Have you ever taken a moment to consider why we refer to great sex as mind-blowing?
What you’re describing is an experience that affected you to such a degree that not only did it do amazing things to your body, but it also influenced your mind. In other words: it gave you ‘sex brain’.
There are a variety of feelings you might experience, such as having a fuzzy head, having difficulty putting together a coherent thought or even the urge to say something you otherwise would take more time to consider (such as I love you).
When you’re having sex, it triggers certain parts of your brain and slows down other parts. Neuroscience has shown that the limbic system, which controls your physical urges, lights up while you’re between the sheets, which is why you find it harder to make decisions on anything that isn’t related to your impending orgasm.
When you have a clear head, you will think about the potential consequences of your actions, but if you’re mid-foreplay or mid-sex, your brain will push these thoughts aside because sex brain is telling your mind and body that it’s a good idea, because it’s so pleasurable.
As the expression goes, ‘how can something that feels so good be so wrong’. For instance, you might have sex with someone you wouldn’t normally consider, such as an ex or someone who is in a relationship. You’re so focused on the physical and emotional response that the hormones in your brain are giving you that your brain is (partially) unable to make sound decisions.
‘When we have sex a flood of hormones and neurotransmitters are released throughout our bodies, affecting the reward centres of the brain,’ Dr Shirin Lakhani, intimate health specialist and owner of Elite Aesthetics in Kent, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Dopamine is released and this helps us to feel giddy, energetic and euphoric. Oxytocin is also released during sex, which promotes bonding and affection.’ When oxytocin – also known as the ‘cuddle’ hormone – is released, it influences your mind with feelings of love, bonding and general well-being.
On a physical level, it also affects your uterus, especially during pregnancy where it helps start contractions and lowers your stress levels. The dopamine, which regulates your body’s movement, attention span and emotional responses, plays its part, too. It’s also released when you take certain drugs, such as ecstasy, and gives people such a high that it can be highly addictive. Flooding your bloodstream with dopamine during sex is completely healthy but the addiction element is still there.
The hormones can alter your thinking and actions, and many people go on ‘auto-mode’ without actively considering what they’re doing. Does it feel good to push your body closer? Do you feel the urge to nibble on your lover’s shoulder, even though you’ve never – consciously – thought about it before? Dopamine, along with oxytocin, is letting your urges call the shots, and you’re filled with pleasure because of it. That being said, the logical side of your brain is still there but has switched off for the time being. And while hormones induce bonding feelings, it doesn’t mean this will always lead to slow, sensual or romantic sex.
Hate sex can trigger the same physical response, alongside a boost of adrenaline – which is also released when you’re angry – and serotonin, a happy chemical.
External factors can affect your sex brain as well, such as how you’re feeling before you start having sex. ‘A study by The Journal of Sexual Medicinei n 2017 examined brain activity before, during and immediately after female orgasm,’ Dr Sarah Welsh, who works with the condom brand Hanx, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘It found that brain activity was heightened during orgasm, with increased activity in several parts of the brain, suggesting the brain is heavily affected during sexual activity, as well as the body.
‘Oxytocin helps regulate cortisol, the stress hormone, which can, in turn, induce calmness and improve stress symptoms. Other studies have found that sex can lower blood pressure, improve memory, and help with pain symptoms. The activity and increase in blood flow around the body are to thank for this!’
Sex and masturbation can be great stress-relievers, but hormones can only do so much. The hormones will give you a temporary boost of emotions, but if you’re already experiencing feelings such as stress or anxiety, this could work its way through the sex brain.
Let us explain: say you’re having sex and everything feels great, when suddenly you remember the anxiety you felt when you were at work earlier that day – this can break through the fuzziness that we mentioned earlier and your ‘active’ thinking once again takes charge.
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