Depression, Sex Addiction Linked in Gay Men: Report
September 22, 2006
An analysis of depression among gay men and other populations found gay men are more likely to experience depression and milder mood disorders, which were associated with HIV risk. The New York-based Medius Institute for Gay Men's Health survey, authored by founder and Executive Director Spencer Cox, found depressed gay men were more likely to engage in risk-taking activity such as unprotected sex and drug use. The report analyzed 300 different studies and interviewed service providers and mental health and sex researchers.
"It would be an oversimplification to say that depression 'causes' the risky behavior," said the report, "Living on the Edge: Gay Men, Depression & Risk Taking." "Instead, it appears that in gay men, multiple epidemics -- such as depression, drug abuse, violence, childhood sexual abuse, and HIV -- interact to increase risk for one another." Depression is a "background risk modulator" subconsciously influencing a range of behaviors, said Cox.
About one in five gay men experience depression, a rate double that found in the general population, said Cox. The result is a cultural amplification in which drug use and high-risk sex become normalized, though self-destructive, coping mechanisms. Besides social discrimination, many depressed gay men experience loneliness, so sex fulfills a need and is a break from boredom.
But acting out in risky ways can also lead to depression, said Robert Weiss, clinical director of Los Angeles' Sexual Recovery Institute. Continuously hunting sex, he said, "is very isolating, alienating, and leaves people hopeless. I have certainly seen men who appeared quite depressed, but once they stopped acting out and gained some sense of hope that they can live differently, then they're not as depressed."
Multiple studies find higher substance abuse rates among gay men than in the general population, noted Weiss.
HIV prevention for gay men must incorporate access to quality mental health care and emphasize more than condom use, said experts. "Well being is about gay men building lives they value so much that they won't want to put them at risk," Cox said.
09.15.2006; Ryan Lee
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.