The thing is, your body is programmed to thrive when things are balanced. When one hormone is off, then many others get thrown off. And cortisol is no exception. When it remains elevated, it can unbalance many of your other hormones, including your sex hormones, which will tank your sex drive.
Seriously, especially for women in menopause, you cannot produce cortisol at the same time as you produce your sex hormones. As women enter menopause, the ovaries hand over the responsibility of making sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone) to the adrenals. When your adrenals are in fight-flight-or-freeze mode, they don’t have capacity to make cortisol and fuel your sex drive. That’s why when you’re a stress ball, the last thing you want is for the hubs to wink at you over the dinner table.
The imbalance of those sex hormones coming from your adrenals also fuels your hot flashes and night sweats—everybody says “my hormones are off,” and they think it’s normal menopause. It’s not. It’s stress!
The same can be said about cortisol for men (granted, not the menopause part). For men, the big worry is cortisol “steal.” See, cortisol uses the same pathways in your body as testosterone, and there’s only room for one hormone in that pathway! So if men are making too much cortisol, they are decreasing their testosterone production. In other words, either you’re stressing out and pushing cortisol through your body or you’re chilling and letting the testosterone come out to play.
Sex or stress? It’s your choice!