Sex. It’s not just about intimacy. It’s not even only about pleasure. It’s also about your mental wellbeing. In fact, sex and your mental health are inextricably interlinked. A healthy sex life is one of the most important precursors to a healthy emotional and psychological life.
Unfortunately, however, mental health challenges, particularly those relating to stress, anxiety, and depression, can wreak havoc on your sex life. The result is a vicious cycle in which one loss, whether of sexual or mental wellness, reinforces the loss of the other.
The good news, though, is that there are steps you can take to support both your mental and sexual health.
Recognizing The Connections Between Sex And Your Mental Health
We don’t often think of sex as being tied to our mental well-being. Of course, sex is a physiological need and, for many of us, a reproductive imperative. It’s also, for many, a profound source of emotional fulfilment, a means of intimacy and closeness with the one we love most.
However, sex can also deeply impact psychological health. When you have sex, you experience a flood of mood-boosting hormones, from oxytocin to endorphins. These not only help foster a sense of connection with your partner, but they also facilitate feelings of well-being and calm.
In the process, these feel-good chemicals help to calm the body’s stress responses, including reducing cortisol levels. When you’re facing pressure at work or home and your anxiety levels are through the stratosphere, an exciting evening with your partner can help you find the calm you need amid life’s storms.
A Vicious Cycle
While it’s true that sex can help relieve stress and anxiety and boost your mood, there’s a problem. When you’re under stress, your libido is often one of the first things to go. As we’ve seen, when you’re under stress, your cortisol levels surge, triggering the body’s fight or flight responses.
Evolution did not build us to feel exactly amorous when the body perceives itself to be under threat. When triggered by stress, our bodies want us to run, hide, or throw down — not break out the Cristal and turn up the Marvin Gaye.
That means that you or your partner may lose interest in sex or you may be physically unable to engage in sexual activity. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges often contribute to or cause arousal dysfunction in both men and women. That, in turn, can deprive you of one of the most important pillars of mental health.
What’s To Be Done?
To be sure, talking about sex with your healthcare provider isn’t always comfortable, but it’s essential if you want to regain the healthy and fulfilling life you deserve. The key is to be open, transparent, and prepared.
Before you consult with your care provider, do your homework. Keep track of your physical, emotional, and mental health, as well as your sexual activity. This can help you and your physician to detect important patterns that may be impacting your sexual health. For example, you may learn through your health tracking that your libido declines as your workdays lengthen. Conversely, you may discover that your partner has been experiencing erectile dysfunction since being laid off from his job.
Armed with insight into the factors that are impacting your emotional, mental, and sexual health, you, your partner, and your care provider will better understand how to get you and your loved one back on track.
Sex isn’t just a pleasurable activity to share with the one you love. It’s also a cornerstone of mental health. When your mental health suffers, your sexual health is likely to be compromised as well. Likewise, when your sex life declines, so too does your mental well-being. The good news, though, is that there are steps you can take to get yourself and your loved one feeling happy, healthy, and fulfilled once again!