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HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR SEX LIFE AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR SEX LIFE AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR SEX LIFE AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Stress is not good for one’s mental health and physical well-being. Herein is how stress affects people’s sex lives and how to deal with it by considering therapy, practicing self-care, and talking about it. 

Stress, especially chronic stress, can wreak havoc on a person's system. It can weaken your immune system by predisposing your body to diseases like cancer in severe cases. When undergoing stress, your body goes through a series of changes. While in this state, most people may lack the desire to engage in sexual activities. Read below to learn how to handle stress to prevent it from affecting your sex life.

Defining Stress

Stress is defined as any mental, physical, or emotional reaction of the body that needs a response to maintain normal function. Stress is mostly a short-term mental state caused by the day-to-day struggles of life. It may cause your libido to spike or dip. However, Phillips & Slaughter (2000) suggested that people are undergoing extreme levels of stress experience a decrease in sex drive. 

How Does Stress Affect Sex Drive?

From a Mental Perspective, Your Sex Drive May Spike Because;

When undergoing stress, your body craves the feelings of safety brought about by physical intimacy. Stress can make you question whether it is right to engage in any form of physical intimacy. This state of mind can make you crave sex and intimacy. You may be more open to getting a quick distraction with your partner at home to disrupt the train of thoughts constantly forming in your head.

For this reason, you may feel like your sex drive has increased.  You may find yourself forging an intimate connection with your partner to keep your thoughts in check. Doing this also comes with an increased sex drive. 

From a Mental Perspective, Your Sex Drive May Dip Because;

Stress brings an unsettling feeling. You may find it hard to focus on simple tasks or, worse, not be able to perform them at all. Trying to silence the thoughts in your head is the hardest part of stress because it is impossible, so you try to get through each day with the thoughts swimming in your head from morning till sunset. For this reason, you may not want to engage in sexual activity and, worse, any activity for that matter.

From a Biological Perspective

When faced with sudden fright, the body responds immediately to cope with the threat. This immediate response is due to the brain and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The response comes with a faster heartbeat and deeper breathing in most cases. Your body may also inhibit functions that are not needed to cope with the threat, like getting an erection and digestion. Once the threat has been dealt with, your body returns to default. However, if the threat persists, the body releases hormones to help you cope. According to Binsiya et al. (2017), the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is released to help the body fight stress. When the HPA axis is released, the primary stress hormone, cortisol, increases. In turn, cortisol inhibits the immune system and raises blood pressure and sugar levels in the body. In men, cortisol suppresses testosterone,  the main sex hormone that results in low libido and low erections.

How to Cope with Affecting Your Sex Drive?

Practice Self-Care

Good sex cannot feel great if you do not feel good about yourself. Maintaining optimum levels of self-care can boost your sex drive. Self-care involves getting enough sleep, making time for your mental health, eating good food, and practicing stress management skills. Ditching harmful habits can also improve your sexual desire. Taking care of yourself will result in you feeling good about yourself and your body and, in the long run, may also boost your partner's affection towards you.

Consider Therapy

Seaward (2017) advised that for individual therapy or couples therapy for those dealing with stress. Individual therapy, also known as cognitive behavioral therapy, helps one understand that it is not only people’s thoughts that cause stress but also how they think about these stressors. If you go for individual therapy, your therapist will help you define the cause of your stress and how to manage it so that it does not affect your sex life. In couples therapy, you and your spouse will have to attend joint sessions spearheaded by a therapist who will help you practice open communication. This will help strengthen your relationship in the long run.

Focus on Sensation, Not Sex

Touch is the universal language of intimacy and the primary stress reliever. Touch does not have to include sex. Try to foster a culture of physical intimacy with your partner. Hold hands, make time to cuddle, give warm hugs throughout the day, and try a massage to explore each other’s bodies. Dewitte & Mayer (2018) noted that physical intimacy would increase your desire for sex and may drive you both to extreme levels of pleasure.

Talk About It

It is important to talk about your stress to your partner. Approach the topic with caution to avoid blaming your partner or yourself. Be honest and tell them what you feel without feeling as though you are being judged. Matters concerning sex drive require a calm mind, not when you are from work or a steamy session, and your mind is distracted.

The Bottom Line

Remember that dips in sex drive are normal, and no one should bash you. However, it is important to identify the cause of your plummeting libido to deal with it at the onset. Stress is a causative factor in low sex drive. You should seek help from a therapist or confide in your partner so that you may brainstorm the possible remedies. As outlined in this article, stress is caused by several biological and mental reasons. The only way you can get the remedy you deserve is by finding out what is causing your stress.

References

Binsiya, T. K., Sejian, V., Bagath, M., Krishnan, G., Hyder, I., Manimaran, A., ... & Bhatta, R. (2017). Significance of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to adapt to climate change in livestock. Int Res J Agri Food Sci, 2(1), 1-20.

Dewitte, M., & Mayer, A. (2018). Exploring the link between daily relationship quality, sexual desire, and sexual activity in couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(6), 1675-1686.

Phillips Jr, R. L., & Slaughter, J. R. (2000). Depression and sexual desire. American Family Physician, 62(4), 782-786.

Seaward, B. L. (2017). Managing stress. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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