The Link Between Sex Work And Mental Health

Usually when people talk about sex work and health they focus specifically on sexual health. It becomes their primary focus, and this means that people can forget other important areas of health that we should be thinking about. One of those areas is mental health.

Beautiful young woman. Professional make-up and hairstyle. Perfect skin. Fashion photo.

We are constantly being encouraged to talk about it, with many different charities and support groups around the world for those who need someone to talk to. Sex work is like any other job, but often people don’t see it that way. The stigma surrounding sex work and the stigma around mental health means that some simply can’t talk about it.

So what is the link between mental health and sex work, and what can you do to ensure that you are looking after your health mentally as well as physically?

It’s a high stress job

Sex work is a job like any other. You are providing a service, one that not everyone can provide, and so you should be able to enjoy your job. As a sex worker you get a lot of choice. You get to choose your own working hours, and which clients you will see. You might have a small number of regulars you love to spend time with, or you might be happy meeting new people through your work. However, just because you enjoy your job doesn’t mean that it is without stress.

Most people experience stress at work, but there are some jobs that rank as bringing on higher stress levels than others. According to Career Cast, jobs involving lots of travel, competition, deadlines, physical demands, hazards, and working in the public eye tend to rank as more stressful than others.

Sex work ticks a lot of these boxes. Escorts who go on outcalls will do a lot of travelling to get to the location, and any who meet up with clients on dinner dates will too. While a large number of escorts will only do incalls, this doesn’t mean that their job isn’t still stressful.

There is a great deal of competition between escorts. At the time of writing, there are over 700 escorts advertising on the Escort Ireland directory. Standing out can be difficult, and working in the public eye is also a real challenge. Many escorts choose to hide their faces so that they have a clear separation between their private life and their work life, but some are still concerned that they might be recognised.

Meeting the demands of clients is another thing sex workers deal with. Clients have a variety of interests, and helping them to explore these interests means that escorts need to not only have a lot of knowledge, but also a lot of equipment to hand to help them. Dominatrixes make the perfect companions for those interested in learning more about BDSM, while erotic masseuses can help their clients unwind with a sensual massage. This means that sex workers need a lot of expertise and equipment to help them provide the best service possible to their clients… which is another stress factor.

Suicide Girl Roo Morgue created a video to highlight just how difficult it can be for those in the adult industry who have mental illnesses, especially with the stigmas attached to both.

Talking about mental health

There is a great amount of stigma surrounding the subject. There are plenty of people out there who have come forward to state that mental illness is a myth. There are also those who believe that illnesses like depression and anxiety aren’t big issues and that people should just “snap out of it”.

If dealing with mental illness was that simple, it wouldn’t be the big issue that it is. It isn’t as simple as “getting over it”, especially not when one in four people will have experience with mental illness at some point in their lives.

Despite how many people will struggle with it, it still isn’t talked about enough. And for sex workers it is an even bigger challenge. They have to try to combat the stigma of both mental illness and sex work, and so finding information on the number of sex workers dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses is tough.

How sex workers deal with mental illness

Knowing that you aren’t alone in the fight against mental illness is a huge comfort for many. While you might not feel able to talk to certain people in your life about it, you’ll know how supportive your fellow escorts are. You’ll find that there is always another escort out there willing to listen because they know what it is like.

But how do you know if you are struggling? The sex workers’ outreach project have a helpful list of things that could help you to spot the early signs of mental illness:

• feeling disillusioned about work and life in general
• adopting a sarcastic and cynical attitude towards work and clients
• not turning up for shifts, switching your phone off or being rude to clients who call
• feeling restless and frustrated, perhaps tearfuland irritable
• projecting negative feelings ontoothers
• finding it increasingly difficult to see the positive aspects of work (when even the money doesn’t make you feel better)
• feeling physically sick at the thought of seeing a client
• miserable for the whole day if you know you are working that night
• no longer making an effort to look good

If you ignore the signs it can lead to a burnout, but there are plenty of different things you can do to help cope with these struggles. It is important to maintain a work/life balance, as taking regular breaks will prevent you from working too hard and becoming exhausted.

The beauty of sex work is that you get to choose your own working hours and clients. If you decide not to work one day because you have decided you deserve a break, you can. This ability to take time for yourself as and when you need it will really help you to cope with a lot of the daily stresses you face, though you might find that it is still not quite enough. You might find that you love your job but find it difficult to find the energy to put in the same levels of service and care that you usually do.

If you are feeling particularly stressed by work there are things you can do to help. Treating yourself to a massage is going to be a great start to helping improve your mood, as can talking to other sex workers about what is going on in your life.

Sometimes, you will need to seek other help. What you might be thinking of as simply a burn out might actually be anxiety or depression, and this is why speaking to your doctor is a good idea. Talking to your doctor about mental illness can seem like a terrifying experience but they are there to help. If you are still struggling to talk about it, consider contacting the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland. They have plenty of useful links and might be able to point you in the right direction for support.

Got some tips you want to share with others? Maybe you want to have your say on mental illness? You can use the comment box below to share your tips and join in the discussion. You can even vote in the poll below to tell us whether you think talking about mental health is difficult.

Lara Mills
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Lara Mills

Lara Mills is a writer who has four years of sex industry expertise behind her. Since she entered the adult industry, she has worked on the Escort Advertising forums, before moving into her current role three years ago.

Since then she has gained a fine reputation with her blogs on sex advice, sexual health and amusing news stories from around the globe. She is also a campaigner for the rights of sex workers from all over the world.

In her spare time, Lara keeps herself active by going running, and is something of a film buff. She also loves to go travelling.
Lara Mills
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