Sexting, under the right circumstances, can be a boon for both your relationship and your mental health. That’s because it bestows many of the benefits of in-person sex, like an increase in endorphins and a reduction in stress.
Here’s how sexting can improve your mental health and when it has the opposite effect.
When sexting isn’t great for your mental health
There have been many studies about the downsides of teen sexting, and plenty of pearl-clutching, too. For one, teen sexting has been linked with depression and anxiety. Cyberbullying and sexting victimization exist, and they commonly happen to impressionable teens. Yet other research has found it to be a healthy part of growing up, depending on the age and consent of the sexter. It’s clear that young teens who are coerced into sending content they are not comfortable with will have a poor experience with sexting. But for other demographics, sexting can be advantageous for many reasons.
The mental health benefits of consensual texting
There’s a lot more to sexting than the dangers it poses to teens. Like anything else in life, context is crucial in order to reap the mental health benefits of sexting. Sexting isn’t always about a quick, virtual sexual exchange. Sometimes, people sext for other reasons; like reassurance about their relationship or as a form of foreplay for later, in-person sexual encounters.
Before people can derive all the possible benefits from sexting, they have to know what they’d like to get out of it. Perhaps they’d like to get a boost of body acceptance and confidence, or maybe they’d enjoy the thrill of doing something fleeting and unexpected. These goals can help shape their sexting experience into something positive.
Some studies have found that sexting is associated with sexual satisfaction, especially for people who are casually dating. Even for those who are in committed relationships, sexting has been linked with a greater sense of well-being. Sexting is also associated with higher relationship satisfaction. About half of people that engage in sexting report positive sexual or emotional consequences.
Further, if you’re in a long-distance relationship, sexting can help confer some of the mental health benefits of having in-person sex. Some of these benefits are physical, like lowering your blood pressure, increasing your heart health, and reducing your risk of certain diseases. Others are mental, like the fact that sex of any kind (which includes sexting) can help you reduce stress, enhance your self-confidence, and help you to experience a human connection.
Lastly, sexting is a way to get out of your comfort zone for many people. Sometimes, getting out of your comfort zone is a form of self-care. That’s because when you get out of your comfort zone, you experience more authenticity, and you are free to recognize parts of yourself that are typically hidden. When you sext, you might learn something new about yourself; some new path toward sexual pleasure or an activity that you enjoy that you would have never known about otherwise. It’s an important method of sexual exploration on the journey toward sexual self-actualization.
Reducing the risks of sex chat
Sexting is only unhealthy when it’s done under risky circumstances. For people to get the most out of sexting, it’s vital to ensure they do it safely. Even in trusting, committed relationships, it’s a good idea not to send explicit photos with your face or other identifying features in them. Keep in mind that using your work phone or computer can land you in some hot water with your employer. And, sexting lovers should use privacy-protecting platforms so that their conversations aren’t at risk for public exposure. For those who want to sext with other consenting adults, finding a site that verifies all users’ ages is an absolute must.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.