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Relationship between Mood and Sexuality


It is widely believed that when people feel anxious or depressed, they become less interested in sex. In a minority of individuals, however, the reverse seems to be true, often with an associated tendency to use sex as a ‘mood regulator’. Paradoxical increases of sexual interest with negative mood may help to explain high risk as well as 'out of control' patterns of sexual behavior. The questions in this project are 1) how do mood states, such as depression and anxiety, affect sexual interest and response, and 2) can we predict, based on our model of sexual inhibition and excitation, who will respond in what way?


Our questionnaire studies showed large individual variability in the relationships between mood and sexual interest and response. In questionnaire studies we have found that our model of sexual inhibition and excitation, as well as other factors (such as age and depression proneness) can help to explain the variable relationship between mood and sexuality. Interview studies have further shown that sex when in a negative mood can serve needs for intimacy and self-validation, but also for sexual release and sexual pleasure.

In a study released in May, 2006, approximately 10% of women reported more sexual interest when depressed or anxious.

Lykins, A, Janssen, E., & Graham, C. (2006). The relationship between negative mood and sexuality in heterosexual college men and women. Journal of Sex Research, 43 (2), 136-143. pdf


John Bancroft, M.D., Erick Janssen, Ph.D., David Strong, M.A., Lori Carnes, B.S., Zoran Vukadinovic, B.A. and J. Scott Long, Ph.D, Dept. of Sociology, IU.


Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Strong, D., Carnes, L. & Long J. S. (2003). Sexual risk taking in gay men: The relevance of sexual arousability, mood, and sensation seeking. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32(6), 555-572. pdf

Newsletter Article

Hear Dr. Erick Janssen discuss research on mood and sexual arousal ("KI Presents" podcast).

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