Sex and stress are linked in several ways. Most of us know this already and feel it unmistakably when an incredibly stressful week zaps us off our sex drive. But while stress can cause low libido, sex can also be a great stress reliever. Sex is a terrific way to release built-up tension.
Does sex relieve stress?
In an Arizona State University study of 58 middle-aged women, researchers found that sex and physical intimacy led women to feel less stressed and be in a better mood the next day. It is also noteworthy that these results weren’t the same when women had orgasms without a partner.
The study found that being in a good mood predicted more physical affection and sexual activity with a partner the next day. This shows that sex-stress management connection works both ways:
- Sex can lead you to feel less stressed.
- Being less stressed (or being in a good mood) can lead to more sex.
The above-suggested points are further proof of the importance of effective stress management.
Health and Orgasm
Orgasm, in itself, has many benefits for health and stress relief. It can relax your body and release many hormones that are supportive of your overall health and wellness. This type of relaxation can be great emotionally, as well. Aside from these scientific findings, sex has some prominent stress management components. In addition to effectively taking your mind off of your worries, sex provides other stress management benefits.
Studies have also shown that the innate sense of touch can also be a great stress reliever. Activities like:-
- Getting a massage can be a great way to relieve anxieties.
- Sex is another activity that ticks this box with intimate touching and caressing. There have also been studies that have shown that massage is a great stress reliever. People need to touch for emotional health.
- Studies have also shown that babies who are not touched enough fail to thrive, and this can hinder their development. In adults, touch can inspire positive thinking and build trust.
The science behind sex and stress
Whenever a man becomes aroused, nerve impulses cause blood vessels in the penis to dilate, allowing a steady flow of blood into the spongy tissue. At the same time, a circular muscle called a sphincter constricts to prevent blood from flowing back. During stress, blood vessels don’t dilate fully, and the sphincter fails to tighten, both contributing to erectile dysfunction.
As with any stress response, a variety of hormones are affected. Endorphins, which block pain during stress, also block the release of LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone). In turn, a decrease in LHRH causes a drop in LH (luteinizing hormone), an essential hormone in testosterone production. FSH, which stimulates sperm formation, also declines. To make matters worse, cortisol, the primary stress hormone, causes the testes less responsive to LH. ‘
As with men, women’s hormone levels are significantly affected in response to stress. Endorphins inhibit LHRH, which causes lowered LH levels. In females, LH triggers ovulation. Cortisol also blocks the anterior pituitary from releasing proper levels of LH. FSH, prolactin, estrogen, and progesterone. The net effect in females is not only an irregular ovulatory cycle but an environment in which fertilization and implantation of the egg into the uterine wall is more complicated.
Both men and women produce FSH, LH, testosterone, and estrogen, although in different amounts. When we feel stress, our body shuts down sex mechanisms so that we’re better able to deal with more urgent and immediate needs. This change, called the stress shift in hormone production, helps us respond to life-threatening situations by focusing on hormone production for survival rather than procreation. The shift in hormones not only lowers sex drive, but can interfere with ovulation, sperm count, and fertility.
In many cases, merely recognizing stress as a contributing factor or the cause of sexual problems is enough to bring about recovery. Ignoring the problem and not taking steps to eliminate it can lead to anger, emotional disorders, depression, physical illness, and permanent loss of intimacy. There are several things that you can do to make yourself feel better:
- Exercise regularly
- Take supplements to boost energy and libido
- Use stress relievers
- Get enough sleep
- Consult a physician