It doesn't take a doctor or mental health expert to tell you that orgasms feel good. The involuntary contractions and release, plus the combination of feel-good neurotransmitters, can make you instantly more relaxed, happier, and closer to your partner. But the benefits of orgasm extend beyond just feeling good, and some research suggests that orgasms have powerful health benefits.
In studies, orgasms have been shown to improve your immunity, increase your pain threshold, get rid of headaches, improve circulation, regulate your menstrual cycle, help you sleep, and more, says Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and creator of Finishing School: Learn How To Orgasm. "Orgasms are truly amazing things," she says.
Orgasms aren't just good for you physically, they can also be beneficial for your mental health, says Rachel Needle, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes. The rush of feel-good chemicals and hormones involved in orgasm, specifically oxytocin (aka the "cuddle hormone") and dopamine (another feel-good neurotransmitter), can put you in a better mood, Marin says.
That said, if you're not able to orgasm or have trouble orgasming (like 10-15% of women), then it's possible that trying to orgasm could stress you out even more. There's a lot of pressure on women to orgasm during sex, which is unfortunate, Marin says. "[Pressure] can be one of the biggest blockages to actually learning how to have them," she says.
Even when an orgasm isn't in the picture, sex can boost your mood, confidence, and body image, as well as decrease stress, Dr. Needle says. "Sexual satisfaction contributes to overall quality of life," she says. Having sex and masturbating can relieve tension and lead to heightened cognitive functioning, she says. That's why a quickie with your partner or a session with your favorite sex toy can help you momentarily forget about the emails you have to answer, or the car that rudely cut you off on the way home.
Prioritizing pleasure in your life, whether that means having sex or masturbating, is one way tool that you can use to manage your mental health, Dr. Needle says. That said, "if you have any real concerns about your mental health, you're better suited talking to a therapist and coming up with a more comprehensive care plan," Marin says. Orgasms, for as wonderful as they feel, aren't going to help you "obliterate crippling depression," she says.