Sex and Stress

Updated on December 24, 2022

By Jane Silverstein

Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable part of our everyday life. We have work to do, errands to run, emails to respond to, etc. Every single person experiences varying levels of stress every single day. And while stress is unfortunately unavoidable, it’s also more harmful than you think. Stress can affect everything from your health, your sleep and even your sex life. In this article, we’ll further explore the latter: How stress can affect your sex life. 

First of all, what is stress? Stress is a reaction your brain and body have to a situation that requires a heightened response. This is sometimes known as the flight or fight response. Imagine you are cornered by a wild animal, in that instance, your brain will trigger the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) to release the neurotransmitters adrenaline (norepinephrine) and cortisol. When these neurotransmitters are released, they increase heart rate, reaction time and other responses to help you best survive this situation. In our example, the stress will allow you to run faster than normal or be stronger than you otherwise would be. This is why you hear stories of people lifting car doors or other feats of strength after a car accident. And while this is all fine and good while you are being chased by a dog, stress is not the best for your health and your sex life. 

Prolonged or regular stress can cause headaches, mood changes, worsened sleep, and heart damage. Like we said earlier, stress can be helpful in short term situations, but prolonged stress can add up and take a toll on your health. 

Too Stressed for Sex

As we said above, stress can affect your sex life. Think about it, when your brain is flooded with neurotransmitters that trigger “fight or flight,” the last thing on your mind will be sex. Who can think of sex while their being chased by a dog? This is why, people who are experiencing regular stress have reported a significant drop in their sex drive. 

Prolonged stress has also been linked to increased erectile dysfunction in men. This is because prolonged stress can cause a man’s levels of testosterone to drop which can lead to erectile dysfunction. 

For women, stress can affect their menstrual cycles leading to more irregular and heavier periods. Stress can also magnify symptoms of menopause. 

What to do about stress?

Well, there is no one answer on how to cure stress. However, you may want to identify the source of your stress. Is it a bad situation at work, past trauma, or an unhealthy relationship? You may want to seek counseling with a therapist or seek out a lifestyle change. Try to figure out why you are stressed and explore remedies for that. Eating a healthy diet that reduces processed food and sugar, getting enough sleep (at least 7 hours a night) and regular exercise have all been found to reduce stress levels.

As for the sex that was affected by stress. Fortunately, this symptom and others are reversible. When you are ready for sex again, you may want to start slow. Research has shown that sex and intimacy actually reduce stress.  If you are experiencing vaginal discomfort that is affecting your stress level please check with a health care profession. They may recommend using a vaginal dilator and lubricant if you struggling with penetration. They may also recommend seeing a sex therapist and/ or a pelvic floor physical therapist. 

Stress affects all of us, just know that you are not alone when you are feeling stressed .

Jane Silverstein is the owner of Soul Source Therapeutic Devices located in Los Angeles. She is committed to women’s health issues and to helping women worldwide regain and/ or maintain their sexual health. She is passionate about helping others and has always been involved in a multitude of charitable causes.

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