Five Ways Stress Is Affecting Your Sex Life

The effects of stress are insidious. It takes a toll on your physical, emotional and relationship health, probably more than you realize. Here are five ways stress can impact your sex life.

Stress contributes to a negative body image
Bad body image = bad sex. The hormones produced in association with stress can impact our metabolism. If we feel sluggish or if we gain weight (unintentionally), it can make us feel badly about our physiques.

If we don't like our bodies, it is pretty difficult to find the desire to shed your clothes and jump into bed with your partner.

Now, I am not suggesting that you should just get it over with, but it's a vicious cycle. Lower self-image equals less sex and less sex creates relationship problems. Ideally, our relationship should enhance who we are, not make us feel more stressed. And one of the biggest stressors we can have is our relationship, if we don't take the time to nurture it.

Stress takes a toll on our libido
By now, we know that hormones affect our bodies in numerous ways from childhood to adolescence, pregnancy, menopause and beyond. Cortisol is one of the hormones produced by stress, and you might have heard of it if you've ever seen those late night diet pill commercials with the image of the pixelated woman gaining weight in her abdomen.

Our bodies need this hormone, but in small doses for short bursts of time. If elevated levels of Cortisol are being produced for a prolonged period of time, they suppress our sex hormones. Lower quantity of sex hormones equals lower libido.

Stress makes us question our relationships and our partners
As I mentioned earlier, when we are stressed, we are not that pleasant to be around -- and vice versa. You don't want a partner who flies off the handle and snaps at you because he or she is overwhelmed. And you don't want to be the one who incites those feelings of frustration in someone that you love. Who wants to go to bed with an emotional monster?

Relationships suffer when we are stressed, especially if we stop communicating. Or if our communication consists of rolling our eyes and grunting at a loved one.

Stress can lead to excessive drinking and excessive drinking makes for bad sex
It's not a surprise that lots of people use alcohol to escape. I, like many women I know, have been known to long for happy hour. But this isn't about a glass of wine, a bottle of beer or a drink with one of those smile-inducing hot pink umbrellas in them. This is about excessive, prolonged drinking.

More than one or two drinks a day. (And we can even debate whether that is too much.) This is the type of drinking that you probably hide from friends. It may be the type of drinking that begins long before happy hour does and goes on far later. Or it may just be one drink beyond that early, feel-good buzz.

We know that men have difficulty getting an erection when they drink too much. But what about us? As it turns out, alcohol can dull sex, making it less pleasurable. Alcohol dehydrates us, making lubrication challenging. Without lubrication, sex is painful. Without lubrication and sufficient arousal, we can kiss the idea of orgasm (or pleasure in general) goodbye. After a number of pleasure-less or mildly painful sexual experiences, we are not going to want it. Would you?

Stress impacts our fertility and our menstrual cycle
When we are stressed, our hormones levels take a dive. Maybe you're thinking, if you're not having sex, you're probably not getting pregnant. You're right, but there's more to this.

Stress can impact our pituitary gland, which controls the thyroid, adrenal glands and ovaries. If our ovaries aren't functioning properly, your menstrual cycle is adversely affected. Our periods may become irregular or we may stop menstruating. This is called amenorrhea and if stress-related, not a permanent condition.

If you are trying to get pregnant, you need to decrease your stress. Which (as I know) can be difficult, because there are few things more stressful than trying to become pregnant and not being able to do so.

So it's time to make some changes
Exercise, relax, take a bath, drink one glass of wine (not four), masturbate, make out with your partner and delegate some responsibilities to others. It will make your life a lot less stressful and hopefully, a lot more enjoyable.

About The Author

Logan levkoff2
Dr. Logan Levkoff
A recognized expert on sexuality and relationships, Dr. Logan Levkoff frequently appears on television including Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Rachael Ray Show, Oprah, Fox News Channel, and CNN. For over a decade Logan has been teaching groups of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds. Logan is the author of How to Get Your Wife to Have Sex With You and Third Base Ain’t What it Used to Be. Find out more on, follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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