, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 217-230

The Relation Between Mood and Sexuality in Heterosexual Men

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This paper reports on a study of individual variability in the relationship between negative mood and sexuality in men. Part 1 involves a questionnaire survey of 919 white heterosexual men, asking what typically happens to sexual interest and response when (a) depressed and (b) anxious/stressed, using the Mood and Sexuality Questionnaire (MSQ). Trait measures of sexual inhibition and excitation, depression, anxiety, and sensation seeking were also used. Relationships between trait measures and MSQ scores were tested using multiple linear and ordinal logistic regression. Of those reporting the experience of depression, 9.4% indicated increased and 42% decreased sexual interest when depressed; for anxiety/stress, the percentages were 20.6 and 28.3%, respectively. Increase in sexual interest during negative mood states was negatively related to age and trait measures of sexual inhibition and positively related to depression proneness and sexual excitation. In Part 2, the relationship between mood and sexuality was explored qualitatively, using in-depth interviews with 43 participants from Part 1. This supported the findings in Part 1, while finding more complex relations with depression than anxiety. Sex when depressed can serve needs for intimacy and self-validation as well as sexual pleasure. Sex when anxious appears to be more simply related to the calming effect of sexual release, plus a possible “excitation transfer” effect of anxious arousal. Further research is needed to explore these relationships in clinical mood disorders. Paradoxical increases of sexual interest with negative mood may help explain high risk as well as “out of control” patterns of sexual behavior.