Nora is a writer and consultant working with sustainable brands to make an impact. In 2022, she founded Mossy Copy, LLC, a full-service copy studio based in Austin, TX. Her master’s in English is from NYU, and her bachelor’s in the same is from Sewanee. Areas of expertise include wellness, nutrition, style, and beauty.

In modern life, ongoing stress is practically a given, and it can profoundly impact every aspect of your well-being. One of the areas where you might notice a marked difference is your sex drive.

Stress is not seductive. When worries flood the mind or daily demands already exceed your ability to meet them, sex can seem superfluous—or worse, can become another stressor on your list of things to tackle. On a deeper level, prolonged stress can affect the underlying mechanisms involved in sex drive, from physiological factors like blood flow and hormones to psychological inhibitions.

The interplay between stress and sex drive is multifaceted, so let’s delve into it. If you’ve noticed a low libido lately and want to know if stress could be the cause, read on for the ways that stress can affect sexual desire.

Does Stress Affect Sex Drive?

Yes. When a hectic schedule, daily worries, or more dire concerns send our stress levels into overdrive, our bodies perceive these stressors as an immediate threat, meaning non-urgent mechanisms in our bodies, like sexual recreation and procreation, can become deprioritized.

This is because our bodies contain two main nervous system responses: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

  • Sympathetic: You’ve heard of the fight or flight response—that’s your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) at work, alerting your body to immediate “danger” and kicking your internal defenses into high gear.
  • Parasympathetic: The PNS, on the other hand, is your rest and digest response. When activated, it allows your body to calm down and tend to non-urgent functions.

The sympathetic stress response is great in times when we’re actually in trouble: The ability to snap into focus and deal with danger is important to our survival as a species. But it becomes a problem when our everyday demands keep us in a state of chronic stress, and this can have a detrimental effect on our sex drive.

For instance, increases in our sympathetic nervous system activity can lead to symptoms like increased blood pressure—inhibiting blood flow throughout our bodies, including to our erogenous zones. Without proper blood flow to our genitals, sexual arousal becomes impeded. This can lead to sexual dysfunction and other sexual problems.

Everyone’s different, and many people may notice a higher libido when they experience acute or moderate stress. In that case, sex can offer a distraction or comfort from life’s daily stressors instead of the other way around. For certain people, heightened energy as a result of temporary agitations can fuel passionate encounters.

While a little sympathetic nervous system activity is healthy and can even help your libido, chronic stress can stamp out your sex drive. In order for our bodies to become primed for sex, it’s important to balance our nervous system so it can respond appropriately to sensory stimuli and allow us to get in the mood.

How Does Stress Affect Sex Drive?

The relationship between stress and libido is complex and different for many people. Now that we’ve established that stress can cause low libido, here are some of the ways you might see that playing out in your sex life.

Hormonal Changes

Hormones control countless functions in our bodies, influencing everything from skin health to sexual response. Cortisol is key here. It’s known as the “stress hormone” that gets released by your system in times of heightened stress. Again, a little cortisol is healthy and necessary for survival. It’s when your cortisol becomes chronically elevated that this response becomes undesirable, imperiling sexual arousal and causing lowered libido.

When cortisol floods your system, sexual desire can dramatically diminish. That’s because this release of the stress hormone indicates to your endocrine system to produce less estrogen and testosterone, necessary sex hormones. Testosterone, in particular, is one of the main hormones needed in balance for sexual arousal in both men and women.

When cortisol is out of whack, this change in hormone levels can affect lubrication, tumescence, and other aspects of arousal. And not only that, but it can manifest in other ways in your body, such as bloating, cramps, breakouts, PMS, hair loss, and weight gain. These effects on your appearance, mood, and confidence might well further deplete a sex drive that’s already in jeopardy.

Mental Health

Another way that stress can cause low sex drive is by psychological changes. Importantly, stress can overtake your mindset, distracting you from sexual cues that might otherwise turn you on. Worries, by definition, cause us to project into the future, making it difficult to be present in the moment and focus on sensory stimuli and pleasure. Without the ability to focus on and enjoy touch and other forms of foreplay, the opportunity for arousal and orgasm can quickly dissipate.

You might have heard the saying that your main sex organ is your brain, not your genitals. Because our ability to enjoy sexual intimacy is so mental, stress has a way of taking it over and distracting from sexual cues.

Physical Fatigue

The physical agitation that comes with stress can also result in fatigue over time. A 2017 study of over 7,000 participants found that fatigue was significantly associated with workplace stress. Stress has also been linked to sleep disruption and insomnia, both of which can also increase fatigue. A 2018 review and 2014 study both found that stress was associated with a higher risk of insomnia.

If worries have you lying awake ruminating at night or perpetual indicators of stress, like increased heart rate, leave you exhausted, you might not feel up to sexual activity as a result. Further, if your stress is coming from a long list of to-do’s or important life decisions that need sorting, the mental and physical effort it takes to confront your stressors might leave you feeling too depleted for bedroom exertions.

Relationship Dynamics

Another way stress can impact your sex drive is through your relationship dynamics. If you’re consumed with worries, not only could this distract you from sexual cues, but it could also lessen your emotional resources needed to listen to your partner, handle conflict, respond to bids for attention and affection, enjoy time together, becoming closer, do your part in the domestic sphere, or otherwise give and receive what is needed for a fulfilling emotional bond.

In turn, this can worsen relationship problems or feelings of estrangement, guilt, and resentment. Feeling that you’re not meeting someone’s expectations or needs can make sex feel like another thing you’re supposed to be doing on a busy day.


How to Minimize the Impact of Stress on Sex Drive

Stress can come from many different places—and at times, it can feel as though it’s coming from everywhere at once. It’s unlikely that we’re ever going to eliminate stress, but there are plenty of natural remedies for stress that can help reduce unwanted symptoms. Here are some techniques for minimizing the impact of stress on yourself and your libido.

Stress Management Techniques

Meditation, breathwork, yoga, and other stress management techniques will be helpful tools in your belt. For instance, breathing out for longer than you breathe in can help signal to your vagus nerve that it’s time to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing your body to start to calm itself down. Listening to calming music can also have a powerful effect on your stress levels, helping you recover and get back to a sense of calm.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

In addition to stress management, it’s important to support your nervous system with healthy lifestyle habits. Daily physical exercise is a proven mood booster, causing your body to release feel-good endorphins that can help you feel better during times of stress. It can also require your focus, helping to distract you from your stressors temporarily. It can also improve your sleep at night, which is another healthy defense for dealing with stress and anxiety.

To further enhance rest, practice good sleep hygiene. Keep your room below 68 degrees at night and avoid screen time, food, and liquids, especially alcohol, in the hours leading up to sleep.

Communication and Intimacy

It’s important to keep an open line of communication with your sexual partners so that they can understand what your needs are. Sex might be low on your list of things to do right now, but if they’re able to offer a relaxing massage, more help around the house, or just a listening ear, that could help you both get back on the same page eventually. By communicating with partners, you can prevent sex from becoming another thing you feel stressed about.

Natural Remedies

If you’re dealing with prolonged stress and want to help reduce its effects on your cortisol and other hormones, it’s a good idea to seek out adaptogens for stress or libido. Adaptogens are helpful herbs that target stress to support healthy hormonal balance. Sex Dust® is a supplement for libido that combines 6 powerful adaptogens traditionally used to ignite desire and juiciness with Cacao and Maca to support energy and mood.*


Faced with work demands, domestic duties, constant coordinating, and distressing headlines, it’s no wonder our largely online world is so stressed. This stress can then disrupt sex hormones and dry up juiciness in the body. We can’t completely get rid of stress, but we can minimize its impact on our sex drive using different approaches, from grounding breathwork to juicy adaptogens. Certain herbs help reduce the effects of cortisol in our bodies. Open, effective communication with partners, regular exercise, and healthy sleep hygiene can all be used in conjunction to help lift your libido in times of ongoing stress.

If you want to increase libido naturally, take Sex Dust and spice up your sex life.