Depression can manifest in a variety of ways, from occasional episodes of low-level numbness or sadness to Major Depressive Disorder. While there's a diversity of causes and treatments, some have found solace in what may appear at first to be an unlikely place: BDSM play. As someone living with chronic depression, kinky author M. Christian offers his perspective and advice on the subject.


While the exact numbers are hard to pin down, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 264 million people worldwide struggle with depression. The causes can be diverse, with it potentially stemming from environmental causes such as childhood trauma or neglect, ongoing stress, chemical dependency, or even due to genetics.

 

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Because of this diversity of possible causes, as well as there being a wide-ranging spectrum of depressive symptoms, finding treatment options for mental health issues can be challenging. However, many people living with depression have found success in things like medication, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and other approaches – and for some, this includes kinky play.
 

BDSM for mental health and depression

To note, this is not to say that kink activities like power exchange or other activities should ever wholly replace other forms of treatment. Depending on the person and the severity, depression can be a debilitating condition and thus should never be considered otherwise.


Because of this, if you're considering BDSM as a way to try and deal with depression it is highly recommended that you use it as part of a regular treatment program conducted by medical or psychological health professionals. Not only that, but it’s equally important that your doctor or therapist be aware of your kink activities, as well as how you and your partner/s are looking at possibly using your play to help improve your mental health.  

 

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Additionally, always be clear about your condition upfront with whoever you might consider playing with, including your fears and hopeful expectations. One of the significant cornerstones of BDSM is, after all, all about consent, and you will absolutely need the consent of everyone you play with if you intend to try kink as a form of personal therapy.

 

“If you're considering BDSM as a way to try and deal with depression it is highly recommended that you use it as part of a regular treatment program conducted by medical or psychological health professionals.”


With that naturally comes a need for total communication. But not just at the get-go or during negotiation, but at every step during play, as serious depression can be triggered by what might at first appear to be small events. 


There should also be discussion and agreement on the use of vocabulary within a scene, as individual words or phrases when used in seemingly innocuous ways, can be a severe depressive trigger. So while assuming a Dominant or submissive role in a power exchange dynamic can be effective – which I’ll touch on in a moment – don’t let your role become an impediment to speaking out if something should go wrong.
 

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All this might be a lot to absorb and process but, as I mentioned, depression can be a serious condition, and you owe yourself – as well as those who care for you – to approach BDSM with as clear a mind as possible. Both for what good it might do but also any potential risks.  

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Using kink to reinforce self-esteem could be effective, but success will depend on many factors

 

The power of positive BDSM

How you or anyone else might use BDSM as a tool for processing depression is like the illness itself – individualistic – which is why I or anyone else can’t say “do this” or “don’t do this.” Rather, take as much time as you want to look at what you feel you might need in a scene context. Talk it over with your playmates and especially your therapist or doctor, and from there proceed slowly and cautiously. You also need to accept that this is a process, with set-backs and re-evaluations likely to happen along the way.  

 

“One of the significant cornerstones of BDSM is about consent, and you will absolutely need the consent of everyone you play with if you intend to try kink as a form of personal therapy.”


But to give a brief example of what could work, consider what is sometimes called positive or nurturing Domination. In these kinds of scenes, the Dominant’s focus is in working to build up their submissive’s self-esteem. This positive reinforcement can take many forms, such as praising them for various tasks which may include physical BDSM play – and it can be service-oriented, like the submissive preparing their Dominant’s cup of tea or performing sexual activities.

 

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Again, the idea is to conform to the notion that every BDSM scene should leave those involved better than when they began, though in this case with additional care, as it’s being done as a way to process some aspects of depression possibly.  
 

BDSM might be of great help

Utilizing kink to boost self-esteem could be an effective, and even pleasurable, way to work through someone’s depressive state. However, there’s also the possibility that it may not be, or even in some cases lead to more significant emotional challenges. But dealing with any illness, emotional or otherwise, is sometimes all about trial and error: trying out a variety of possible solutions and rejecting or reconsidering the ones that aren’t effective for those that are.  


If BDSM is something you’d like to try, take the advice of someone who has lived with chronic depression every day for all of his life and has even tried power exchange play as a way to cope, sometimes with good and sometimes not-so-good results: never forget that you are not alone, that people love you, that you are strong and brave and capable, and that the world is a better place for having you in it.

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Yes, kink may or may not work to improve your mental health and depression. But if you keep trying – cherishing and loving yourself for who you are, working with your therapist or doctor as well as reaching out to friends and family – then coping with depression isn’t just possible; it’s an absolute certainty.  •

 

Further reading

WebMD - Depression symptoms and types
(UK) NHS mental health charities and organisations
(US) SAMSHA substance abuse & mental health services administration
(Worldwide) Kink Aware Professionals 


M. Christian is a respected author and BDSM educator, having taught classes on everything from polyamory to tit torture for venues such as the SF Citadel, Good Vibrations, Beat Me In St. Louis and many others.

