While sex is a physical act, it affects our mental health in a major way. Depending on our situation and the nature of our sex life, it can affect us positively or negatively.
For quite some time, sex has been a taboo topic. And for ages, the very word ‘sex’ was followed by immense shame. Fast-forward to modern times, the stigma surrounding sex and being sexually active is beginning to ease away. “There’s a greater degree of comfort in talking about sexual health, which helps normalize the conversation, add new narratives, and decrease stigma. All of which improve overall mental health,” Janet Brito LCSW, AASECT certified sex therapist explains.
But, sex is still a very intense topic and there are many layers and facets to the discussion. Below, I am going to list 7 ways sex impacts our mental health, for the good and the bad.
1. It boosts serotonin.
As you may know by now, serotonin is a happy hormone that controls and balances moods. When our serotonin is low, our mood can shift to a depressed and even agitated place. When it’s balanced, we feel motivated and happy. Sex boosts our serotonin, helping us to alleviate depression.
2. It improves your sleep quality.
If you’ve ever had really good sex, then you know what I mean. Sex helps improve sleep, because our body releases prolactin and oxytocin during sex, both of which help us to sleep more restfully. Without proper rest, our mental health suffers, so if sex helps you to get good rest, it’s going to improve your mental health.
3. Meaningless hookups can plummet self-esteem.
While sex with someone you feel a connection to can make you feel great, a casual hook-up can plummet your self-esteem. Despite being surrounded with messages in the media, movies, etc that casual sex is okay, researchers have shown time and time again that people encounter low self-esteem, embarrassment and guilt after a casual hookup.
4. Anxiety is linked to erectile dysfunction.
Did you know that erectile dysfunction and anxiety go hand in hand? Joe Kort, a sex therapist says that more and more younger men are coming in with ED because they feel self-conscious and are afraid of not being able to perform. Then, because the anxiety makes it harder for them to perform, they become even more anxious. It’s a vicious cycle. Women also are less likely to enjoy sex if they are anxious.
5. Sex eases stress.
The good news, though, is that if you can put your fears away for a moment and just get into it, sex eases anxiety. The reason sex eases stress and anxiety is that it releases dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. All of which help us to fight anxiety.
6. It improves intimacy.
Sex plays a major role in how two people get along with one another in a relationship. Sometimes, when the sex is thrown off, and it happens less frequently, partners feel resentful towards one another. The longer they go without sex, the less they want it. But, the kicker here is, that when you begin to have sex more, you feel more connected and it bridges the gap.
7. It makes you look & feel younger.
According to a study, men and women who have regular sex look five to seven years younger than they are. And through looking younger, they have increased confidence, happiness, and enthusiasm about life. So, if you are feeling like your youth is slipping away, have some sex.