Sex and Stress: What’s the Connection?

Sex and Stress: What’s the Connection?


By Dr. S.S Jawahar, Sexology

Sex and stress is definitely a bad combination. It is common that stress has a negative impact on a person’s sex life.

Stress can greatly affect men’s and women’s desire for sex. Too much stress often saps away a person’s libido, by affecting hormones and mood, and by interfering with the quality time that helps a couple stay connected. Inversely, a person’s stress levels can be alleviated by sex. Some ways in which stress can affect your sex life are listed below:

  1. Negative Effect on Libido: Stress results in the production of a hormone known as ‘cortisol’ and this hormone is required by the body in small doses and over short intervals of time. Increased stress leads to increased secretion of ‘cortisol’. This leads to the suppression of sex hormones and subsequently, lowered libido.
  2. Negative Body Image: The body’s metabolism is capable of being affected by the hormones associated with stress. If a person gains weight or feels sluggish, it makes them feel bad about their body, which in turn hinders his/her desire to initiate sex. Relationship problems are caused due to a lower self-image, which also leads to lesser sex.
  3. Excessive Drinking: It is commonly known that people tend to relieve stress by drinking. However, excess alcohol in your system can make it rather difficult for you to achieve or maintain an erection, also might lead to Erectile Dysfunction in the long run. In women, excess alcohol might cause dehydration, resulting in reduced lubrication. These problems lead to dull sex.
  4. Impact on Fertility and Menstrual Cycle: In women, the pituitary gland which is responsible for the secretion of thyroid, along with the ovaries and adrenal glands are all affected due to increased levels of stress. The menstrual cycle is adversely affected by the improper functioning of the ovaries. Owing to this, periods might become irregular. Therefore, stress can be a dampener if you are trying to get pregnant.

Sexual problems can be one of the greatest sources of stress a couple experiences. Becoming impotent or frigid can lead to depression or severe anxiety and cause illnesses that develop into more serious problems. There’s no doubt that many good marriages have broken up because couples didn’t realize the extent to which stress can affect sex.

During those times in our lives when day-to-day stress makes sex the last thing on our plates, we need to keep three things in mind:

  1. Expectation sometimes leads to failure,
  2. Failure can be overcome with understanding and compassion,
  3. Understanding and compassion lead to better communication and a deeper awareness of your partner’s needs.

Once we get to that point, we will be well on our way to eliminating the sexual problems that are commonly driven by stress reactions and experience the joy and satisfaction of finally knowing that sex is often a matter of our mind deciding what our body will do.