How stress affects your libido, how you can make lifestyle changes to enhance your performance in the bedroom

How stress affects your libido

Stress can be a killer, literally. It’s linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer and, in our everyday lives, anxiety and depression. But did you know that it can also affect your sex drive?

“The libido shuts down when we are under severe stress,” confirms psychotherapist Shirley Hughes. “Whether the stress is real or even imagined, it moves our body into the sympathetic nervous system where we experience the fight or flight response and we feel our survival is at stake.”

This stress response floods the body with adrenalin, increases the heart rate, blood pressure and sweating, as we are geared for action.  The downside is that all bodily functions that aren’t needed for short-term survival are switched off. “This includes digestion, the immune system and the sex drive, so out goes the libido,” says Hughes.

If the stress isn’t resolved and persists long-term, it only follows that all those functions not needed for short-term survival can remain suppressed. In fact, personal, professional and relationship stress is the leading cause of erectile dysfunction in middle-aged men.

More bad news for those operating under intolerable physical or psychological pressure: chronic stress also impairs testosterone production, through the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and this can contribute to blood flow changes and impotence. There is also evidence that high levels of stress affect sperm mobility and can make it difficult for couples to conceive.

Besides the chemical effects of stress on sexual drive and function, the psychological effects can be just as damaging. 

“If you are anxious, or worried, getting physical will probably be the last thing on your mind,”

“After all, the brain really is the most powerful organ in the body.”

The result can be a damaging cycle of stress and loss of libido, including sexual dysfunction.

Get your sex drive back

Seeing your doctor for a physical exam is the first step. At the same time, talking to your partner about what is going on for you is essential.

Besides any medical intervention that your GP may suggest, for example, a lifestyle change or medication to lower blood pressure, a powerful antidote is rest and relaxation.

“This moves the body into parasympathetic nervous mode that acts like a brake to stress and promotes a return to full body function and health.”

While some kind of talk therapy, such as seeing a counsellor or psychologist, may be helpful, going for walks, hitting the gym, taking up a hobby, and spending more time with friends can also reduce stress and help you rebalance your life.

We all need downtime, social contact and creativity to function optimally in our personal lives and, research has shown, this may also impact positively on our productivity at work.

Pushing reset, through a holistic health program, with the help of an expert, may benefit your total well-being, not just your libido.

Boost sexual wellness

  1. See your GP for a complete physical
  2. Consider some kind of cognitive behavioural therapy or talk therapy that allows you to download stress and change your attitude towards it.
  3. Make sure you are getting regular sweat therapy – aerobic exercise such as cycling, running, tennis, or gym work that has been proven to improve mental health.
  4. Include downtime as an appointment in your diary.
  5. Take time out to focus on nutrition, exercise, mental health and relaxation, to find new ways to function optimally.