Brain Chemicals That Fuel Your Sex Life

Brain Chemicals That Fuel Your Sex Life

They Call It Chemistry for a Reason. Here’s What Happens to Bodies During Sex

Some people go to great lengths to consume drugs, but why bother when there are active chemicals just waiting to be released in your body?

Yes, having an orgasm is a lot like getting high. When you do, your brain releases a myriad of substances into your bloodstream, literally altering your mind and body functions — at least temporarily.

Orgasms are complicated and wonderful experiences that involve a complex interaction between three systems of the body: the vascular system, the nervous system, and the endocrine system.

Frankly, they’re so complicated that it’s a miracle that they happen at all — so be sure to properly enjoy it next time you have one.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Enhance the Male Orgasm

The outcome of all that orgasmic complexity is that sex can make you feel a lot of different ways — and very intensely, too. Have you ever wondered why it’s easy to fall fast asleep right after climaxing? Or what about getting a rush of self-confidence?

Yep, ejaculation isn’t the only thing that happens when you climax — these feelings are happening in large part because of endorphins, oxytocin and other substances that are released into your bloodstream as it happens.

In order to better understand the sexual chemicals that affect your mind and body during and after sex, here’s a breakdown of what they are, and how they work:

7 Brain Chemicals That Impact Your Sex Life

1. Prolactin

What it does: Prolactin reduces sexual arousal after orgasm and takes your mind off sex. It rises sharply immediately after orgasm in almost everyone.

How it makes you feel: Prolactin disengages you from sex after an orgasm, allowing you to think of other things besides the sexy person you’re next to. If you’ve ever noticed that your mind is flooded with tasks you need to accomplish after sex, that is prolactin at work.

RELATED: The Science Behind Female Arousal, Explained

While prolactin’s effects are useful to ensure we do more than just have sex or masturbate all day, it can at times feel jarring to feel its effects shift us out of our aroused state.

2. Oxytocin

What it does: Secreted by the pituitary gland, oxytocin stimulates the prostate, causes muscle contractions and sensitizes nerves. Research has shown that increased oxytocin produces more intense orgasms.

How it makes you feel: Oxytocin is known as the “cuddling hormone” because it causes you to feel a connection and bond with your lover. It’s also found in women’s breast milk, helping to create a bond between baby and mother.

If you enjoy cuddle sessions after sex, chances are you know the effects of oxytocin well.

3. Endorphins

What they do: Endorphins are a group of neurotransmitters formed within the body that bind to opiate receptor sites in your brain to naturally relieve pain. The bio-chemicals acetylcholine and dopamine are known as endorphins, and have a similar chemical structure to the drug morphine.

They are also known to lower stress and boost confidence, and alongside sex, are also released by your brain during sporting activities, skydiving, fights, grievous injuries, and almost any other exhilarating activity you partake in.

How they make you feel: Endorphins produce feelings of euphoria and pleasure, and they have a calming effect. They fill you with a sense of well-being and relaxation.

They may also make you feel dizzy and drowsy, and you might even drift off to sleep. Doctors have suggested that over-stimulation of the opiate receptors, as with heroin use, causes a depressed sex drive.

So if your partner ever gets disappointed by you passing out post-sex, you know it’s the endorphins at work.

4. Adrenaline (aka Epinephrine)

What it does: Adrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases your heart rate and dilates arteries to increase blood flow to your muscles during sex.

It also kicks off the ‘refractory period,’ in which another orgasm is impossible for a period of time after sex that could range from mere minutes to many hours depending on a variety of factors, including age.

During intercourse, increased amounts of adrenaline are released from the adrenal glands. This chemical amplifies the circulatory system with each heart contraction.

How it makes you feel: Adrenaline makes you feel exhilarated, and makes your heart feel like it’s pounding out of your chest.

RELATED: The Science Behind How Erections Work, Explained

5. Phenylethylamine

What it does: Phenylethylamine triggers the release of dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain. This chemical is released during sex and peaks at orgasm. Curiously, it is also one of the chemicals found in chocolate.

How it makes you feel: You are overwhelmed with feelings of bliss, attraction and excitement.

6. Testosterone

What it does: Testosterone fuels sexual drive and aggression. It is essential to your libido and sexual arousal. While testosterone is often considered a ‘male’ hormone, it’s present in every person, regardless of gender, though men typically do have more.

RELATED: The Most Common Misconceptions About Testosterone

That being said, men (and women) with a testosterone deficiency often have trouble getting aroused and have a lower interest in sex, so testosterone treatments are often prescribed for people with low libido.

How it makes you feel: In short, you feel turned on and sexually virile. And if you’ve noticed a rush of confidence after sex, that could be increased testosterone at work.

7. Serotonin

What it does: Serotonin regulates your moods. Whether it’s from sex or masturbation, having an orgasm releases an extra shot of serotonin to your brain, which acts as an antidepressant.

How it makes you feel: When serotonin’s impacting your emotions, you feel cheerful, hopeful, emotionally balanced, and content.

In fact, serotonin plays such a big role in how we feel that most clinical anti-depression medications work by pumping serotonin levels in your brain, and are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

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