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Mentally Healthy, Sexually Healthy

By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: February 4, 2011 Revised: March 13, 2017

As teens, we are flooded with messages about sexuality from our friends, parents, school and even the media. In the face of this never-ending barrage, we have to make our own decisions about sexuality. When am I ready to have sex? What if I get a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? How can I protect myself? These can be difficult questions on their own, but many of us overlook an important part of the equation—our mental health.

The Link Between Mental & Sexual Health

Your mental and sexual health are related; they’re part of your overall health. Your mental state has an impact on your sexual health, because it affects the decisions you make about sexual behaviors.

A study conducted by the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center found that teens with bipolar disorder and “externalizing disorders,” such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other disorders that lead to angry or hostile behavior, are more likely to be sexually active, have more sexual partners and contract an STD. In particular, teens with bipolar mania—the extremely excited, restless state that is part of bipolar disorder—were four times as likely to have an STD compared to other groups. Lead author on the study Larry K. Brown, M.D., of the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center explains that acting on impulse is associated with some of these disorders, which may explain why these teens engage in risky behavior.

Your mental state has an impact on your sexual health, because it affects the decisions you make about sexual behaviors.

People who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder have to manage and treat their illness to make sure the impulsive behavior that can be a part of some mental health conditions doesn’t put them at risk for pregnancy or STDs.

Mentally Healthy

The good news is that if you are dealing with a mental health disorder, there is always treatment and support available.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition, like ADHD or depression, it’s vital that you take care of yourself and use all the support that’s available to you. Mental health conditions are manageable as long as you get regular treatment and make sure to communicate with a mental health professional and the trusted adults in your life.

The important thing to take away from the new research isn’t that those with mental health disorders are doomed to a life of “bad” sexual decisions. What is important is that every teen take care of his or herself in every way—physically, sexually and mentally.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, support is always available. The stigma of mental health problems can often discourage teens and adults from getting help when they need it. If you have ongoing feelings of worry, sadness or anger, it’s important to talk with a trusted adult. Feeling occasionally sad, mad or overwhelmed is part of life, but it’s always good to have the support of a trusted adult and access to professional help if necessary.

It’s important to take care of your emotional well-being, whether you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition or not. We all need support, if that means getting treatment for a mental health condition or having a friend or family member support us through life’s ups and downs. If you’re feeling good about yourself and know you’ve got people you can turn to for support, it will be easier to make healthy and responsible sexual choices.

For more mental health resources and information, visit

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