Understanding the Psychology of Sex

By: Robert Porter

Updated December 18, 2020

Sex is a very important aspect of life, hardwired into most of us to ensure the continued survival of our species. It’s a healthy part of life that can be very fulfilling, but has the potential to be dangerous or unhealthy.

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When you're trying to understand the psychology of sex, it's important to note that it's a very complex matter that cannot simply be looked at from only one angle. If you want to have a true understanding of sex, then you need to know that motivations and psychological desires will vary based from person to person, relationship to relationship, and circumstance to circumstance.

Differences Between Males And Females In Sex Psychology

There are some key differences when examining sexual psychology in males and females. Typically, men seem to see sex as something that they constantly need to seek out. For some men, it's a primal type of urge that causes them to think of sex more often than most women. When this gets out of control, it can sometimes lead to sex addiction or pornography addiction.

Women often (but not always, of course) see sex as an extension of their relationship with a partner. Sexual motivations in some women are motivated by deepening the relationship. Sometimes, the motivations are also about procreation. The same can be said of men, but sexual urges are often seen to be much more powerful, forward, and prevalent in males.

Of course, this is all very general information and it isn't always going to be true in every case. There are many men out there who think about sex quite differently from the more primal type of male described above. You'll also find many women who think about sex in different ways. There’s really no set way that any of us are “supposed” to think about sex, so long as we and our relationships are healthy!

Sexual Anxiety

Sex is something that people are psychologically motivated to participate in. Psychology can also play a negative role in keeping people from either having or performing as they normally would during sex. Many people experience problems with sexual anxiety that will prevent them from having fulfilling sex lives. Several different things can cause these anxiety issues.

Some people experience types of sexual or emotional trauma that keeps them from being able to be intimate with another person. An example of this would be someone who was abused in the past. Sometimes these negative events will stay with a person and prevent them from being able to form a satisfying sexual bond with others. Other times, there might even be a physical cause for this anxiety such as a medical condition.

There are people who feel sexual anxiety due to their own appearance. A person who thinks that they are unattractive or undesirable may have problems feeling open enough to let themselves get into a sexual situation. They may desire it, but there is something holding them back psychologically. When people are experiencing this level of sexual anxiety, it can be tough to let go of their preconceived notions about their appearance even when they have a supportive partner.

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Also, there are many men out there who feel anxiety due to feeling somehow inadequate. Men who worry about whether they have a smaller penis than average may avoid sexual encounters due to not wanting to feel ashamed. Oftentimes, these fears are completely unfounded, but that doesn’t take away from the validity or difficulty of the anxiety.

Anxiety problems can be difficult to cope with, and sometimes it’s helpful to seek out professionals who can help you if you're going through a tough time. Feeling anxious about sex may prevent you from discovering just how great, natural, and healthy it can feel. This type of psychological problem can be very frustrating, but it is something that can be worked on. Many people have managed to overcome sexual anxiety with the help of dedicated therapists.

Sex Addiction

Another aspect of sex psychology to consider is desire. Many of us have a natural sex drive, while others do not – either way is perfectly normal! However, sexual addictions, such as addictions to masturbation, sex itself, or porn, can become unhealthy and get in the way of life. Sometimes the compulsion to have sex becomes so strong that people will seek it out to the detriment of their own health.

Participating in risky sexual encounters or compulsively seeking sex can be dangerous. This is known as a sex addiction and there are millions of people who experience it. Sex releases a chemical in your brain known as dopamine, which provides a temporary boost in positivity and contentment. Once this drops, those with addictions will experience a withdrawal and seek out another dopamine dump. This dopamine dump is one of the primary drivers behind sexual addictions, and may cause some people to seek out sex partners haphazardly, treat their partners disrespectfully, or to compulsively masturbate.

This problem is something that some people may see as a joke thanks to popular culture, but it's actually very serious. It can cause people to lose their jobs, stop engaging in healthy daily activities, and can strain or destroy relationships. This is a psychological problem that requires expert help and you should seek out a skilled therapist if you suspect that you or someone you know has a sexual addiction.

It is certainly possible to learn how to get things back to normal after going through some type of sex addiction. Behaviors can be changed and you can place yourself on a different path. You just have to take the time to reach out to someone who can help you.

Sexual Therapy Can Help

Sometimes sexual issues, whether relating to anxiety, trauma, or addiction, are not going to be easy to overcome on your own. When this is the case, it's important to reach out to professionals to get the help that you need. There are many therapists out there who understand psychological sex problems and can work with you to help you heal. These issues have the potential to throw your life into turmoil, but therapists can help you to regain a sense of control and wellbeing.

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Whether you're dealing with sex addiction, a medical condition such as erectile dysfunction, or you're experiencing severe sexual anxiety, therapists will be able to help. They have experience when it comes to helping people work through issues. They can talk about what is bothering you and will have expert advice that can assist you to move forward.

Sex can be one of the best parts of life. Sometimes anxiety or addictive behaviors can take that away from you, but you don't have to remain feeling as if sex is a problem in your life. It's possible to reclaim your sexual happiness - a therapist can help you to get to that point.

Thankfully, there are many therapists out there and they help people with these types of issues all the time. You aren't alone in dealing with sex problems, as these issues impact the lives of millions of people each year.

