Stress Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

I've been under a prolonged period of stress, which seems to have diminished my sex drive. I recently read that stress can affect hormone levels. What can I do to counteract stress and improve my sex drive?

Answer:

You are not alone in your concern. A diminished interest in sex is one of many symptoms that can develop as a result of increased psychological stress, and studies show that a decreased sex drive is a common complaint in people who have stressful jobs and work long hours. Fortunately, taking steps to manage your stress can help you regain some of your lost sexual energy.

Stress management is a highly individual practice, and each person must choose the stress control techniques that work best for them. However, stress control methods most often include a combination of exercise, relaxation techniques (deep breathing or meditation exercises), adhering to a regular sleep cycle, and proper nutrition. Exercise releases endorphins, which are the body's natural stress-fighting hormones, so any type of physical exercise is a good stress control measure. In terms of relaxation techniques, there are literally hundreds of relaxation and meditation programs that you can learn on your own or under the guidance of a teacher or practitioner.

One pitfall to avoid is the "self-treatment" of stress indulging in counterproductive behaviors. Studies show that people under stress are more likely to practice unhealthy behaviors (such as excessive consumption of alcohol, overeating, and cigarette smoking) and to make poorer health choices than people who are not under stress. These unhealthy coping mechanisms can also have a negative effect on your overall well-being and therefore may contribute to the decrease in your sex drive.

Thank you for your question.

REFERENCE: Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.


Last Editorial Review: 9/1/2010