COVID-19 - lockdown and sexual behaviour

This article is about the effects of COVID-19 on society in both a sexual and creative way over the last three months.

COVID-19 and sexual behaviour

As a clinician working with a number of client groups, I have noticed that, since the beginning of the pandemic, many people have been experiencing difficulties in their freedom of expression, a lowering in their sexual libido and an overall perceived reduced need to perform sexual acts. In both married couples and singles, this can result in a number of relational conflicts, including the short-term creation of sibling-like relationships that do not involve any sexual play. In these cases, the priority of the relationship seems to be a focus on “getting through” the pandemic, staying together and avoiding unresolved feelings.

The word “sex”, in some instances, is capable of tearing our heads apart, whether we are men, or women. Experience has shown that it is not, necessarily, a Viagra, nor a padded bra and it may not make us feel young, nor make us feel supported. In essence, the only things that are able to make us feel loved and supported tend to be something inside and, naturally, all the people we depend upon.

Obviously, there are dating apps and social media; however, government guidelines over the last number of months have tended to alienate and confuse people, making COVID-19 feel, to many, like a severe plague. What is actually often needed of course, is the very thing that cannot be had, namely, the human gentle touch.

How can therapy help?

In my opinion, the best that psychotherapists can hope to do for clients at this difficult time is to listen, contain and, of course, not judge. I believe it is imperative that therapy provides positive improvements with regard to clients’ coping mechanisms and that the therapists are there for them for as long as the lockdown lasts. These regulations, in many instances, can have a confining effect on the psychology of some human behaviour, to the extent that insecure individuals can become more insecure and that those professing to have great hopes, can perceive these hopes as crushed by the pandemic.

In creative psychotherapy, I consider it important that the work be about giving to the other, creating a space where the client can tell a story and feel completely listened to from across the internet, or telephone. Some clients are not suited to certain kinds of therapy; for example, rather than a talking cure, some clients may be more suited to the creative art therapies. During lockdown, music therapy (using WhatsApp) and prose therapy (e.g., creating a diary) can be good ways for the client to attain a satisfactory level of containment.

How else is lockdown affecting us?

Clients living in London, can feel like they are in a “walled city”, which can make them feel more enclosed than any virus in itself could. It can be difficult to be alone in London, especially since March, there have been numerous issues around tenants facing high rents, whilst simultaneously, having either been made redundant or furloughed. In addition, many younger adults have had to move back in with their parents, possibly away from London, which can engender a greater sense of isolation, resulting from trying to maintain relationships with their friends and even partners.

I believe that the most important thing about this pandemic will end up being the sheer numbers of people who have died and how difficult it is for those that they have left behind. In my opinion, it is also imperative to remember the trauma faced by care and medical staff over the last number of months, since they seem not to have been given enough psychotherapeutic support, despite observing so much human mortality and suffering.

Despite the endless virtual noise from social media, silence is a very important part of the time that we, as humans, spend together. Before the current lockdown, we, as individuals, may have frequented clubs, pubs and restaurants, whilst disregarding the slower-paced forms of activities, be these meditation, religious worship, or even simply just sitting on a park bench, whilst feeding the ducks.

We may have previously been more inclined to erratically run around a supermarket for the weekly shop, or distractedly juggling tasks all at once on multiple electronic device screens, rather than tentatively looking after ourselves, whilst also taking time to deeply look into ourselves. The question now remains: “What will we learn from COVID-19?” Will it change our behaviour and actions towards each other?

Will it change our relations to friends, neighbours and loved ones? In what respects will we react to waste? Will it change our habits when it comes to the environment?

How will we feel in the future, both politically and globally? I do believe, as a therapist, that this current situation is going to help us all consider how we look after each other and our communities, in both a social, sexual and creative way.

If you need help with any of the topics raised above please do consider talking to a therapist. During this difficult time, we all need extra support, whether from friends, family or a professional. To speak to a professional counsellor search Counselling Directory. Many therapists now offer online and telephone sessions.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Benjamin Marr (MBACP, UKCP)

My approach to psychotherapy is one of a deep belief in the client's ability to heal, resolve issues and move forward towards a positive ending. I work openly with all communities and have extensive experience with LGBT people and people with disabilities. I am able to provide a non-judgemental environment that is also caring and safe.… Read more

Written by Benjamin Marr (MBACP, UKCP)

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