Stress in Men: How the Effects of Stress Impacts Your Sex Life

by Majbrit Villadsen on May 15, 2016

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The stress symptoms in men are many. Some of the ways the effects of stress on the body can show up in your daily life is in the way it affects your sex drive, desire for intimacy, quality of erection, and the ability to maintain an erection.

We’ve all heard the myth that men’s sexuality is simple, and that men always want to have sex. We’ve also heard that men are always ready and willing to have sex, and should be able to get an erection easily.

I’m here to burst the bubble. This is far from the truth. Many things affects men’s desire and ability to make love like weight, general health, medical conditions, side effects from medications, relationship issues - and stress. Whether it’s emotional stress or physical fatigue, the effects of stress on the body may show the same symptoms in relation to your sexuality.

The effects of stress comes from chronic stress

We all feel stressed from time to time. Short periods of stress aren’t necessarily damaging to your health, emotional well-being and sex life. The problems occur when it turns into chronic stress. When you’re unable to reverse the stress response in the body, and it continues the physical response equivalent to being chased by a lion on the savanna. Then the stress symptoms start to show.

The effects of stress on the body caused by the continous release of stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol) starts to wreck havoc on your health. It may also cause low libido (low sex drive and sexual desire), lack of interest in making love or being intimate with your partner, and problems with maintaining an erection or impotence.

If this continues for too long, your relationship may suffer; especially if you’re one of the men who withdraw into your cave to deal with stress on your own, and are unable, or unwilling, to communicate with your partner. Most likely she’ll start to feel insecure, left out, and doubt whether you really love her, and she starts to question if something is wrong with her, thinking you’re no longer attracted to her.

Lack of connection and intimacy

We all deal with stress differently. Some men might escape and withdraw from the relationship (and other people). They may release stress with exercise or sexual activity (but they lack the emotional connection and presence in the intimate moments to truly connect to themselves and their partner).

For other men, the signs of stress might include shutting down sexually. For instance, if your performance at work is challenged, it naturally impacts your self-esteem. You may feel less worthy and loose faith in your masculinity. A way for you to cope with this stress may be to close down emotionally and sexually.

Getting and maintaining an erection

For a man to achieve an erection it takes sexual excitement, physical stimulation, or both. The arousal causes blood vessels in the penis to dilate, and allow blood to flow into the spongy tissue. The sphincter muscle prevent the blood from flowing back.

When you’re stressed, blood vessels don’t dilate fully and the constriction of the sphincter muscle is not adequate to prevent the blood from flowing back to the body. On top of that, the effects of emotional stress can be so strong that even high sexual excitement or physical stimulation is not enough to overcome the mental overload.

Performance anxiety in bed

If you’ve been unable to perform once, you might anticipate problems next time you get together with your partner; putting extra pressure on yourself and your ability to perform in the moment. Slowly this can lead you into performance anxiety, as you keep focusing on the time(s) where you’ve experienced problems.

Of course it’s easier said than done, but the key to let go of the performance anxiety is to be present in the moment. Be pleasure oriented rather than goal oriented. Focus on being relaxed and aware in your body, feeling the connection to yourself and your partner.

When sex doesn’t feel satisfying

Recently I had a male client with stress who, on top of feeling tired but wired (a typical sign of adrenal fatigue from prolonged stress), felt the effects of stress in his sexual response. He felt he had lost his inner connection and the feeling of togetherness with his wife. Sex wasn’t satisfying to him in the way it used to be.

What surprised him in our talk was the hormonal connection; high levels of stress hormones like cortisol may lead to low levels of testosterone (and other important hormones). For some, a prolonged period of high levels of stress hormones ends up with the adrenals being fatigued, and they’re no longer able to produce sufficient amounts of stress hormones or sex hormones.

Simply because the building blocks to produce the hormones are the same. And the body favors survival over desire and procreation. So whatever it has goes into staying alive. So the effects of stress makes it hard to feel yourself and get in the mood, and it can interfere with your sperm count and fertility as well.

If you feel stressed, disconnected, exhausted (and maybe wired at the same time), or if you’re unable to find rest in your body, there are different things you can do to get back your mojo. No reason to wait. It’ll only distance you further from yourself and your partner and give you more challenges than you need, when in fact your relationship and sexual connection can be a great support in times of stress. In this blog you will find suggestions on how to relieve stress.

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