During the pandemic, anxiety levels have spiked. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, four in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety since the rise of COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis. It’s not exactly shocking. We’re dealing with an enormous amount of stress around something we’ve never experienced in our lifetime.
Symptoms of anxiety include spiraling into your own negative thoughts, focusing on past regrets, and thinking about everything in a “worst-case scenario” mindset. Physically, you may experience a racing heart, sweating, and an unshakable feeling of impending dread. Anxiety is quite the little asshole, if you ask me—or anyone who has it, I’d reckon.
Luckily, there are lots of natural remedies to help manage one’s anxiety. A personal favorite? Orgasms. Orgasms are amazing in so many ways, and when you’re an anxious person, they’re a godsend.
In one study that focused on migraine patients, sex and pleasure was seen as a tool for distraction and relaxation, helping to alleviate some of the subjects’ pain. How does this relate to anxiety? Trust me, if sexual pleasure can help mitigate the absolutely blinding pain of a migraine headache, it can help to calm the symptoms of anxiety. Because calm is the opposite of the anxious state, see?
We’re able to give orgasms to ourselves, both manually and with tools, like sex toys. For this reason, Julieta Chiaramonte, a sex blogger and sex toy expert, tells TheBody, “Many professionals are recommending sexual stimulation and orgasm (if possible) to combat anxiety and oncoming panic attacks.”
Orgasms Decrease Stress
A major cause of anxiety? Stress. As I previously explained in an article for TheBody where I suggested people have at least one orgasm per day, orgasms decrease your stress levels and anxiety because they produce a lovely little neurotransmitter called oxytocin. This hormone is known to decrease stress, relieve all kinds of pain, and create pair bonds with lovers and partners.
Orgasms also boost other stress-relieving hormones like dopamine that allow for greater anxiety control. They do this by getting your endorphins pumping. “This makes it easier to deal with feelings like stress, anxiety, and even physical pain,” Chiaramonte says.
One study found that almost 40% of women who masturbate engage with it because it helps them to relax. Trust me, it works.
Orgasms Regulate Breathing Patterns and Nervous System Responses
Tiana GlittersaurusRex, a polyamorous educator and co-founder of the Sex Work Survival Guide, a nonprofit organization advocating for the rights and safety of sex workers, tells TheBody that orgasms can help to regulate breathing, which in turn brings down anxiety levels. Think about what happens when you’re anxious. Your breathing starts to become irregular and shallow. This amps up all the other symptoms and can send you into a full-blown panic. Focusing on pleasure and orgasm can help to soothe these feelings.
Orgasm is defined as the involuntary release of tension at the height of the sexual response cycle, so once you get there, your whole body relaxes. This, in turn, regulates the nervous system and breathing—bringing about that “afterglow” we often experience post-orgasm.
Taylor Sparks, an erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, one of the largest BIPOC-owned online intimacy shops, sees this as a learning opportunity, one that can help you become more aware of your anxiety and thus have better control over it. “Here is an opportunity to self-soothe that doesn’t need a pill to get you re-centered within yourself,” she tells TheBody. “You will take on the pleasure of better understanding how you can control your anxious emotions by discovering ... you.”
Using Orgasm to Combat Anxiety Disorders: Take It With a Grain of Salt
Orgasm is a holistic approach to relieve panic attacks and generalized anxiety. And when you’re a person with an anxiety disorder, you’ll do just about anything to calm that flutter in your chest, right? I know I would. I’ve yet to find an anxious client who feels differently.
Keep in mind that if you have a severe panic disorder, orgasms are not guaranteed to make it go away. They won’t provide a cure and shouldn’t replace the advice of a doctor, but they can help in alleviating some of the symptoms.
“Anxiety can lead to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, so leaning into understanding the body can be a huge tool to utilizing various built-in tools to combat and alleviate stress and anxiety,” Moushumi Ghose, MFT, a licensed sex therapist, tells TheBody. “Incorporating relaxation techniques such as masturbation would be great, but with caution.” Be sure you’re managing your expectations and not overusing masturbation as a way to handle anxiety. If you have an anxiety disorder, therapy is always a big part of the healing journey. I wish orgasms could cure all our problems; but, alas, they have their limits.
One way orgasms help stop panic is by helping us get out of those nasty negative thought spirals that leave us shaking, sweating, and generally freaking the F out. “Not only do orgasms bring pleasure from the release of our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, but they help us get back into our bodies and become more grounded. In more common words, more in our bodies—less in our head,” Chiaramonte explains.
Orgasms Help to Increase Mindfulness, Which Can Decrease Anxiety
Orgasms and mindfulness: a way out of anxious thoughts.
Experiencing orgasm helps you learn mindfulness, which is when you master the ability to have your head and body in the same place. You’re able to be “in the moment” and immersed in your present-focused bodily sensations of pleasure. Mindfulness is usually used as a tool to help people get to orgasm, but Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, and author of Becoming Cliterate, tells TheBody that it can also be used in reverse.
“Mindfulness is associated with decreased anxiety. Experience mindfulness during orgasm and then learn this in your daily life when feeling anxious,” Mintz says. “In fact, the latest brain research finds that the critical, self-examining part of our brain turns off both during deep mindfulness meditation and prior to orgasm. Mindfulness is helpful for both enhancing sex and decreasing anxiety.”
In sum, orgasms are amazing and can be a great tool for anxiety relief. They don’t replace therapy, but every little bit helps. So go grab the lube and your sex toys, pals. It’s time to get your wank on.