Can having sex help treat depression?

Dr. Marsha Lucas

No, sex can't "cure" depression. But having sex can temporarily boost feel-good neurochemicals, such as oxytocin, says neuropsychologist Marsha Lucas, PhD, author of Rewire Your Brain for Love.

Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health

I asked my coauthor Dr. John Preston this question while we were collaborating on a book about depression management.

His answer is very enlightening.


It is very likely that orgasms are accompanied by a release of endorphins that then cause a sudden release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is dopamine that is likely to be the specific molecule activating pleasure centers in the brain. This also results in generalized relaxation and may promote sleepiness.

The emotional factors are numerous. Probably topping the list is the feeling of closeness and bonding to another during and following orgasms. Separation stress in baby mammals can be quickly soothed by reuniting with its mother, and this is known to result in the release of endorphins. Thus, a part of the emotional aspect of sex is to produce a calming feeling, especially related to reducing separation stress (people, at least for a while, feel less alone).

Satisfying sexual relation can also be a source of comfort as it can provide
assurances of being loved by another. This may be especially true if sexual
interactions transmit the message that the sexual partner is sensitive to the
other and interested in providing pleasure to him or her.


I can now see how sex with a loving partner could help a
person manage depression.

Continue Learning about Depression Treatment

Depression Treatment

Depression Treatment

Because it is a multi-faceted condition, treatment for depression is multi-faceted as well. Minor depression can often be treated with therapy and a few simple lifestyle changes, while chronic or major depression treatment can req...

uire medication in addition to therapy. In some severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used. It's important to work with your mental health professional to determine which course of treatment for your type of depression is most appropriate.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.