Has BDSM helped you tackle depression or other mental health conditions? Let us know your experience in the comments! 💜

Explore BDSM and depression themes in our forum

Images shutterstock/Kichigin, shutterstock/UfaBizPhoto
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Mim1666

Posted

I find it grounds me.  I can feel better afterwards and more on a high

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Sa****

Posted

I’ve really struggled to work out what I really want - is my sex drive and fetish desire driven by my low mood or the cause of it? 😕

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Ni****

Posted

I'd like to try it because I'm new to the fetish lifestyle.

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Ni****

Posted

Yes I think this could be ideal for me fetish roleplay.

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Mi****

Posted

Very true - I’ve helped many a client through tough times

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No****

Posted

One pitfall potentially - the escaping from other people's needs and concerns when using kink as a healing tool. I'm particularly thinking of other partners in a poly relationship setting. Just because kink is one of the only ways you experience relief from your anxiety doesn't mean that anything goes or that you don't have a responsibility to respect and honor your existing relationships. The oxytocin and endorphin kick is good, but sometimes results in lack of prefrontal cortex operation (ie you can't have rational discussions about your relationship agreements), and sometimes slides into addictive or compulsive behavior. This can wreak havoc on your partners. Good Doms watch out for this sort of thing; encourage your sub or potential sub to slow it down and make the time to care for other partners or loved ones, if and when those issues arise.
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Dominic-5194

Posted

Gaayy

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Ro****

Posted

Gayyy

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Dylan-2965

Posted

hola

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Chloebear

Posted

Affirmations work on this principle, and they have been very effective for many people. Your perspective and how you frame experiences affects your mental state. Different approaches will work for different people, but I’ve known a number of Doms who incorporate affirmations into tasks and I think it helps with positivity.
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MissL_likes_to_play

Posted

Sex, kink, BDSM... whatever you call it can give you the serotonin/oxytocin that your body may need to make you feel happy. Just remember 1 Communication is really important. 2 Always get proper full consent (if consent is rescinded, then accept it and move on). 3 Have safe fun.
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Posted

I am not convinced that instructing people that they should think of themselves as ‘strong, brave and capable’ works in every case. Depression can feed on a perception of being unable to live up to expectations.
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ki****

Posted

Did people actually read this entire thing?
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Robhynne

Posted

❤️🙏🏼❤️

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Craig-2940

Posted

Lovely

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Bo****

Posted

I think many things can potentially lead to co-dependence. That's just one of the many lessons we're duty bound to learn rather than shy away from

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Posted

i find kink is one of the strongest forms of escapism. i use escapism a lot as a depression coping mechanism. plus, it sorta extends to masturbation.. a orgasm is a great way to boost my happy brain chemicals before i sleep. preventing me from going down a spiral of ruminating.

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ExpatBrit

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I do not know if it could combat depression, but when one takes a good caning or other intense session you feel euphoria afterwards. And I think to myself as I wince when sitting in my office chair: "I must be a strong guy to have taken such a whipping," very reassuring

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KittenKween88

Posted

I believe BDSM can help with depression, as long as the person with depression is willing to open up, express his/her emotions or lack of them freely, in a safe environment knowing there won’t be any judgments whatsoever. There are a few of us genuinely interested in getting to know someone & help in anyway one can. BDSM helps us be ourselves, no need to hide, pretend nor suppress our true self.
So yes I believe with the right person BDSM can help beat out depression as well as fight our inner demons (born from extremely negative traumatic experiences despite how deeply rooted they are), work on accepting our shortcomings without remorse or regret.

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Nikki_Hexy

Posted

For me BDSM is a way to be myself and feel accepted. For someone who struggled (and still kinda does) with gender identity issues. Most people in the vanilla world's biggest complaint is how their football team failed them when i couldnt care less.
Its okay to be a submissive sissy who dresses up to discover who they are and its encoraged to do it if i enjoy it. I was yhe first born "male" in my family and i was old enough to see how toxic my parents where with eachother so naturally they broke up after one final fight which left me feeling like i was under pressure to look after my younger brother and sister and be mommy and daddy while the real mom was at work for the weekend. I was old enough and mature enough to take the responsibility but it changes you over the years and you feel like a part of your life is missing. For me it was those late teenage years of self discovery.
To this day i still question who i am and what i am supposed to be

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Posted

Good evening people hope you’re all coping with part two of lockdown. This is very relevant to me as I have suffered long term depression caused by trauma and my inability to cope with my difficulties with communication in the real world.How many of us who enjoy fetish pleasure have been disappointed with the negative response from those outside of the scene.I’ve lost count of the recoiled look of fear in faces of people that I may have mentioned my perverse interests.Well to be honest I was bored of mundane conversations involving football and BMWs .I suppose this is why most of my pleasurable experiences are now kinky with other kinky people.For me I feel I can relax and unwind talk with out fear of rejection and that goes a long way to peace of mind.I’m not totally focused on one person as I have a nice fetish family and enjoy the time I spend with them.

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Koby

Posted

Abit dicey for me...Nurturing Dominance can easily lead to Codependence. Keep BDSM separate from Depression in this context.

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