Dry Spell? The Effects of Not Having Sex on Your Mind & Body

Not getting any? Hey, we’ve all been there! Anyone who is sexually active knows the feeling of also being, well, sexually inactive. And that’s totally OK: dry spells happen to everyone, whether by choice or not, and whether you’re in a long-term relationship or not. Maybe you’ve had a bout of ill health, you’re stressed or super busy, you’re just not feeling it in your relationship right now, you’re on medications that interfere with your libido, or you just don’t have a partner worthy of you right now! Whatever the case, have you thought about the effects that not having sex might have your physical and mental health? Don’t worry, nothing serious is going to happen to you if you’re not getting busy on the regular, but you might notice some changes, including the following. 

You Might Get More Stressed or Depressed

black and white pic of a woman looking down
Not having sex regularly means you’re not releasing endorphins, which can lead to depression and stress.

Having regular sex increases the release of endorphins and oxytocin in the body; these hormones are also neurotransmitters that help regulate stress, mood, and sleep. So lack of sex, conversely, can mean you’re body is releasing less of these chemicals, and that could mean feeling more stressed or irritable. One small study from Scotland even showed that blood pressure reactivity to stress was lower among people who had recently had sex than those who had not. You might also feel a little bluer than usual if you’re missing out on the oxytocin-boosting effects of skin-to-skin contact. 

Your Libido Might Change

This one could go either way: you might notice that you’re more sluggish and less interested in sex (sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type scenario), or you might find that your sex drive actually ramps up and you become more hungry for it, and start thinking about it more often. If you’re one of those who lose their appetite for sex when it’s out of the picture, and you want to get back into things, try the following to increase your libido again:

  • Eat some pasta with pesto – Pesto contains pine nuts, and they contain arginine, the precursor for nitric oxide, a main ingredient in drugs like Viagra. Arginine helps open blood vessels so blood flow improves – to all parts of your body, hopefully!
  • Try a supplement – Always check with your doctor first, but if you’ve got a penis, you might want to try some ginkgo biloba, which is also believed to help improve blood flow.
  • Get your Z’s – And we don’t mean sleep, although being well-rested will also help you feel good! We’re talking about zinc, which is a big part of the production of testosterone in your body. Try foods like wheat germ, beef, eggs, and seafood (hey, there is actually science behind slurping down some oysters to get you in the mood!)
  • Check your meds – Some prescription medications can interfere with your libido, so check the side effects and talk to your doctor about alternatives or things you can do if decreased libido is a problem.
  • Read or watch something steamy – Figure out what floats your boat, and find some time for it, whether it’s watching something hot if you’re the visual type, or reading a sexy romance novel if the written word is more stimulating to you.black masturbation toy with batteries next to it
  • Have some “me-time” – Take some time to pleasure yourself, before you even invite a partner to the party! Masturbation can get your juices flowing again, so to speak, whether you’re doing it all yourself or trying out a new toy.

Your Risk of UTIs Decreases

Here’s one that’s actually good news! You might not be surprised to know that your risk of STIs decreases when you’re not having sex, but maybe you didn’t realize that you’re at less risk of recurring UTIs if you’re not having sex, because vaginal intercourse is a big source of bacterial spread. In fact, 80% of UTIs in premenopausal women occur within 24 hours of having sex, and frequency of sexual intercourse is the strongest predictor of recurrent urinary tract infections, according to research published in American Family Physician. So there you go: enjoy this time of not having to run to the bathroom every two minutes!

Your Immune System Could Weaken

Did you know that there are studies that show a link between having sex and a strengthened immune system? It’s true! Apparently, people who have sex might have increased levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their bodies, an antibody that helps fight off infections – even viral ones like the common cold. That’s not to say you’re going to collapse if you’re not having sex, but hey, it won’t hurt you…

You Might Notice Some Vaginal Changes

If you’ve got a vagina and you’re not using it for intercourse, you might find that getting back into it can feel a little, well, different. The walls of your vagina might tighten, and you might feel some pain or discomfort getting back in the saddle again. And if you’re postmenopausal, it could be even more uncomfortable: according to Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist, “Without regular frequency of intercourse as you get older, the walls of your vagina thin out and can lead to painful sex when you finally get back into the sack.” Not only that, but if you have less estrogen in your body (as older women do), you could have problems with lubrication if you stop having sex, so try to keep things flowing by getting turned on in other ways, like masturbation, erotic books, or videos.

You Could Become…Not So Smart?

illustration of a head with the different parts of the brain listed.
Studies show that people who have sex regularly score higher on cognitive tests. 

Anyone remember that episode of the 90s sitcom Seinfeld, when one of the characters stops having sex and becomes, well, dumb? Turns out there might actually be some truth behind that storyline! Ok, so you’re not really going to lose IQ points if you stop having sex, but there are studies linking sex with cognition. For example, according to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology, people who were regularly having sex scored higher on tests that measured their verbal and spatial skills, and other studies have shown people who are doing the do score higher on cognitive tests than those who haven’t been sexually active recently. Why? Researchers aren’t sure, but it might have something to do with hormones released during sex, so get it on and get smart!

But It’s Like Riding a Bicycle!

The good news? Even if you’re on a sexual hiatus, you’re not going to wither away – and, when you’re ready, willing, and able, getting back into being sexually active will be easy (or slightly more difficult if you’re a postmenopausal woman, which is why it’s important to keep up with your self-pleasuring no matter how old you are!). And when it’s time, you can get back in the saddle again and enjoy all of the benefits of being intimate with someone else, however that looks for you. 

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