While we are still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have started to reopen with some restrictions.
Still, the effects of isolation and social distancing over the last several months have started to reveal some mental health issues across the country. From depression and anxiety to uncertainty and stress, the mental health effects of COVID-19 may end up being an entirely new pandemic.
One of the areas affected by these issues—particularly for singles—is the lack of intimacy. Even couples living together have to take extra precautions if one or both of them work outside the home. But singles, especially those used to regular intimate interaction, may find it particularly hard to deal with the “compulsory” dry spell.
Let’s look at a few ways a lack of intimacy truly affects us while in isolation.
1. Leads to Depression
Many studies have suggested that a lack of intimacy can lead to depression and overwhelming sadness. After all, humans are social creatures by nature, and intimacy is part of that social behavior.
Of course, it’s important to remember that intimacy is more than just sex. It encompasses all of the feelings and emotions that often come with sex. But, at its core, intimacy is simply a close, affectionate connection with someone else—no matter if it’s physical or not. Losing that connection can make you feel alone, with the thought that there is nothing to look forward to.
2. Creates Disinterest
A lack of intimacy can either cause you to want more of it or become disinterested. Being disinterested typically goes along with symptoms of depression, where you may not have the same desires or interests you once had.
If you’re feeling fatigued, sad, or even hopeless about your situation in isolation and you don’t have an interest in sex, it’s important to look at the overall state of your mental health.
3. Lack of Self-Worth
A lack of intimacy, even during “forced” isolation, can make you lose your sense of self and your self-worth. Some people need intimacy in order to feel wanted or desirable. Others may need that connection from someone else to bring out the most appealing things in them.
While it isn’t healthy to build your self-worth on something that can come and go, it doesn’t change the fact that a lack of intimacy can leave you feeling down about who you are.
4. Less Security
In the same line of thought, intimacy can equal safety and security to a lot of individuals. That’s often especially the case with singles who miss spending time with different people.
If that is your situation, you may have a strong desire to feel that sense of security, even if it’s just for a short time. And in order to satisfy that desire, you may “break down”—throwing all caution aside and giving in to the internal pressure—and risk having sex with other people.
5. Extra Stress
Studies have shown that physical touch can reduce stress. So, a lack of physical touch can contribute to the opposite, increasing your stress levels in an already uncertain time. And that stress can lead to other mental health conditions, including anxiety.
When the pressure is on, some feel compelled to relieve it through sex. Our bodies release oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” when we’re having intimate contact with someone. And oxytocin has been shown to decrease stress. But it’s risky business to try to save your sanity by putting your physical health in danger just because you’re feeling the stress of isolation.
6. Anger and Frustration
Not having the kind of intimacy you’re used to, whether you’re in a relationship or not, can lead to everything from confusion to anger and frustration. Unfortunately, these feelings can be dangerous if you leave them unchecked.
While this pandemic has caused frustrating situations all around, the anger that can come from a lack of intimacy combined with some of the other ways isolation can impact you could be damaging to your emotional and mental health. It might cause you to withdraw from the people you care about once you can spend time with them again. Or you may also start to “sleep around” more than you ever would have considered in the past as you try to chase the intimacy you desire.
As you can see, a lack of intimacy in isolation can wreak havoc on your emotions. If you’re feeling lost, confused, frustrated, or even depressed or anxious, talking about those emotions can be the best way to manage them.
We invite you to contact us if you would like professional support. Together, we can discuss how to foster intimacy as we move forward into the next chapter of this pandemic—and how to do it in a healthy way.