This Is How Much Sex Is Actually Too Much Sex
Learn the signs that your relationship with sex is unhealthy.
Sex has a variety of health benefits: It can boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, reduce the likelihood of incontinence in women and prostate cancer in men, raise your pain threshold, reduce the risk of heart attack, help you sleep, and ease stress. A June 2019 study of adults between the ages of 65 and 80 found that a little bedroom activity can even give your brain a boost. And a 2018 study of college students found that sex can make life feel more meaningful. Suffice it to say, sex is a healthy part of life for people of all ages. But is there such a thing as too much sex? According to experts, the answer isn't numerical.
The thing is, enjoyable sex impacts the brain similarly to a drug, which makes the activity a lot less casual than we'd care to think.
"When you have sex with somebody, and it’s pleasurable, it drives up the dopamine system in the brain," renowned biological anthropologist Helen Fisher told Vox in 2018. "When you orgasm, there’s a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin. Those neurochemicals are linked with the attachment system in the brain."
In fact, the brain scans of people in love are even similar to those of cocaine addicts. Which means that, as with any other powerful substance, your relationship with sex can become abusive.
"Asking how much sex is too much is like asking how many drinks it takes to be an alcoholic," Anthony Kouri, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at University of Toledo Medical Center, tells Best Life. "It’s not so much about how much you drink as it is about how it affects your life. Sex is compulsive when you feel incredible pressure to have sex, and feel depleted and unsatisfied when it’s over. Simply put, if sex begins to take over your day and your thoughts, interferes with relationships or work, then you’ve reached the point of 'too much sex.'"
Natalie Burtenshaw, a licensed social worker at the LaHacienda Treatment Center in Hunt, Texas, recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine if you're having sex for the right reasons or not: "Do I want to feel closer to my partner? To give and receive love? To express my desire? To reconnect after a period of absence? Or, do I want to avoid my feelings and not think about that thing that’s been bothering me? Am I looking for a rush that’s going to disconnect me from reality?"
As Burtenshaw says, the latter "line of thinking can be very similar to how some people use drugs and alcohol to temporarily forget about their problems."
Katie Ziskind, a marriage and family therapist at Wisdom Within Counseling in Niantic, Connecticut, encourages people to listen to their bodies when it comes to defining "too much sex." "If you’re getting pain or infections, that means that you’re overdoing it," she says. "For women, the vagina cannot restore pH, which could then lead to yeast infections, which may be a sign you're having too much sex."
Of course, any amount of sex is too much if you're doing it because you feel pressured or coerced in any way, which makes the act both physically and psychologically abusive.
"For most couples in long-term relationships, having sex two to three times a week is considered healthy, but this doesn't mean they can't have more sex if both partners enjoy it, or even go for weeks without having sex if they're not in the mood," explains Sonya Schwartz, a dating and relationships expert who runs the blog Her Aspiration. "Sex is too much when damage occurs, such as pain during intercourse, or when either or both partners feel that having sex is a chore rather than pleasure."
So, while it may not be the most satisfying answer, the healthiest amount of sex is whatever feels good to you and your partner, and has the most positive impact on your overall mood, well-being, and quality of life.
And for more tips on how to improve your sex life, check out Why Couples That Practice Mindfulness Have Better Sex.
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