How Stress Affects Sex Drive (Low Libido and Low Desire)

Sometimes life throws things at you: a pandemic, an election, mercury in retrograde, a black cat walking across a broken mirror on a full moon…

Stress, like death and taxes, is a sure thing.

But when the straws of stress put strain on the camel’s back, how does your body respond?

Are you the type to reach for the smokes, pop open another IPA, and drown your sorrows?

Are you more likely to shit post on social media and say mean things you’ll regret to Great Aunt Maude?

Or are you like me?

In other words…

Does stress make you want to hump everything you see between now and Tuesday?

If that isn’t confusing enough, maybe your partner has the complete opposite reaction to stress.

Maybe, when they’re stressed out, they don’t even want to THINK about unsnapping bras and getting freaky.

And that, my friends, is exactly what I’m talking about today.

Because when two partners are stressed out, there’s a HUGE chance you’ll be asking, “Wait…”

“Where did our sex life go?”

“And why am I humping the couch?’

Why Talk about Stress and Sexual Desire?

stress and sex

Stress has a huge impact on not only our lives at home and work, but also on our health. And when something has such a huge impact on our health, it has impact on our sex lives.

That impact starts with our very desire for sex, commonly referred to as our “libido”, or “sex drive.”

Your sex drive is made up of two parts, a brake and an accelerator.

Just like when you drive a car, you hit the accelerator to make it go fast. (When it comes to our sex drives, our accelerators turn us on.)

For us to be turned off, or not desire sex, we hit our “brakes.” Obstacles, like a dirty bedroom with piles of clothes everywhere, or a crying baby in the other room, can make our sex drives slam on the brakes.

Are you someone who is more likely to hit the brakes or the accelerator on your libido? Let’s take a look.

How Is Your Personal Sex Life Affected by Stress?

sad woman with relationship issues

Keep reading to figure out which of the two main responses you have to stress. Keep in mind that you or your partner probably won’t be 100% one or the other … you’ll likely be a mix of both.

1. The Flatliner: someone who has a lower libido

When the Flatliner is stressed out, they’re less likely to want sexual activity.

It might take more effort to feel turned on, or more to hit their “accelerator”. Meanwhile, their brake – that puts a halt on their libido – is far more sensitive.

So, what does this mean?

This means that stress is a huge obstacle to their desire. Stress hampers their ability, or their capacity to become aroused.

The part of them that experiences stress is the same part of them that slams on the brakes and says, “You know what? Now is not a good time for sex because I might have to outrun a tiger or a landslide.”

Now, most of us don’t usually get chased by Tigers. But we do feel like we have to outrun taxes, illness, death, suffering, money stuff, kid stuff, and the list goes on and on.

What can I do if I’m a Flatliner?

The most important thing to remember: you are not alone.

Women in particular are more likely to be Flatliners, or have sensitive brake pedals.

So, if you’re a woman, or if you’re in a relationship with a woman, you might notice that her desire for sex decreases BIG TIME when she’s stressed out.

It’s perfectly normal. There is nothing wrong, it’s just how some bodies function: sometimes things have to be “just right” for certain people to feel horny!

If this sounds like you or your partner, it’s a good ideat to figre out what works to keep the libido alive. Maybe this means you forego initiating sex for cuddle time or a romantic massage, complete with oils and aromatherapy.

Check out my article here about how to boost libido, for you Flatliners out there.  

2. The Redliner: Someone with the pedal on the metal of their sex drive

couple during foreplay

Redliners, (myself included, surprise surprise) have a very sensitive accelerator and a less sensitive brake.

This means stress can actually make Redliners want sex MORE! Stressors hit the parts of their sex drive or libido that says “go, go, go!”

This is why Redliners tend to experience more impulsivity, and feel less in control of their desire – the responsible voice in our heads that tells us, “Hey, maybe don’t do that because it’s wrong,” or “Now is not the right time”… that voice is turned way down.

This is exactly why I ended up humping a chair during my Poli Sci final in college.

The part of my brain that was saying, “Hey, we’re stressed out, we should be focusing on women in international law,” was overridden by the part that was like, “Hey, we’re stressed out, turn on. Turn everything up. Let’s do this. Let’s get off as many times as possible during final week and so we feel like we are absolutely raw and we are going to need to ice our genitals.”

What if you’re in a relationship with someone who’s the opposite of you?

It can be painful when a couple has mismatched libidos. One person can feel pressured, while the other feels constantly rejected and frustrated. How can you reconcile these two?

This requires a lot of communication, understanding, empathy, and patience. It requires coming to an agreement where both people in a relationship are getting their needs met so they both feel respected and safe.

Just remember: there’s nothing wrong with either of you. This is incredibly common, and very “normal” if you need help sorting through this challenge together.

If this sounds like your relationship, it’s going to take more than I can list out in bullet points. I encourage you to apply to coaching or seek a qualified professional in your area who can help you deal with sexuality and relationship issues.

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