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How Emotions Control Sex

And your ability to enjoy it

By Leigh NorénPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Top Story - August 2021
How Emotions Control Sex
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Emotions control sex. They determine what we want in bed, how much we enjoy the sex, and if we even want it at all. As a sex therapist, this is something I remind my clients of all the time. Because it’s easily forgotten.

We’ve been led to believe sexuality is a purely biological entity. That our sexual self is somehow separate from the rest of ourselves.

But the truth of the matter is -- your sexuality is deeply intertwined with the rest of you. And this is why sexual problems can hit hard. And hurt.

You are your sexuality

Experiencing sexual difficulties, like finding it hard to orgasm or feeling like your sex drive has vanished, can be tough. Not only because this can cause friction in relationships, but because sexuality is such a fundamental part of who we are.

This can be hard to recognise. After all, if your sex life doesn’t feel problematic or you’re enjoying the sex you’re having -- you’re probably not thinking about it most of the time.

As soon as sex becomes difficult, though, it starts to take up more mental energy and affects your everyday emotions.

And this effect goes both ways: the more shame, sadness or frustration you experience about a sexual difficulty such as difficulty having an orgasm or low sex drive, the harder they become to resolve.

And the harder they become to resolve, the more they feed into your everyday emotions and affect your general self-esteem and happiness.

How emotions control sex

A sexual experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum - it encompasses all of you and all of your emotions. This is partly why sex with the same person is sometimes mind-blowing and other times mind-numbingly boring.

It’s not just the kinds of sex you have or the positions you try that determine if you’re satisfied or not. It’s your thoughts, emotional state, and the connection with your partner, that tie into the experience as a whole. And this is true whether you experience sexual difficulties or not.

Here are three of our most common feelings and how they affect our sexual experiences and desire.


Irritability is seldom an aphrodisiac. In fact, for most of us, irritability turns off libido, because being irritated is a feeling that fosters boundary-setting - not connection. There are, however, times when you want to have sex with your partner even if you’re annoyed with them (or someone else).

While irritability doesn’t have to affect the sexual experience, you’ll probably find it does. Things such as emotional intimacy and even orgasms, can be harder to achieve while having sex and being annoyed. It can also feel more challenging to strike a connection with your partner, or to want to give them pleasure.


The emotion worry is a prime example of how emotions control sex. When you’re worried, it’s harder to be in the moment. And when your brain is all over the place and focused on potential dangers - it’s harder to get in the mood for sex, or enjoy it.

Your brain is your largest sexual organ.

This means it needs to be focused on the things that get you going. If it’s focused on worrying about the kids, how to get a new job, or if your spouse really is enjoying themselves - you’ll probably struggle to enjoy it, too.

However, worry and anxiety doesn’t always stand in the way of great sex or libido. How much these feelings affect your desire for sex partly depends on your attachment pattern, too.

Generally speaking, those with a more anxious-ambivalent style of attachment might find that anxiety actually drives libido, which you can read more about in my blog post on can emotions affect sex drive?.


Happiness and joy are all about connecting, getting close and sharing enjoyment together. This helps explain why happiness makes for more desire and better sex.

If you’re happy, you’re more likely to be present in the moment, which means more desire and sexual arousal.

This, in turn, might mean more orgasms all-round. Plus which, when you’re happy you’re more likely to want to give and receive pleasure which makes you a more generous partner in bed. And a better one.

What this all means if you have sexual difficulties

Because of the link between your emotions and your sexual self - solving sexual problems isn’t necessarily a case of spicing things up or trying new positions. It might be, but it might also be about working with yourself on a deeper level.

Tending to your emotions by:

  • Understanding what you’re feeling,
  • Understanding their role in your sexuality,
  • Understanding the back and forth effects of your sexuality and your emotions on one another, is usually a good place to start.

By taking a holistic view of your sexuality and understanding that emotions control sex, and sex also controls your emotions - you’ll be one step closer to the sex life you want and deserve.

If you want more help with removing the sexual pressure and stress, and increasing desire and intimacy, get on the wait-list for my online program, Re:Desire, opening soon.


Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and coach with a Master of Science in Sexology. She helps people reduce stress, shame, & anxiety surrounding sex -- so they can get their sex drive back and enjoy their partner again. If you want to learn more about how your emotions affect your love life, download her free resource: A Manual for Emotions.

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About the Creator

Leigh Norén

Sex therapist with a Master of Science in Sexology. Offers free online resources for a better sex life and relationship, sex therapy, and online courses.

Download free resources:

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