Asexuality and depression (an evidence-based explanation)

In the following article,we will gather some useful ideas and facts about the correlation between asexuality and depression. We will address the issue of how asexuals suffer from depression due to various myths and stigmas attached to them and how they should cope with it cope with it.

Asexuality and depression

Research suggests that some people who have identified themselves as asexuals , also experienced trauma or mental conditions such as depression or anxiety. However, asexuality itself is not a disorder or a mental condition that needs treatment.

Before we go much into the topic, we should acquire a clear idea about the term asexuality and its various types.

What is asexuality?

Sexuality lies on a spectrum with asexuality on one side and allosexuality on the other.

Asexuality, a relatively new topic in scientific literature is a sexual orientation experienced by the one who does not experience little or no sexual attraction towards another. Like any other sexual/romantic orientation, it is neither a choice, a disorder nor the result of negative life experiences, but a fundamental element of who a person is. They are also known as the ace community.

The largest online web community of asexual individuals, the 

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network | asexuality.org describes asexuality as a sexual orientation or sexual identity akin to heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality (Jay,2008).

What is greysexuality? 

Greysexuals are people whose sexual orientations are between being allosexual(sexual) and asexual.

They do not prioritize sex or sexual attraction while choosing a romatic partner. Their expression of love and affection is mostly through talking,cuddling,helping more than sexual and physical  engagement.

What is demisexuality?

There are people who develop sexual attraction only when they are romantically connected to someone and have formed a strong bond with them.

Difference between being a greysexual and demisexual. 

Greysexuals may experience sexual desire for anyone even if there                    is no emotional connect between them.

Demisexuals find someone sexually attractive and desirable only if they share a strong emotional association with them.

Other forms of attraction people may experience being asexuals and greysexuals:

  • Aesthetic attraction: kind of attraction one may experience based on how someone looks
  • Sensual or physical attraction: an attraction where a person wants to get physically involved with someone in the form of touching,holding,cuddling etc.
  • Platonic attraction: This type of attraction is limited to being friend with someone 
  • Emotional attraction: wanting an emotional connection with someone
  • Romantic attraction: people who desire a romantic relation with someone.

People may have different romantic orientations too such as :

  • Aromantic: someone experiences little to no romantic attraction for another.
  • Biromantic: someone whose romantic attraction is directed to people from two different genders.
  • Greyromantic: someone experiencing infrequent romantic attraction.
  • Homoromantic: someone whose  romantic attraction is directed to people who are the same gender as themselves.
  • Polyromantic: has romantic attraction for people of many — not all — genders.

One may identify with either being asexual,greysexual or demisexual along with any of the type of romantic attraction that they experience, as listed above. For example, one can be greysexual and polyromantic at the same time.

 What percentage of the people can be estimated to identify with asexuality?

According to the first empirical study of asexuality(Bogaert, 2004), approximately 1% of the population is predicted to be asexual, and this estimate has been confirmed by a recent study investigating the association between sexual attraction and mental health in a large sample of high school students (Lucassen et al., 2011).

A research based on the correlation between asexuality and depression.

A well-planned research by Nurius (1983), which aimed at finding out which group among bisexuals,heterosexuals,homosexuals and asexuals were more inclined to having depression, the result came out as asexuals.

Nirius suggested that the probable cause behind this finding could be the stigma,attitude and beliefs of the society. A society which is seemingly focused on sexuality,asexuals being a part of it, have to pay the price for breaking the social norm which further becomes the cause of their distress and mental disturbances.

Society,asexuality and depression

Society’s mainstream view on sex is that it is desirable,normal,healthy and positive, and those who are not interested in sexuality may be viewed as having a disorder .

There are society-based stigmas and myths about asexuality.Let’s discuss those:

  • Asexuality is still considered a mental illness

Most people are not aware of asexuality as being a sexual orientation, rather they perceive it to be a sexual or mental dysfunction(even though there are no evidences which claim sexuality to be a disorder).This misperception leads the society to behave with them in a negative manner and treat them as marginalized.

Even healthcare professionals have the attitude that the ace community has to be treated considering them to be sick or disturbed.  When asexual people disclose their orientation to healthcare professionals, the responses are often damaging, stigmatising, and hurtful. They are at times even made to believe that asexuality does not exist or they might be cured with the help of medications and therapies . A 2016 survey claims that among 9000 of those who identified them as asexuals, almost 45% of the population were asked to fix and cure themselves.

  • Asexuality is considered a condition as a result of trauma and abuse 

 Asexuality is often misconceptualized by the society as a condition caused due to physical abuse in childhood. Although trauma and abuse may have negative impacts on their lives, there is no evidence that it affects their sexuality as an adult (Brotto et al., 2010). 

  • Asexuality Is a Choice: 

Another misconception people have is that asexuality is a choice like celibacy (a voluntary decision of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations).

It is absolutely a wrong understanding of sexuality because asexuals do not choose to not experience sexual engagements but they do not feel the urge  to be a part of it .

