The Playground team is elated to introduce Dr. Teralyn Sell, the latest guest member of our Sex & Wellness Council. Dr. Teralyn is a Ph.D.-wielding renegade who also has National Board Certification in Counseling and a license to practice psychotherapy to champion emotional fortitude and resilience through the holistic mental health revolution. With her transformative touch, she's revitalized the lives of countless women, igniting a contagious spark of joy and vibrancy.
We sat down with this audacious expert to learn about her experience and understand the power of her work.
It goes without saying that you are a trusted and well-known source of information for holistic mental health and wellness. Can you tell us a little about how you came to do what you do? Especially championing women’s holistic mental health?
Dr. Teralyn: "After almost three decades as a therapist, it was clear to me that many themes arose, and most of those had to do with the reliance on psychiatric medications to fill all the gaps of mental well-being and mental health. I couldn't help but get extremely curious about why more medications were prescribed and, at the same time, mental health issues were also on the rise, it gives me pause, actually. I soon learned that often people suffered more, and definitely more than they needed to, when they were over-prescribed or stacking mental health medications one after the other after the other. What I know now is that we are whole humans, and our mental health requires a holistic approach to our own healing. This is something very nuanced and often not discussed especially in a society that is looking for a quick fix to solve all of her mental health issues. So it became essential for me to understand holistic Alternatives from nutrition to amino acid therapy and proper supplementation as well as holistic living like better sleep, moving more, and learning how to meditate. To address these problems more holistically, I went back to nutrition school first, and then I began to study the brain and amino acid therapy and how that can influence mental health, I also went back and studied functional medicine for psychology, and these three things literally change the way I practice forever. Once these things are in place, people feel so much better. It was profound to me to begin to understand all the nuances around holistic living when it comes to better mental health, and this is particularly true with women who also struggle with hormonal fluctuations, stress overload, and have more mental health issues that are identified than their male counterparts."
So many of your clients and audiences come to you with concerns about intimacy. What are some of the most common questions and themes that you’re seeing?
Dr. Teralyn: "Some common themes that I see when it comes to women and intimacy are hormonal changes, stress and psychiatric medication use. As we all know men and women have hormonal fluctuations throughout the course of their life. Particularly, women have extreme hormonal fluctuations from the time that they have their menstrual cycles to pregnancy to perimenopause and menopause. Unfortunately, these hormonal fluctuations can literally sap your sex drive. So intimacy is an area with women who suffer significantly and has been normalized as it's okay to suffer. It's okay to not be sexual or explore your sexual well-being. I just don't believe that to be true. One of the problems that I see when it comes to hormonal fluctuations is the answer in traditional Western medicine is typically not to address it from a hormonal level but to address it from a psychiatric level. So this is just another area where Women's Health becomes lumped into mental health and one of the reasons why women are prescribed more and more psychiatric medications to solve hormonal problems.
Stress is another area of concern for women because it also takes away a lot of intimate connections between Partnerships. Stress is kind of like a Snowball Effect. When you have a high stress load your hormones will literally steal from Peter to pay Paul. So when you're stress load is high your sexual hormones will begin to deplete and when that starts happening you're neurotransmitters will also begin to deplete. So starting at the top of the hill if you will by addressing overall stress load. This is paramount to keeping hormones and neurotransmitters and thyroid Health All In balance.
I really don't mince words when it comes down to the use of psychiatric medications. It is such a double-edged sword because people are looking for relief from mental health symptoms but on the other side of that relief are debilitating side effects. The use of psychiatric medications especially SSRIs and SNRIs, often bring about negative sexual side effects impacting not only your libido and desire but also your sexual function. Most notably, the lack of sexual desire at all and inability to orgasm and orgasmia or in men, inability to have or sustain erections is huge when it comes to the use of psychiatric medications. It's a tough one because striking that balance between mental well-being and sexual satisfaction means you have to have lots of open discussions with your Healthcare Providers and maybe look to holistic help before you look to medication which is something that we are not very adept at doing right now. We look to medication to solve most things. So there is this nuanced interplay of hormonal changes, stressors and medication use which we need to have these open conversations to empower women and their Partners to approach intimacy with a comprehensive perspective and embrace the intricacies of women's health."
What are some common misconceptions about women’s sexual health (both physical and mental) as we grow older?
Dr. Teralyn: "As a woman who has reached menopause this is a very interesting question because we are basically told through media and other venues that we are becoming irrelevant and that irrelevancy also impacts our sexual well-being. So what we've been told as women is that we need to be medicated, and we don't need sex. I don't know how many times I hear people say that sex is basically for a man. I would love to work on debunking that myth sooner rather than later. It's interesting because as I talked about before, hormonal health plays such a huge role in women's sexual well-being basically when your hormones are dipped so low, especially testosterone, it makes it so that you don't even think about your sex drive, which is why men who have obviously more testosterone than women throughout their lifetime, even though it can fall when they get older, men are still thinking about sex. In society we've looked at that as a manipulation or a man having desire and expressing that desire as a selfish behavior, especially when his female partner is not even thinking about sex. I think that's a huge misconception about women's sexual health that as we grow older that sex doesn't need to be a part of our life. And I look at the pleasure filled woman's sexuality as a massive part of our pleasure as we grow older. So if I had anything to do with it I would definitely change the narrative around women's intimacy, pleasure, and sexual well-being."
We can’t wait to dive in and learn with you. What are you most excited about when it comes to joining forces with Playground?
Dr. Teralyn: "I am most excited about changing the narrative when it comes to older women in particular and their sexual well-being. I think I'm probably the oldest person on the playground Advisory Board and I feel like that positions me greatly to share some different Insights when it comes to the older or aging woman and her needs sexually. So I am grateful that playground decided to include someone who is a little bit older and probably has been through or listens to hundreds of women and the impact of their lives and on their sexual health. I have also listened to hundreds of women talk about suffering in their relationships and suffering with their sex drive so I think partnering with playground is a really cool opportunity for me to give a voice to the different stages of a woman's sexual well-being because not only have I worked with women in different stages I am that woman."