Dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin are all released during sexual activity. Those hormones promote bonding, pain reduction and a sense of well-being.
It’s normal to feel exhausted after sex. The brain’s neurochemicals are released in the lead-up to and during an orgasm, amplifying arousal.
Many people also feel nauseous after an orgasm, which is a normal part of the release of these hormones.
Dopamine is a chemical produced in the brain’s reward center when you experience pleasure, like eating good food or engaging in sexual behavior. It also plays a small part in your “fight-or-flight” response to stress, releasing hormones that relax or constrict your blood vessels. It contributes to libido, especially in men and can make it easier to reach climax. Low levels of dopamine can lead to a lack of motivation and concentration, which is often associated with depression.
Doing things you enjoy can increase your dopamine levels, including playing with a pet or doing activities that make you feel happy or relaxed. Exercise, meditating and getting enough sleep can also raise dopamine. If you are concerned that your dopamine levels may be too low, talk to your doctor. They can test your dopamine levels and prescribe medications to treat the problem, if necessary.
Medications that boost dopamine can include antidepressants, mood stabilisers and Parkinson’s disease medicines. In some cases, dopamine-boosting medications are used to treat schizophrenia, as well. A dopamine detox can help you get back in balance, by reducing your impulsive behaviors and encouraging more flexible thinking. Eating a diet that includes foods rich in tyrosine, an amino acid that is converted into dopamine, can help too. Tyrosine-rich foods include eggs, bananas, chocolate and green leafy vegetables.
During sex, the brain releases chemicals that inspire actions and emotions you may not realize. “We have a lot of hormones going on that can really alter our behavior,” says Shadeen Francis, an MFT, marriage and family therapist who specializes in sex therapy.
In addition to dopamine, another chemical that can make you feel high after sex is oxytocin. Oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone,” promotes bonding and can boost libido by increasing levels of dopamine. It’s released by touching, kissing and snuggling. Oxytocin is also involved in maternal behavior and has anti-inflammatory effects. In one study, men and women who were given intranasal oxytocin displayed greater empathy for others and saw facial expressions more clearly.
This is a good thing, because it’s important for us to be able to trust and love one another. Oxytocin has also been linked to sexual desire and orgasm. In fact, researchers have found that oxytocin and vasopressin (a hormone that lowers cortisol) are responsible for some of the sensations we experience during sex.
Studies have shown that people who have a higher oxytocin level tend to be more trusting and compassionate, but there are downsides. For example, too much oxytocin can lead to an overactive uterus that limits pregnancy, as well as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), in which the prostate gland grows larger than it should.
Serotonin (also called 5-hydroxytryptamine) is a neurotransmitter that sends chemical messages from one nerve cell to another. It also acts as a hormone to regulate many different physiological functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it has a negative effect on neurons, decreasing the likelihood that they will fire action potentials. It balances the excitatory effects of other neurotransmitters.
It is produced in the brain stem and sent to other regions of the central nervous system and the body. Serotonin plays an important role in a number of psychological processes, such as mood regulation and sex drive. It also modulates gastrointestinal tract function and behavior. It is believed that it has a major impact on our overall feelings of happiness and well-being. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan, which can be found in foods such as turkey, milk and bananas.
During foreplay and sex, your body releases serotonin to help you relax and enjoy the experience. It is also important for arousal and controlling ejaculation. Serotonin has been shown to increase sexual interest in mice and change their sexual preference. In fact, preventing serotonin reuptake has been shown to prevent erections and decrease sexual interest in humans. However, this effect is more related to how much dopamine is being released than the levels of serotonin itself.
Endorphins, also known as opiate-like neuropeptides, are chemical messengers that block pain signals between your brain and body. They also increase pleasure, boost your mood and create a general feeling of well-being. They’re produced in your pituitary gland and hypothalamus, as well as throughout the central nervous system.
They’re known for reducing pain, decreasing stress and creating happiness, but they also help to regulate hormones that control hunger, sleep and sexual arousal. This raises the possibility that low levels of endorphins could contribute to some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, as well as certain inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.
You’re most likely familiar with the “runner’s high” – that sense of euphoria you feel after a long run. That’s thanks to endorphins, although technically it’s dopamine that creates happiness once you reach the finish line.
You can trigger the release of these feel-good chemicals by exercising, laughing, sex and eating spicy foods. Sex especially is great for increasing endorphins, as it not only gets your heart racing, but it also causes the brain to release oxytocin and vasopressin. These are the same neural pathways that are activated by drug use, alcohol consumption, gambling and listening to your favorite song – hence why sex is often described as pleasurable. The feeling of afterglow – the warm, fuzzy feeling you get after an orgasm – is another sign that your endorphins are working.