I'm stressed! I need sex NOW!
April 20, 2009 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Why do I feel like I'm craving sex when I get anxious or stressed out?

I've felt this way for a couple of decades at least. When I get anxious about a deadline or something that I need to get done in highly stressful circumstances, I feel an intense need to have sex or masturbate or achieve orgasm somehow. It is distracting and seems a little, well, strange.

I don't feel this way in anxious social situations or stressful situations involving interaction with others. It happens when I feel the stress and responsibility is "all upon me". Almost always around a deadline connected with work or school.

If it helps, I'm a woman in her early 40's. I am treated with an anti-depressant that otherwise kills my sex drive, but felt this way before being treated with AD's. What wacky wiring or biochemical reaction or psychological oddity is putting me in this position? Any ideas?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Is it possibly because orgasm releases endorphins? Perhaps when you are particularly stressed, your body craves a stress-relieving activity.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:58 AM on April 20, 2009

As part of my own personal theory of procrastination, I call that a classic example of "adrenaline transfer", where you take the adrenaline produced as a result of your deadlines, and use it towards other, more enjoyable, ends.
posted by umbĂș at 11:58 AM on April 20, 2009

You know that old stress-reduction technique where you clench parts of your body, and then release them? Starting with your toes, and working up to your whole body? Orgasms are not unlike that. Tension, climax, relax.
posted by Casuistry at 12:00 PM on April 20, 2009

I think it's also about finding an immediate, last-ditch, hey-look-what-I-can-do-with-my-body sort of distraction to stave off anything you don't particularly feel like dealing with. It can be a particularly irresistible form of procrastination and avoidance.
posted by hermitosis at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2009

Biology. Natural selection. For the same reason my apricot trees produce more fruit when I prune them.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:17 PM on April 20, 2009

You're not alone m'dear.
posted by Billegible at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2009

I'd say it has a lot to do with serotonin, the neurotransmitter whose levels your anti-depressant is elevating. I too am taking AD and am used to the usual sexual side effects. It seems to me that low levels of serotonin are not just associated with anxiety, but also with sex drive, hence the loss of libido when you raise your serotonin levels with meds. Serotonin seems to be involved in the intensity of our mood states, such that lower levels are associated with greater intensity of anxiety, deeper emotions, and in my experience greater need for sexual release. I find serotonin elevating medications not only reduce anxiety but 'take the edge of' everything else. This would include sexual urges. Its a bit of a chicken-egg situation too, in that lower serotonin means greater anxiety, but that greater anxiety probably leads to lowered serotonin levels. Thus, if you are making yourself anxious about deadlines, I suspect that is lowering your serotonin levels and leading therefore to heightened sexual urges. I say enjoy!
posted by stumpyolegmcnoleg at 1:08 PM on April 20, 2009

It can also be fairly simply explained as seeking comfort & reassurance in times of stress - similar to eating chocolate cake, the much-famed chicken soup, or stating "as soon as my shift is done, I'm headed straight home for a hot bath!".
posted by IAmBroom at 1:26 PM on April 20, 2009

Endorphins. Sex always "takes the edge off" for me. I would imagine that it is similar to an addict needing a fix or a smoker needing a cigarette. When things get tense, sometimes you just need that rush of endorphins and hormones to relax.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 2:35 PM on April 20, 2009

By the way, it doesn't sound strange at all -- no need to problematize, just dig it.
posted by thinkpiece at 3:28 PM on April 20, 2009

2nding hermitosis' comment of procrastination, + stress release.
See the movie Adaptation for another example.
A friend and I discussed this phenomena once and decided to just call it "procrasterbation".
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:05 PM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

i can't remember where i read it (new york times's "well" blog, i think?) but studies have shown that (normal, high-functioning) people often confuse a fear response with a lust response, because so the physiological symptoms are so similar. that's why people feel horny after some kind of adrenaline rush, like skydiving.

you probably at one point had that experience of fear-induced lust and gratified it sexually, once or ten times as a teenager, and thereby reinforced that confusion or blending of the two emotions.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:51 PM on April 20, 2009

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