4 Reasons How Sex Affects Mental Health

Sex is a part of many people’s lives and provides important emotional, physical, and relationship benefits. However, many people experience anxiety or struggle with mental health issues that interfere with their sexual enjoyment or happiness.

Compulsive sexual behaviour, including masturbation, cybersex, excessive pornography consumption and casual sex can be harmful to your mental health. Here are some reasons why.

1. Low Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is one of the body’s natural mood regulators. It influences your appetite, how well your bowels work and your sense of wellbeing. It also helps to heal wounds, slow blood flow and encourage clots to form. It is believed that low levels of this brain chemical can cause a range of psychiatric problems, including depression. Low serotonin is also associated with an unusually fast heart rate and high blood pressure. People with schizophrenia are often found to have low serotonin, which can lead to auditory or visual hallucinations.

Interestingly, although scientists know that serotonin is important in controlling your mood, they don’t fully understand how it works. This may be because it is a complex process that involves many different parts of the brain and body, as well as hormones such as melatonin, which influence your sleep cycles. A lack of brain cell production of serotonin, a failure of the receptor sites to receive it, or even a shortage of tryptophan from which serotonin is made can all affect your moods.

Luckily, you can help to boost your own levels of this vital chemical by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and spending time in the sun, which increases vitamin D, which aids serotonin production. You can also take herbal supplements such as St John’s wort, which acts in a similar way to antidepressants.

2. Anxiety and Depression

A healthy relationship with a partner can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. In fact, research shows that having sex on a regular basis can boost the production of the hormone oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone,” which promotes feelings of trust and empathy in the relationship. This helps to build intimate bonds, and may even boost your libido.

A lack of sex is also associated with feelings of depression and low self-esteem, especially in women. It can also contribute to a lower libido, as well as erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation in men. In some cases, a lack of sex is the result of certain medical conditions or treatments such as sex-related sexual anxiety, a history of trauma, and some antidepressants (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

Sexual activity can reduce stress and anxiety by decreasing cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increasing your levels of dopamine and other ‘feel-good’ hormones. In addition, having sex is known to induce the relaxation hormone prolactin, which can lead to drowsiness and a feeling of well-being after orgasm.

3. Trauma

Having a trauma in your life can significantly impact your mental health and sexual functioning. Trauma can be caused by actual or threatened serious injury or death, major illness, accidents, military combat, domestic violence, sexual abuse or dangerous natural occurrences like earthquakes.

Survivors of trauma often develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which may include symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping and extreme reactions to people or things that remind them of their experience. It can also impact their self-esteem, emotions, relationships and self-worth.

Even something as benign as hearing a particular sound can trigger intrusive thoughts and feelings of re-experiencing a traumatic event, such as gunfire. This is called a trauma trigger and can affect your sense of safety, confidence in yourself, ability to regulate your emotions and navigate relationships.

Prioritizing your mental health will help you feel more connected to yourself and those around you. It will also improve your overall quality of life. If you need help dealing with a mental health condition, reach out to a therapist. Online therapy is a convenient and reliable way to receive the support you need. Whether you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or psychosis, it is vital to seek professional care before your condition worsens. Search our directory to find a therapist near you. Click here to get started.

4. Grief

As many of us know, grief can affect mental health in a number of ways. One of the most common ways is a lack of sexual pleasure and interest. This can be due to depression, anxiety, or a combination of the two. Additionally, grief can also interfere with sleep patterns and lead to a lack of appetite.

However, if we are able to work through the grief and find ways to be physically intimate again, sex can improve our mental health. Studies have shown that masturbation can help decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as increase feelings of sexual satisfaction.

Another important point to remember is that sex can mean different things to different people. Some definitions of sex include things that aren’t sexual intercourse at all, including things like oral sex and rape. It’s important to be aware of what you consider to be sex so that you can avoid a sexually transmitted infection or unplanned pregnancy.

Sex and pleasure are slowly graduating from subjects that are hastily swept under the rug to becoming drawing room conversations. This is a good thing, as sex is a basic human need. For some people, this need is consciously chosen by choosing asexuality or celibacy, but others choose to engage in healthy sex. When that is the case, it is essential to take care of both physical and mental health.

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