g., lack of condom use, higher number of casual partners, higher number of lifetime partners âeuro* sexual compulsivity âeuro* and sexual offenses),âeuro writes Amy Lykins, MA, Cynthia Graham, PhD, and Janssen in a 2006 study published in The Journal of Sex Research . âeurooeOne possibility is that sexual activity may be used as a coping mechanism for mood regulation.âeuro?

That study, titled âeurooeThe Relationship Between Negative Mood and Sexuality in Heterosexual College Women and Men,âeuro? asked 663 heterosexual female college students to complete a 33question survey called The Mood and Sexuality Questionnaire (MSQ). Responses were compared to a 2003 study involving 399 heterosexual male college students.

The results: When feeling depressed, only 9.5 percent of women reported more sexual interest. About one-half were less interested in sex and 40 percent were neither more or less likely to be interested in sex based on that negative mood.

Anxiety produced slightly different results: 23 percent of women reported more sexual interest. About one-third were less interested in sex and 43 percent said anxiety didnâeuro(TM)t affect their interest in sex.

âeurooeAlthough the majority of respondents indicated that negative mood states had either no effect or a negative effect on their sexual interest and response, a substantial minority reported an increase in sexual interest and response,âeuro? write Lykins and co-authors.

When comparing college-age women and menâeuro(TM)s sexual responses to negative mood, a slightly higher percentage of men report more sexual interest when feeling depressed or anxious.

Considering the importance of emotion and sexual behavior

The impact of emotion on sexual behavior has long fascinated Janssen. He began studying the topic while a graduate student in physiological psychology at the University of Amsterdam in the 1980s.

âeurooeIf you think of sexual desire and sexual arousal as emotions âeuro" just like anxiety, happiness, depression, sadness and pride âeuro" then it raises an interesting question,âeuro? Janssen says. âeurooeHow do they interact?âeuro?

Janssen argues that sexology has traditionally focused on the physiological âeuro" think Masters and Johnsonâeuro(TM)s sexual response cycle âeuro" and overlooked the importance of mood and emotion. To help understand how mood and emotion affect sexuality, Janssen and colleagues created the MSQ to ask questions such as âeurooeWhen you have felt anxious/stressed what typically happens to [a] your sexual interest and [b] your sexual arousal?âeuro?

In addition to the MSQ, researchers investigating negative mood and sexuality also use the Zemore Depression Proneness Ratings, Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scale. …

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