Online Therapy Is Also Available

Online therapy is also available for you to consider. Some people feel a bit nervous or embarrassed about seeking out therapy. This is, at times, especially true for people who are experiencing sexual problems and may feel a sense of shame, guilt, or negative stigma regarding them. The availability of online therapy makes it more practical for everyone to seek out therapy in a discreet, safe way.

You can reach out to an online therapist today in order to start getting help. Online therapists are fully licensed and have all of the necessary experience to help you resolve your issues. It may take some time to work through what is going on in your life, but you can get there with the help of a compassionate professional. If you feel like your sexual anxiety, trauma, or addiction is harming your quality of life, then you should know that things can change when you start working on the problem with an experienced therapist.

Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy. For example, one study found that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for women with sexual dysfunction brought on by breast cancer was quite effective in restoring sexual functioning, desire, drive, and positive body image. Online CBT therapy has also been found to be very effective in helping those with anxiety, including sexual anxiety.

You can contact an online sex therapist whenever you're in need. There are many different options for how you can interact with BetterHelp’s therapists online, too. You can chat with them over the phone, via video streaming, live voice recording, or you can simply send text messages back and forth. Additionally, online therapy is on average cheaper than in-person therapy, and is accessible anytime, anywhere – you’ll just need an internet connection to get started!

Don't hesitate to reach out if you've been struggling with sex-related issues. Understanding the psychology of sex isn't always easy, but your therapist will be able to get to the bottom of any issues that you're experiencing. Everyone goes through difficulties from time to time. Just understand that you aren't alone and that you can get back to having a fulfilling sex life once again. See below for reviews of some of our licensed therapists from people seeking help with similar issues.


“I worked with Sarah for some months last year, while struggling a lot with depression, relationship issues and my self esteem. It was a really difficult time in my life, but I must say that Sarah really helped me a lot. From before I had some bad experiences with therapists, feeling that they didn’t really see me and understand what I needed help with, but with Sarah it was soooo different! From the very first session I felt like she got me, knew what I needed and that she managed to see the connection between my issues and my background. Working with her truly helped me a lot with moving out of my depression, battling the issues in my relationships and maybe most importantly, getting my self esteem back and truly loving myself. I’d absolutely recommend Sarah, and I’d most definitely trust her again if life gives me lemons again!”

“My counselor Lyn has been very supportive as I have accepted and processed many different kinds of abuse that have occurred over the course of my life for the first time - religious, sexual, and emotional abuse. Her kindness and ability to meet me where I’m at has kept me coming back. I’m so thankful I finally started therapy and that Lyn has been there for me.”

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

How Do You Sexually Arouse A Woman Mentally?

Human sexuality is complex and nuanced. Sexual desire is something many of us have experienced in a myriad of ways, and differs depending on our circumstances and mood. Depending on who you are, different things turn different people on, and sexual arousal varies from person to person. For many women, sex isn't solely about bodies connecting, but rather it's about a mental connection. If you want to arouse a woman sexually, make it about her. Not necessarily about her body, but compliment what you like about her as a person. Maybe you notice that she's assertive, and that's attractive to you. Let her know that you find her dominant nature sexy. It's not only about sexual behavior, but rather communication. A sex therapist can help you learn more about your sexuality or your partner's connection to sexuality and sexual experiences, so if you and your partner have struggles related to your sex life, that is a great place to start.

How Often Do Men Need Sex?

Society tells us that men have a drive for sex that is significant. Social psychology shows us that a strong sexual desire is common amongst men. According to Edward O. Laumann, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and the lead author of The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, the vast majority of men who are under the age of 60 think about sex at least once a day.

This is in contrast to, Dr. Laumann notes, women having a more emotional and mental connection with sexuality. Many men can view sex as a physical want and need; on the other hand, many women need to have an emotional component involved (this can, of course, be true for men, too!). Some women use sex for emotional satisfaction more than anything, but that can be true for people of any gender.

Sexual behavior doesn't follow a particular pattern or formula. It's different from person to person. Everyone will have a different sex life, and everyone will experience a different amount of sexual desire. Sexual behavior is so individual from person to person that it's impossible to know how often someone will want sex based on gender alone.

Is Sex A Physiological Need?

Sex can be a physiological need for human beings. It serves different needs for a variety of different people. Sexual activity can be fun for some people, for others more meaningful, and for others it may not hold much, if any, significance in their lives at all.

Why Do We Have Sex?

People have sex for different reasons. Some people engage in sexual behavior to connect with a partner, others have sex to have children, while others have sex simply because it feels good. Human sexuality is fluid. Some people have a vibrant and healthy sex life, while others don't place importance on sex at all. A person's sexual preferences are as individual as they are, and our wants and needs change throughout life.

Is It Okay To Have Sex Every Day?

Some people have sex every day, but this is not the case for everyone or even most people. The average amount that adults in the United States have sex is once per week, according to a 2017 study seen in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Sexual desire is a natural feeling when you are attracted to someone. There are many variables when it comes to a person's sex life. You might have a massive sexual desire or appetite, or you may fall under the category of asexuality. For a person who is asexual, they don't want or need sex, or they may only be interested in it very infrequently. Additionally, there are people with sexual desire disorder, which is characterized by a lack of sexual desire over a substantial and prolonged time.

As long as sex is consensual and unless you battle a sex addiction that is taking over an unhealthy amount of your life and mental space, the amount that you have sex is probably fine. If you’re concerned, you can certainly seek out a sex therapist to help you assess your concerns.

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