As a Healthline article notes, sex and mental health are connected, with increased sexual activity associated with mental health satisfaction. When things are working well, sex can be a great stress buster, producing body chemicals that make us feel relaxed and happy. It can strengthen relationships, which can add to our emotional stability and contentment. But what about the impacts of stress on sex drive?
On the other hand, too much stress can kill desire. This can strain relationships and cause even more stress, creating a vicious cycle.
The Hormone Stress Shift
Stress affects our sex drive because when we’re stressed, our bodies go into emergency mode. Emergency mode gets us ready to fight or flee the perceived danger we’re facing. Functions that aren’t immediately needed to reach that goal, such as digestion and reproduction, get turned down.
A Psychology Today article notes that the stress and sex drive connection is based partly on the rise and fall of hormones. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce cortisol and other stress-related chemicals instead of the sex hormones associated with desire. The shift lowers libido and can affect fertility-related issues like ovulation and sperm count.
Hormones associated with desire include testosterone, oxytocin, vasopressin, and, in women, estrogen and progesterone. It appears that testosterone may be one of the most important players in both women and men. It’s produced in the sex organs but also by the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands produce important body chemicals that help with all sorts of things. This includes blood pressure, the immune system, and the stress response. When they’re busy producing chemicals to help you deal with stress, they produce less of the others.
Dealing with Stress and Sex Drive
Here are some ways to address the impact that stress is having on your sex drive:
- Talk about it. If your partner doesn’t understand what’s going on, it’s easy for them to come up with all sorts of alternative reasons for your lack of interest. They’re likely to feel rejected and to react with anger or emotional distance.
- As much as possible, address the circumstances causing you stress. Are there any changes you can make in your work life? Do you need to cut back on some of your volunteer responsibilities? Maybe you need to get a babysitter more often or hire someone to clean your house so you can have some time free. Your mental diet is important. It might be wise to cut down on the time you spend watching the news. Substitute it by watching a good sitcom or listening to relaxing music instead.
- Make an attempt to turn down your stress response. Mindfulness meditation is one very effective way to do that. Scientific American reports that after eight weeks of practice, scans of the brains of people doing mindfulness meditation show that the amygdala shrinks. That’s the part of the brain most involved with setting off our response to stress.
- Give yourself a professional mental health tune-up. Unfortunately, even though mental health treatment can be a great help when you’re experiencing stress, stress can keep you from reaching out for it. An article in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences, says that stress is associated with both poorer mental health status and fewer help-seeking behaviors.
Why not get help at a South Florida mental health treatment center like Five Palms? Give us a call at 1.844.675.1022, and let us help you get back on track.