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How stress affects sex drive — and what to do about it!

Reviewed by Dr. Sharon Stills, NMD

If you’ve ever wondered, “Does stress decrease libido?” then you can have this definitive answer: Yes. Women who live with lots of stress — at least half of us — often find themselves unable to even think about sex.

woman on her bed

Table of contents

  1. How stress affects your sex drive
  2. 3 tips for how to get your sex life back

Unfortunately, stress and sex drive tend to cancel each other out. You know from past experience that having sex puts you in a state of relaxation; when stress gets the upper hand, it puts that “afterglow” out of your reach. Under heavy stress, your body activates your adrenal fight-or-flight mechanism. Your system goes into survival mode and your body’s most important jobs — blood flow and heart rate — are prioritized over sex and all other functions.

If the stress only lasts a short while, your body will recover its mojo — but if it keeps going, everything related to sex goes on the back burner, including libido, vaginal lubrication, and even happiness. You may know your stress is mental and emotional, but your body doesn’t — as far as your body is concerned, it’s a threat to life and limb.

Having sex — and wanting to have sex — are important to your health and happiness. Yes, stress turns off your sex drive, but we can show you how to switch it back on.

How Stress Affects Your Sex Drive

Under normal conditions, our sex lives are driven by our hormones. Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone naturally raise or lower libido and sexual pleasure depending on our monthly cycles. But when you’re stressed all the time, the adrenal hormone cortisol suppresses sex hormones, which kills your libido. And having low sex drive causes more stress!

  • Too much cortisol also decreases testosterone, the main hormone that makes you want to have sex and leads to heightened sexual pleasure. High cortisol even affects DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), the “mother” hormone for estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen and progesterone also drop naturally in menopause.
  • High cortisol also leads to other symptoms that get in the way of sex drive, like new weight gain, intense cravings, extreme fatigue and insomnia. Despite all these cortisol-related effects on your hormones, you can restore your sex life and enjoy the stress-releasing, mood-boosting, pain-relieving fun that good sex delivers.

how stress lowers libido

3 tips for how to get your sex life back

If your stress seems unrelenting, turn your attention first to your adrenal function. Then focus on ways to allow your body, and mind, to become more receptive to sexual arousal. Your libido may seem nonexistent right now, but following this approach will allow it to grow a little more every day.

Contain cortisol to free up your sex hormones

If your stress is high and stays that way indefinitely, cortisol production turns into a runaway train that can’t stop on its own. Specific plant chemicals like l-theanine and phosphatidylserine, both used in our Serinisol supplement, can calm the adrenals and shift your body away from heavy cortisol production and more toward DHEA to unleash the natural sex hormone cascade. This helps restore your natural cortisol curve and normalize hormone levels so your body can relax. Chronic stress also leaves you feeling tapped out, so seek out this blend of herbs in our Adaptisol supplement for energy: Siberian ginseng and rhodiola to relieve fatigue and boost energy, and astragalus root to help fend off the effects of stress. Work toward a long-term stress solution to naturally lower cortisol by taking a good look at your lifestyle today. Can you create more time for yourself? Learn to meditate? Even remembering to take deep breaths every so often can help. It’s amazing, but even small shifts in behavior can help you learn how to prevent stress from infecting your sex life in the future.

Add sex toys and lubrication to your nightstand

When stress blocks libido, make the idea of sex fun again by shopping for bedroom toys and lubrication. If you’ve never used them before, vibrators and dildos, and a million and one other options for stimulation, can quickly turn on sex drive. Lubes help restart the arousal process by adding a charge to the sensation of touching yourself or being touched sexually by a partner. When you add sex toys and lubes to your life, you instantly put yourself back in action to explore self-stimulation on your own, or with a partner. Enjoy a nice tingle to the arousal process by taking a natural libido enhancer that affects blood flow and sensation in the vaginal area.

Eat stress-relieving, aphrodisiac foods

There are great foods that do double duty by reducing stress and stoking libido. While the active ingredients in foods that help with adrenal stress and sex drive are in small amounts, the benefits of little dietary shifts add up quickly. Eating consistent meals and snacks is important when you’re rebuilding adrenal health, so don’t let yourself get too hungry.

  • Protein: get about 50 grams a day and choose fish when you can. Eating fish is linked to having more sex, and fatty fish, like salmon, have lots of omega-3s that help regulate adrenal hormones. Oysters are famous sex foods because they’re loaded with zinc, a necessary ingredient for testosterone. Eggs are a good source of sex-friendly nutrients too, and so are nuts and seeds.
  • Vegetables: eat asparagus — it’s got the right kind of B vitamins to boost arousal and orgasm while relieving stress and anxiety. Enjoy avocados for the same reasons. Celery contains pheromones that travel to your brain to increase arousal. Add greens, spinach, cucumbers and carrots to reduce stress, too.
  • Sweet things: savor the natural sugars in fruits, particularly blueberries, because they increase energy and help the body release dopamine, a chemical linked to sex and pleasure. Watermelon has a phytonutrient that the body converts to arginine, an amino acid that leads to increased blood flow in the genitals. And indulge in 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate, which is known both for relieving stress and having a positive effect on sex drive.

References

http://time.com/5073538/women-men-stress-poll/

https://www.self.com/story/how-stress-affects-sex-life

https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book-excerpts/health-article/hormones-affecting-sexual-desire/

https://news.utexas.edu/2010/09/27/stress-hormone-blocks-testosterones-effects-study-shows

https://www.health.harvard.edu/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

https://www.upi.com/More-fish-in-the-diet-could-boost-sex-lives-and-fertility/3351527131534/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2010/04/top-10-foods-for-stress-relief

https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/mind-body/sex/libido-boosting-foods/?page=6

https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2014/12/06/8-healthy-foods-that-fight-stress/

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/916928/libido-sex-drive-low-how-to-increase-diet-food-aphrodisiac

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/780162/stress-anxiety-levels-fresh-fruit-vegetables

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/top-10-sex-boosting-foods/4/

https://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2012/02/chocolate_and_romance_its_true.html

Last Updated: July 5, 2021

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