Oppressive experiences in society 

According to a 2016 survey it was found that 75% of asexual people would experience prejudices and discrimination imposed by the society which affected their mental health in a negative manner. The survey even reported that 49% of them attempted suicide and 14% committed the same.

People who are suspected to be asexuals are also at a higher risk to experience hate crimes like forcible violation, sexual assault,blackmail, stalking,  especially for an asexual woman.The crimes may impact their mental health by making them feel unsafe,left-out and neglected.

Facing these kind of issues repeatedly, asexual people are compelled and made to withold or actively lie about their identities thus malking them confused,depressed and helpless;their confidence-level,self-esteem and desire and ability to find a partner thereby distorting one’s overall sexual self-concept.

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Are you suffering from depression because you have identified yourself as an asexual?

If you or your close ones are suffering from depression because of lack of social acceptance for not having a desired sexual orientation, please do not ignore or suppress your feelings. It is time to change our out-dated beliefs on asexuality.

The first and foremost thing you can do is to seek help from professionals.

Who to seek help from?

Mental health professional

A mental health professional who is specialized in this area would engage with you in talk therapy thus helping you seek clarity and overcome the sadness.

Talk therapy with trained people would help you with the following issues:

  • Difficulty in accepting yourself and orientation
  • Cope with discrimination and bully
  • Fight off depression
  • Fight off suicidal thoughts
  • Face the society 
  • Get rid of anger and isolation

Communities and awareness programmes 

  • You can also become a part of the largest online asexual community that is  Asexual Visibility and Education Network and get access to numerous archive of resources on asexuality which may help you stay informed and updated. You can also share your stories and  listen to people’s experiences and get exposed to those who you connect with. 
  • Meetup is also a platform where you can join the asexuality group (having almost 30,000 members) and meet people who are similar to you .
  • Ace Week,formerly Asexual Awareness Week, is an international campaign dedicated to raising awareness and spreading education of asexuality.

With broadening your perspectives about sexual orientations and seeking help from professionals you will be able to get rid of the confusions about your sexual identity,overcome the sadness and depressive episodes. You will also be able to accept yourself, gain self-confidence and face the society with your head held high. 

Conclusion 

In the above article,we  gathered some ideas and facts about a possible correlation between asexuality and depression. At the same time, we looked at various societal myths and stigmas that may be the probable reasons behind causing depression in asexuals. We further gained knowledge about how and who to get help from.

FAQs : Asexuality and depression

How do you know you’re asexual?

Asexuals are people who do not experience sexual attraction for others.They still can get associated physically,mentally,emotionally or spiritually with someone. They can also get married,fall in love,date someone but do not feel the desire to have sex.

How common is asexuality?

In a survey conducted by YouGov in 2015, 1,632 British adults were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale.The results show, 1% of them answered “No sexuality”.

Can asexuals have a crush?

Yes absolutely. Asexuals might not experience sexual attraction and desires but they may desire a romantic relation or might have a crush on someone romantically.

Can asexual be cured?

Asexuality needs to be accepted, not cured because it is just a sexual orientation and not a dysfunction.It is a fundamental element of an individual’s desires and needs. 

What is the asexual flag?

The Asexual Pride Flag was created in August 2010,is a symbol that represents the asexual community. It consists of four horizontal stripes: black, grey, white, and purple from top to bottom. The black stripe represents asexuality.

Is asexuality considered a disorder?

Asexuality is widely considered a mental illness but there is no such evidence supporting the claim. This categorization has had a devastating consequence for the mental health of asexual people.

Can a person become asexual?

If someone had a traumatic experience in their life(such as forcible violation, sexual assault etc.), they may no more feel sexually attracted to anyone.

What does it mean to be Demisexual?

There are people who develop sexual attraction only when they are romantically connected to someone and have formed a strong bond with them.

Do Asexuals hug?

Yes asexuals do enjoy hugs,kisses and cuddles but they do not feel the desire to carry the relationship any further sexually.

What we recommend for Relationship & LGBTQ issues

Relationship counselling

  • If you are having relationship issues or maybe you are in an abusive relationship then relationship counselling could be your first point of call. Relationship counselling could be undertaken by just you, it does not require more than one person.

LGBTQ issues

If you are dealing with LGBTQ issues then LGBTQ counselling may be a great option for you. Maybe you are confused as to your role and identity or simply need someone to speak to. LGBTQ counsellors are specially trained to assist you in this regard.

References:

https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-rcvmhs.files/8315/7342/4709/Anonymous_520.pdf

https://med-fom-brotto.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2014/11/Yule-Brotto-Gorzalka-2013-Mental-health-interpersonal-functioning-in-self-identified-asexual-men-women-3133.pdf

https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/asexual-erasure-mental-health/

https://outrightinternational.org/content/flags-lgbtiq-community#:~:text=Asexual%20Pride%20Flag&text=The%20flag%20consists%20of%20four,and%20the%20purple%20stripe%20community.

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