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The Connection Between Stress And Sex Drive

25 July, 2023

Thanks to the fast-paced world we live in, stress has firmly integrated itself into our daily lives. 

Whether it be work pressure, financial struggles, relationship issues or family problems, stress follows us through every facet of life. 

While it may be a perfectly normal response to what our brains and body perceive as a threat or demand, stress brings with it all sorts of physical and emotional reactions — from panic attacks to headaches and insomnia. 

Another lesser-known reaction to stress is low libido — a reduced desire to have sex — and it turns out that there could be a bigger connection between stress and sex drive than first thought. 

In this blog post, join us as we discuss how being stressed can affect your libido and explore different ways to manage your stress and sex drive effectively.

Understanding sex drive

Sex drive, often known as libido, is a fundamental aspect of human sexuality that encompasses your desire to have sex. Your libido plays a vital role in your overall sexual wellbeing, leaving you with that sense of satisfaction you often associate with having an intimate experience.

It’s completely natural for your sex drive to fluctuate throughout your life. Numerous factors, such as your menstrual cycle, can make you want — or not want — sex more often. 

Some people can also have higher sex drives than others, so it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a “normal” libido — however much sex you do or don’t have is fine.

Sex drive is also often linked to self-confidence and body image, as well as a desire for intimacy with other people. This is why when you start noticing a decrease in your sex drive you may also note that your self-esteem has taken a hit and you don’t feel as connected to your partner. 

Since your libido is so closely connected to different aspects of your life, it’ll hardly come as a surprise to hear that it can also be massively impacted by stress. 

Thanks to modern-day societal pressures and a whole range of external factors, the stress of living in the 21st century can take a significant toll on your physical and mental wellbeing, and that includes your sex drive.  

The link between stress and sex drive

Numerous studies have shown that libido is impacted by your stress levels and not in a good way.

One study, which involved measuring the responses of women being shown an erotic film, found that women with higher stress levels were much more distracted and had lower levels of genital arousal. This was thought to be because of two key factors: first, an increased level of cortisol (the stress hormone) and, second, the psychological impact of being stressed. 

Another study found that men with higher levels of stress have much lower levels of sexual desire and satisfaction, as well as difficulty maintaining an erection. 

With so much scientific research out there supporting the connection between stress and your sex drive, it’s no wonder our stressed-out society isn’t as sexually active when it comes to bedroom activities. 

The psychological impact of stress on sex drive

Psychological stress-related issues happen to everyone and can have a significant impact on your sex drive. Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and low self-esteem are all common issues that many people live with on a daily basis. 

Anxiety can manifest itself as excessive worry or fear, overshadowing your sexual desire and preventing you from being fully engaged in sexual experiences. Performance anxiety is a big problem for a lot of people and it’s not just men who suffer from it — anyone can feel worried about not pleasing their partner in the right way or feel self-conscious about their body. 

Depression is another psychological stress-related problem normally associated with losing interest or pleasure in different daily activities, including sex. Depression not only makes you feel miserable, but it can also cause low self-esteem and motivation, leaving sexual desire to take a back seat. 

Developing a negative body image can also occur due to stress which can then have a knock-on effect on your desire and intimacy levels. Where you previously may have felt comfortable having sex, you might now find that the very idea of it terrifies you as you aren’t as happy or confident as you used to be with your body.  

The physiological impact of stress on sex drive

When you feel stressed, your body releases two key hormones — cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones activate your body’s fight or flight response, convincing your brain that it needs to either fight off a threat or flee from a perceived danger. When your body releases too many of these hormones, this can have what’s known as a physiological impact on your sex drive. 

One way this happens is that your body overcompensates for the increased demand for cortisol by using your sex hormones instead. This, in effect, causes your sex drive to plummet since your sex hormones are now being used elsewhere.

Men may find it hard to keep an erection, let alone get one when coping with stress due to decreased levels of testosterone. This can then tie into the psychological impact and create other issues, such as performance anxiety. 

When you experience stress, you could also find it difficult to have an orgasm and feel any sense of pleasure while having sex. This, coupled with the added pressure to have an orgasm, can cause you to have performance anxiety and feel even less interest in having sex with a partner.  

How to manage stress and improve libido

If you want to boost your libido, it’s crucial to manage your stress levels in the right way. Some of the best ways to do this include methods like: 

  • Practising relaxation techniques and exercises — this means trying out techniques like yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises to release any stress or tension that’s built up in your body.

  • Mindfulness — practising mindfulness can help you be more present and aware of your emotions. This can help calm your mind and let you focus on what’s really important to you.

  • Open communication — if you’re experiencing stress, speaking about it with your partner can help. Let them know about changes in your sex drive so that they don’t feel as though they’ve done something wrong.

  • Focus on the things you enjoy — it’s not easy to forget about stress, but try to do things each day that you love. Even if it’s something simple like buying your favourite coffee on the way to work or enjoying a relaxed evening with your partner, you need to show your body that it’s not in any danger, despite any stress you might be experiencing. 

Boosting your libido is possible, even when dealing with stress. By making some small and simple lifestyle changes, you can not only increase your sex drive but also improve your overall sense of well-being. Talk about a win-win. 

Some other top tips to boost your libido include: 

  • Exercise regularly — this can improve blood flow to your genitals which can boost your arousal and lower your cortisol levels.

  • Get enough sleep — being well rested helps regulate your mood, boost your sex and allow your body to recover from the day. 

  • Eat a well-balanced diet — getting the right nutrition helps your body cope with stress better and reduces its impact.

Looking after your body and showing it some love can really give your sex drive the boost it needs to restore your sexual wellbeing. 

Seeking professional help

When stress becomes chronic and unmanageable, you will need to seek professional help to help manage your stress levels and restore your sex drive. 

If stress is impacting your everyday life and you find that your libido is pretty much non-existent, talking to a professional could help you get back on track. 

There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help either. In fact, it could be transformative, providing you with all the tools and support you need to improve your health physically, emotionally and sexually.

Take our online consultation to discover how we can help you boost your sex drive and improve your sexual wellbeing.


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