How Does Sex Relieve Stress?

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Inarguably, the daily demands of life put tremendous pressure on the body. The pressure to perform well at work, place a decent meal on the table, marriage; the list is endless. All of that stress compounds over time, to the point that you just need some form of relief. While yoga, meditation and journaling can all be great, sometimes soothing your primal desire does the trick. Yes, we’re talking about sex for stress relief.

Sex makes a great stress-relieving antidote, boosts the immune system and offers numerous other benefits. It not only involves physical intimacy but there is a spiritual and emotional connection between partners, which is therapeutic.

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How the Body Reacts to Stress

The body is designed to respond to stress by releasing adrenaline and cortisol hormones. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases the glucose levels in the bloodstream, which enhances energy concentrations in the blood and ensures the availability of certain elements that repair tissues.

It also limits functions that would be harmful in a fight-or-flight situation. Adrenaline, or “the flight or fight” hormone, elevates the heart’s rate, blood pressure, and boosts the supply of energy. This natural alarm system communicates with different regions of the brain that control one’s moods and motivation.

The body’s stress-response system is self limiting, hence once the perceived threat wears off, hormone levels go back to normal, and other systems resume their regular activities.

However when stress factors are always present, the fight-or-flight reaction remains turned on, disrupting most of the body’s processes. As such, when you’re stressed, you may come off as rather edgy, anxious, and depressed and some may develop headaches, sleep problems, low libido, and heart diseases.

Here’s a video that goes into more detail on how your body reacts to stress.

How the Body Reacts during Sex

Sex increases the production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the love hormone. Before achieving an orgasm, oxytocin levels in the brain surge and are accompanied by a release of endorphins (discussed later in the text).

Researchers from the University of North Carolina and the University of Pittsburg analyzed oxytocin levels in 59 middle-aged women before and after contact with their partners. The study concluded that more contact in the form of sex, holding hands, or hugging increased oxytocin levels.

The same study showed that an elevated mood resulted in more physical affection and sexual activity with partners the following day. It indicates that managing stress through sex works both ways; sex relieves stress and reduced levels of anxiety create an urge for more sex.

Oxytocin affects the way we feel and is responsible for forming deep emotional connections with partners. According to Patti Britton, oxytocin increases the urge to bond and in some cases, it is linked to the feeling of generosity.

The endorphins released during intercourse act as natural mood boosters, thus relieving stress.

In fact, studies show that regular sex boosts self-esteem and intimacy between partners. Additionally, semen is believed to contain mood-altering hormones that reduce stress and depression.

Setting the Stage for Intercourse

Intimacy begins with developing a profound respect for yourself and your partner, which is often enhanced by genuine communication, trust, and honesty. Whether you are married or in a relationship, these truths go a long way to having great sex.

Passionate encounters that come from balanced and healthy relationships rather than emotional neediness or desperation produce better results for stress relief.

Achieving an Orgasm to Relieve Stress

As mentioned earlier, stress-relieving sex comes as a result of having a deep connection with your partner through honesty, respect, and communication. But additionally, the stress relieving benefits of sex are amplified even more when you experience an orgasm.

Men and women achieve orgasms differently, but the health benefits are almost similar. Additionally, self-stimulating orgasms, such as through masturbation have different effects on the brain from those achieved from a partner.

Orgasms cause the body to release endorphins that rid of the stress-causing hormone known as cortisol from the system. Apart from their pain-relieving effect, endorphins have a chemical structure similar to morphine, thus controlling the body’s response to stress and boosting your mood.

In addition to stress relief, researcher Barry Komisaruk discovered orgasms can help you achieve an improved state of consciousness.

Other Benefits of Sex to Relieve Stress

Here are some other ways sex is the perfect antidote for stress and anxiety:

Relieve Tension in the Hips

Though this benefit can be achieved through other activities like hiking, walking, biking, or running, sex also plays a significant role in promoting the health of the heart. Additionally, the opening of the hips releases stress and tension in the psoas during sex—a feat also achieved through yoga.

Deep Connection with Partner

The profound sense of connection that comes with sex is intense and is known to relax the nervous system. Keep in mind that partners engage in lengthy conversations after intercourse that allow them to explore their cultural and individual hang-ups around sex, which creates a deep connection.

Deep Breathing

During intercourse, partners engage in a lot of deep breathing which also relaxes the body, relieves stress, and tension. Most people can perform simple breathing exercises alone and reduce stress but combining the benefits of breathing with the pleasure that comes with sex is more gratifying.


A massage or a sense of touch is also a great stress reliever. Sex stimulates a lot of contact between partners, which helps relieve stress. Touch is crucial to nurturing one’s emotional health. Interestingly, children who don’t receive as much physical contact from their parents may have development delays. Touch continues to be essential even in adulthood.


Sex makes an excellent tool for performing exercises. Depending on your level of enthusiasm, you can burn a nice bit of calories during sexual intercourse and reap the stress management benefits of exercise too. How many calories exactly? According to one study, men can expect to burn about 100 calories after 25 minutes of intercourse, and 69 for women.

Unfortunately, most people experience low sex drive when stressed.

Yes, Sex Does Relieve Stress

As you can see, sex is an excellent form of stress relief. Not only does it help you feel physically and mentally stimulated, but it’s also great for your overall health. Here are some other benefits of sex besides stress relief:

  • Reduced levels of blood pressure
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Strong pelvic muscles

So the next time stress or anxiety is getting the best of you, spend some time being intimate with your partner. You might be surprised by how much the stress just melts away!

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Additional Resources

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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