Does stress affect sex? Yes, absolutely

Canadian men are stressed, and it’s negatively affecting their sex lives. We’ll discuss why this happens and some tips to chill and get some.
Stress kills sex: here are our tips to chill & get some
Written by: Jack Health Team
Reviewed by: Sarah Bento-De Sousa PharmD. RPh

Are Canadian men stressed? 

Canadian men are definitely struggling with stress.  16% of Canadians say they feel really stressed every day. About half of Canadians feel seriously stressed once a week. If your stress is wreaking havoc on your sex life you are not alone. A quarter of Canadians say stress has negatively impacted their sex life! 

Why does stress affect sex? 

When you’re stressed you might feel upset. Or worried. This is distracting and stops you from being present and focusing on sex. Some people also get brain fog or feel like they can’t ‘turn off their brain’. While some might say your sex organs are in your pants, your brain is the real sex organ. Your body’s signals for sex start in your brain so if your brain doesn’t signal to your body that it wants to get aroused, sex won’t happen. 

What does my body do when I’m stressed?

When you are stressed your nervous system in your body reacts. Your nervous system is made up of two different systems: sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. 

Your sympathetic nervous system can be thought of as the “gas”. When your body is stressed, it goes into fight or flight mode. Your sympathetic nervous system tries to protect you from the stressor. In doing that it inhibits functions that are “unneeded” in the stressful situation, like digestion or erections. 

Your parasympathetic nervous system can be thought of as the “brakes”. When the stressor has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system tells all the paused systems to restart. 

However, modern day stressors aren’t the same as what our caveman ancestors faced. Short term stressors of running away from danger or hunting for food no longer exist. Instead, our stressors are more long term like financial problems, work pressure or relationship issues. Instead of temporarily hitting the gas, your gas pedal is floored for days or weeks at a time. This long term stress creates unwanted effects in your body.


How does long term stress affect testosterone?

With long-term stress, your body releases more cortisol (your stress hormone). Cortisol is made from the same chemicals (or ingredients) in your body as testosterone. If your body is stressed it prioritizes making cortisol and uses up those ingredients. This means your body is unable to produce the same amount of testosterone. As your stress is more long term, your cortisol production increases and your testosterone production decreases. 

When your flight or fight is on, you may be fighting with your partner. You may find you are more irritated by your partner. This results in less intimacy with your partner. As your intimacy decreases, your insecurities around sex may rise. All of this contributes to a lower sex drive.

When you are stressed, the stress can make you distracted or lower your mood. A long term lower mood might signify anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression are known to decrease your sex drive. This creates a vicious cycle–your stress lowers your sex drive which can trigger anxiety or depression which lowers your sex drive even more, which causes you stress. It’s like the shittiest sex spiral ever. 

What is the difference between Stress and Anxiety?

Stress is usually caused by a situation that you’re in. Once the situation is resolved, your stress goes away. Stress might be positive or negative. For example, if you have a big work project it can motivate you to do better work. 

Anxiety is different from stress. While stress goes away, anxiety tends to linger. Anxiety is not a positive thing. It causes uneasiness or dread that can interfere with your daily life. If you think you are experiencing anxiety, you should speak to a mental health care practitioner, like a therapist.

What can I do emotionally?

Now that you know your stress is affecting your life there are a few things you can do about it. You can try different stress management techniques such as meditation, journaling or therapy. You can decide to talk with your partner about it and handle it together. Another option is to simply accept you are going to be stressed. At some point, your stressor will go away and your stress will end. Accepting that some points in your life will be more stressful than others will take away some of the stress about being stressed.

What can I do physically?

There are some physical things you can do to decrease your stress levels. Exercise is a good outlet for stress. Getting enough sleep allows your body to rest and recharge and can reduce your irritability. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation as a stress reduction technique.

What can I do medically?

You may feel like you’ve been stressed for a long time and it’s affecting your sex life or other components in your life. Getting help from a doctor is an option. 

If you think you have other symptoms of low testosterone you may want to get your levels measured. Low testosterone symptoms include fatigue, low sex drive, irritability, depression and reduced muscle mass. At Jack Health we offer testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) if your levels are low. The first step would be to get your levels measured

If you find that when you want to have sex, your erections aren’t strong enough there might be something physical going on. Erectile dysfunction (ED) medications can help with that. However, ED meds only fix any physical issue and won’t increase your sex drive if that’s your main concern. Risk factors for ED include older age, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

 Jack Health offers a few different treatment options for ED. If you know what you want or if you’re not sure the best option for you, you can speak to our medical professionals.

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