Does Stress Lower Your Sex Drive?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

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?

Doctor's response

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.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"Stress"
Medline Plus
U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Last Editorial Review: 7/6/2017

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