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how chronic stress affects your sex life
Chronic Stress & Your Sex Life | Image Courtesy of Engin Akyurt via Unsplash

You may have heard that chronic stress takes a toll on your body. But did you know how chronic stress affects your sex life?

What is chronic stress?

Chronic psychosocial stress is defined as either a major life event that takes place over a long period of time (ie. death of a family member) or small stressors that are constant and often accumulate (ie. traffic, financial worries, work deadlines).1,2 A study by Allen Kanner, Ph.D, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that these small stressors can have more of a negative effect on health than the more severe but less common stressors.1

How does chronic stress inhibit sexual arousal?

Chronic stress can inhibit sexual arousal by affecting hormones and emotional wellbeing and leading to cognitive changes. Stress can raise a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol levels are high there is a decrease in two important sex hormones: testosterone and estradiol. These hormones are important for genital arousal in women.3,4,5 Increased blood pressure is also commonly linked to increased stress which can decrease blood flow throughout the body.6 This could in turn inhibit blood flow to the genitals which may interfere with genital arousal. The emotional and cognitive changes that happen with chronic stress can distract a person from sexual cues towards the stressors, impacting sexual arousal.7

 A study by Hamilton et al., found that women reporting high levels of stress had lower levels of genital arousal in response to an erotic film than women reporting average levels of stress. The women in the high stress group also had higher levels of cortisol. In this study, distraction increased in the high-stress level group compared to the average stress level group.8

How should your chronic stress be addressed? 

Chronic stress plays a big impact on sexual function and is a component that must be addressed to restore a normal sex life. It can be helpful to find a sex therapist or marriage and family therapist that can help guide you in this process. Many times it is not just a physical barrier and patients do well with seeing both a pelvic health physical therapist and a psychotherapist to help address sexual dysfunction. We can help guide you in seeking out your team. Stay tuned for our upcoming article on Mental Health and Sexual Pain!



1Kanner AD, Coyne JC, Schaefer C, Lazarus RS. Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. J Behav Med. 1981;4:1–39. 

2Lazarus R. Puzzles in the study of daily hassles. J Behav Med. 1984;7:375–389

3Traish A, Kim N, Min K, Munarriz R, Goldstein I. Role of androgens in female genital sexual arousal: receptor expression, structure, and function. Fertil Steril. 2002;77(Suppl 4):S11–8

4Traish AM, Botchevar E, Kim NN. Biochemical factors modulating female genital sexual arousal physiology. J Sex Med. 2010;7:2925–2946.

5Tuiten A, van Honk J, Verbaten R, et al. Can sublingual testosterone increase subjective and physiological measures of laboratory-induced sexual arousal? Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59:465–6.

6Bonne O, Grillon C, Vythilingam M, Neumeister A, Charney DS. Adaptive and maladaptive psychobiological responses to severe psychological stress: implications for the discovery of novel pharmacotherapy. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2004;28:65–94.

7Lazarus RS. Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York: McGraw Hill; 1966.

8Hamilton LD, Meston CM. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. J Sex Med. 2013;10(10):2443-2454. doi:10.1111/jsm.12249

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Testimonial by Ann V.

I wish i could give this place 10 stars!! 
I have been suffering from vaginismus for 5 years and never found the cure to it. I had seen an ob/gyn and he diagnosed me with vaginismus and told me i needed a surgery to cure my condition, which i refused to do. He also referred me to a PT that he works with, i had given them multiple calls and they never responded back to me, so i started searching yelp for another PT. I am SO HAPPY I found Heather's office! I was working with Laureen, and with her guidance and techniques i was able to be cured from vaginismus in only 2 1/2 short months!!! I couldn't believe how quickly their program worked for me! I am forever grateful and thankful from Heather, and Laureen! They are the absolute best at what they do!

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Testimonial by Carolina J.

I had tried Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy before (with another PT) and I had a really bad (painful) experience. A friend of mine and fellow patient, told me about Heather, Laureen and Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) and I decided to try again. I am so happy I did! Femina PT have, literally, changed my life. I was able to do again things I couldn't do for over 10 years!! Their bedside manners are impeccable, their knowledge and understanding make me feel comfortable to recommend this place to anyone in pain. Specially if you have Endometriosis. 100% recommended!!

-- Carolina J., 12/28/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by S.H., age 24

I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

S.H., age 24

Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

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Testimonial by S.S., age 54

Heather is the best! I saw her today for terrible hip/groin pain. I was so impressed with the safety measures in place and felt completely safe . Thanks for the healing hands.

S.S., age 54

Testimonial by A.W., age 32

I wanted to let you know that my pelvic floor held strong and gave me no trouble whatsoever in my trail race this morning (12 miles)! In a way, I felt like I ran better than ever because my core feels so rock solid from all the exercises you have me doing. That was especially valuable on the technical downhill - I just flew down the trail because I had confidence in my balance and form. Thank you for helping me get back to doing what I love.

-- A.W., age 32
(completed Post-partum Renewal Program using the InTone biofeedback/stim unit)

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