Sex As Therapy: It Works REALLY Well

Jan 9, 2020

Big Think – The physiological responses our bodies have to sex can minimize the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Deficiencies in nitric oxide are associated with irritability, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and less energy. Having sex increases your body’s nitric oxide levels.

Sex also increases epinephrine, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, all of which are linked to mood, behavior, and well-being.

Depression can steal your sex drive and leave you feeling the deepest kind of lonely.

And yet, sex can not only make you feel connected to another person, but the physical and biological responses our bodies have to sex can actually minimize some of the symptoms of depression.

And then there’s anxiety. When you’re suffering from anxiety, you feel cornered, lost and stuck; not able to take any steps forward.

Sex is the last thing on your mind… and yet again—the physical and biological responses our bodies have to sex can minimize those symptoms, too.

Sex might not be a cure-all (wouldn’t it be amazing if it was?) but there is a lot of evidence to prove that sex can have a positive impact on your state of mind, as well as your physical and mental health.

What happens in our bodies during sex

To explain this in more detail, let’s talk about what biologically happens within our bodies when we are aroused and have sexual intercourse.

This process begins before you have sex (and continues for a while after you have an orgasm), which is how having a healthy sex life can affect your moods, behaviors, and thoughts.

MRI studies have shown that the first thing to happen when we are aroused is that there is an increase in activity to the part of the brain that controls your emotions—this is called the limbic system … Read more. 

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The Guardian – “Passion has always existed,” says Esther Perel:

“People have known love forever, but it never existed in the context of the same relationship where you have to have a family and obligations.

“And reconciling security and adventure, or love and desire, or connection and separateness, is not something you solve with Victoria’s Secret. And there is no Victor’s Secret. This is a more complicated existential dilemma. Reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem that you solve. It is a paradox that you manage.”

Ooh, Perel is a great lunch date. All psychotherapists are, in my experience, but she’s particularly interesting.

Sex, relationships, children; she covers them all in the two hours we spend together. But also collective trauma, migration, otherness, freedom… all the good stuff.

Perel is a practising couples and family therapist who lives in New York.

Aside from her clinical work – she counsels around 12 couples or individuals each week – she has two best-selling books: one about maintaining desire in long-term relationships (Mating in Captivity), the other about infidelity (The State of Affairs).

She has released two fascinating podcast series, called Where Should We Begin?, where listeners get to listen in on real-life couples having therapy with her.

The podcast is where I first came across her – it’s won a British Podcast Award, a Gracie Award in the States and was named as the Number One podcast by GQ.

On top of all this, she hosts workshops and lectures as well as the inevitable TED talks, one of which has been watched more than 5m times. I went to one of her London appearances earlier this year. Alain de Botton was the host and he introduced Perel with quite some hyperbole, calling her “one of the greatest people alive on Earth right now”.

The reason for Perel’s popularity is her clear eye on modern relationships. She says, rightly, that we expect much more from our marriages and long-term relationships than we used to. Read more. 

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