A study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice showed how high stress levels can negatively impact sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction.
When stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisol (stress hormone). Over a period of sustained stress, increased production of cortisol can lead to weight gain, suppressed immunity, hypertension and a host of health issues. Here we explore how this can impact your sexual functioning at various levels.
1. Health risks
Excess production of cortisol can lead to weight gain around the abdomen, leading to obesity. Stress impacts your metabolism, which puts you at a high risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes. In addition to poor glycemic control, long-term stress increases the risk of complications like hypertension, which can lead to poor libido. Moreover, medicines used to treat these chronic conditions can also affect sexual performance. In the long run, these medications can also increase the risk of erectile dysfunction or ED.
2. Smoking and drinking
Many people try to cope with stress by smoking and drinking. As per a study published in the Journal Andrologia, 20% of all American men and up to 52% of them aged 40–70 years suffer from varying degrees of ED due to smoking.
A study shows that men with alcohol dependency had sexual dysfunction.
Prolonged stress can affect the functioning of the pituitary gland, which releases hormones that control the functioning of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands and ovaries.
In men, stress can lead to decreased sperm count, motility and morphology, which are associated with infertility.
In women, stress can lead to anovulation (no ovulation), amenorrhea (absence of periods) and affect the production of hormones. Due to irregular menstrual cycle and hormonal imbalance, ovaries tend to under-perform, which interferes with the release of the egg, leading to infertility.
4. Body image
Studies show that women are particularly vulnerable to body image concerns and problems with sexual functioning including arousal, desire and orgasm. The changes in sexual functioning due to body image issues are associated with psychological distress, lower self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression.
Tips to prevent stress from ruining your sex life
Given the current scenario, it is difficult to avoid stress but couples can cope with stress-induced relationship issues positively with these tips.
-Frequency: According to a study, people who had sex at least two times a week showed an increased level of immunoglobulins or antibodies, which boost immunity. So having sex often can not only help a person fight stress but also improve immunity.
-Communication: Talk to your partner to improve the experience. Make it a point to compliment each other as it can help your partner to overcome self-doubt and have a healthy body image.
-Lifestyle changes: In addition to having a healthy diet and exercising regularly, it is important to limit intake of alcohol and quit smoking.
-Counselling: If stress is worsening body image issues or severely affecting the sexual performance, then you could seek medical help.
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