Many women know how amazing sex can physically feel, but what can it do for your mental health?
Limor Blockman, a sex and marriage counselor, said in an email that having sex can relieve stress.
“When approaching the big O, we are opening ourselves, physically and mentally, to an ongoing cycle of ‘feel good’ state,” Blockman said. “The idea of having sex to release stress immediately removes our frustration, thus allowing the climax to invite a new, more empowering dose of the good old pleasure.”
Sex is exercise, and exercise (such as running or hiking) is known to make you feel great.
“Whether it’s a physical matter or a mental state of feeling good about our bodies, any physical activity, hence exercise, sex, laughter and pleasurable touch, produce positive effects within the body via endorphins in the brain,” Blockman said.
In some cases, even self-esteem can improve after having sex.
“Self-esteem can be easily boosted by the ability to surrender to pleasure and ... brag about it,” Blockman said. “Not necessarily to an outsider, but to ourselves; the fact that we allow ourselves to be exposed and enjoy it is a definite, well-proven self-esteem enhancer.”
Although orgasms are not essential to sex, one study suggests vaginal orgasms can be linked to higher quality mental health and can even give “a gait that comprises fluidity, energy, sensuality, freedom, and absence of both flaccid and locked muscles.” So even how you walk can be affected by sex!
Nicole Prause, a research scientist at Mind Research Network, said in an email that mental health benefits of sex can also be present in the arousal states, not necessarily when having an orgasm.
“The pleasurable, hedonic benefits are present in sexual arousal, not especially orgasm per se,” Prause said. “So even being sexually intimate with a partner without experiencing orgasm appears to increase feelings of pleasantness. The main issue is that orgasm may not add much in the mood domain, so pressure is off to necessarily have to orgasm to experience positive cognitive effects.”
Also, if you happen to be having sex with a long-term partner (or someone who shares the desire to work on bonding), the act can enhance intimacy, which is associated with feelings and emotions that are shared with a significant other.
Julie Jeske, a sex and relationship counselor in private practice, supports the popular notion of couples becoming closer through sex.
“ Sex ... encourages intimacy and emotional closeness,” Jeske said. “It can be connecting and help people feel happy in their relationships.”
And you can’t forget how sex can be an amazing sleep aid.
“Oxytocin, the ‘falling in love’ hormone, released during orgasm ... also promotes sleep,” Blockman said.
Mikaya Heart, a life coach and author of “The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women,” said in an email that interviews with women for her book demonstrated the many joys of sex.
“Every woman I spoke with had something to say about how sex made her feel more connected with herself and with the world at large,” Heart said. Some women said “sex made them feel flooded with power, connected with their deeper selves, open to the great mystery of life, more fully alive, and transported to a place of intense joy,” she said.
Research suggests that “orgasm can alleviate chronic and acute pain” and “prolonged and intense sexual arousal could cure, amongst other things, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and anger,” Heart said.
What mental health benefits have you noticed as a result of sex?
Blockman, Limor. Email interview. Nov. 15, 2011.
Jeske, Julie. Email interview. Nov. 15, 2011.
Heart, Mikaya. Email interview. Nov. 15, 2011.
Prause, Nicole. Email interview. Nov. 15, 2011.
Brody, S.; de Carufel F.; de Sutter P; and Nicholas, A. A woman's history of vaginal orgasm is discernible from her walk. Web. Nov. 15, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18637995
Reviewed November 16, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith