How More Sex Can Help Us Battle the Spread of Coronavirus

It’s 2020 and how the world has changed! By now you are likely on some level of self-isolation, if not full-on “shelter-in-place” lockdown. Panic and doom dominate the headlines. Uncertainty rules. And the health news is focused on how to stave off the virus. 

But I’m here to share the good news. There is a healthy way to help prevent it – Sex! Sex is the perfect measure for dealing with these troubled times. 

At the very least, sex helps with depression, anxiety, boredom, and lack of exercise that being stuck at home can bring. But there’s more. Sex may also help combat both loneliness and the lack of alone time, so it is useful whether you are stuck home alone, craving touch, or in way too much close contact with your partner(s) and trying not to kill them for stealing the last cookie. And while I am not claiming it will prevent or cure infection, I will point out good sexual health correlates with improved general and mental health, which, in turn, correlates with improved immune function; so maybe…? 

If you are not convinced yet that putting the “Fuck” in #StayTheFuckHome can be beneficial, I’m here to provide you with the sexpert explanation of the biology behind why you should be engaging in a lot more sexual activity while quarantined. 

coronavirus

Sexual Activity (defined as any activity for the purpose of erotic pleasure, with yourself or (a) partner(s)) has multiple health benefits. First, it is exercise. Perhaps a single sex session is not the equivalent of a spin class, but the average engagement in sexual activity burns at least 20 and up to a few hundred calories. 

Second, sexual activity – arousal, sustained play, and particularly orgasm – changes your body chemistry for the better, and works as well as, or possibly even better than, finishing your hoarded chocolate all at once. Deciding to have sex and focusing on arousal acts as a form of mindful meditation. When you focus on physical sensation for the purpose of arousal and pleasure you create a state of increased parasympathetic activity. The parasympathetic system is the peaceful one (hence the “chill” of “Netflix and chill”) and is the opposite of the sympathetic system, the anxious one (and the one activated for the “fight/ flight/ or freeze” response to world pandemics, for example). So, engaging in a few bouts of sex could help you chill out about the state of the world, while possibly providing the extra benefits of meditation such as supporting cardiovascular, digestive, and neurological health. 

And while all sexual activity is beneficial, orgasm is the ultimate way to activate that parasympathetic chill. Orgasm stimulates the vagal nerve, an important nerve that connects the parasympathetic centers in the brain with the body. Stimulating the vagal nerve may decrease depression and anxiety, which may be one way that sex improves mood. But there are others, too. 

Orgasm changes the levels of a bunch of hormones and brain chemicals.  Cortisol, the stress hormone, is decreased, which can help you face another day or week of being cooped up. Other chemicals are increased. Dopamine, which increases focus on reward, may help you focus on the positives of being home. Endorphins, the body’s own opioids, can provide a natural high, so think of orgasm as a natural trip. Vasopressin, which helps regulates blood pressure, and oxytocin, which is associated with social bonding, are both elevated, too. Together, these chemicals are associated with alleviating depression and anxiety, increasing a sense of well-being, and improving the sense of social connection, hence the benefits whether you are alone or partnered while isolated at home. And, given time to hang around at home is plentiful right now, you can take all the time you want or need to reach that sweet release as often as you want!  

There you have it- getting your groove on counts as exercise, and leads to less stress, less anxiety, better mood, better health, some sense of social bonding, and improved ability to tolerate the frustrations of quarantine. Sex is not only a fun distraction, but can also strengthen your body and mind. 

So get to it, #StayTheFuckHome, and stay tuned for ways, tips, and tricks to make the sex you are engaging in hotter and healthier to ensure you reap these abundant benefits over the upcoming weeks.

Written by: Elisabeth Gordon

Elisabeth Gordon, M.D. is a NYC based Psychiatrist specializing in sexual health and medicine. She runs a sex positive, straight/vanilla/kink/poly/LGBTQ affirming private practice focused on improving sexual and overall health with integrative treatment. In addition, Dr. Gordon is a passionate human sexuality educator and author. She is on faculty at NYU School of Medicine and works extensively as a guest lecturer and consult at hospitals, universities, and schools. Her writing and talks focus on the importance of sex ed, as well as providing tips and resources for achieving a happy, pleasurable, and satisfying sex life to improve health at every level.

2 comments

  1. Barbara Bartlik, M.D.

    This is the best description of the psychological and physiological benefits of orgasm I’ve read. I second Dr. Gordon in encouraging people to savor their eroticism during this period of relative isolation. Despite the extra stress, this time also presents the opportunity to step back from routine and connect more deeply with one’s desires and one’s partner, while simultaneously improving health and well-being. Hopefully, the rewards of sexuality – pleasure, relaxation, physical rejuvenation, and intimacy – rediscovered in difficult times soon will be carried back into everyone’s normal lives.
    Barbara Bartlik, MD, New York City
    Psychiatrist, sex therapist, editor, and author: Bartlik, Espinosa, Mindes (2018) Integrative Sexual Health: Oxford UP, Weil Integrative Medicine Library.

  2. Catherine Friederich

    Great article. I have been researching the vagus nerve being stimulated and toned as a benefit of yoga, meditation and chanting. Now I am delighted to read this article on the ways sex benefits the parasympathetic nervous system greatly.

    It encourages me to say that the more delight we experience physically, emotionally, and spiritually you can bet the vagus nerve is being stimulated and results in toning the vital organs it embraces to an optimum level.

    The more we activate the parasympathetic nervous system the more our bodies revel in homeostasis, it seems safe to say.

    I would love to receive a copy of this article via my email address.

    Please and thank you,

    Catherine

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