It’s no secret the trilogy and impending release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey has sparked our curiosity of the taboo 6-for-4 deal acronym: Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism, also known as BDSM or S&M. Kinky sex has been defined not by what it is but by what it’s not, and unfortunately, that means others' misconceptions about couples who follow this lifestyle. BDSM is not only a gateway for sexual experimentation that steers away from “vanilla” sex; it can also lead to physical and mental health benefits.

Americans have been feeding their sexual appetite with BDSM far more than the rest of the world. Thirty-six percent of adults in the U.S. use masks, blindfolds, and bondage tools during sex, according to a survey by Durex, compared to only 20 percent worldwide. Although the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) considers the elusive fiefdom practice a disorder if it causes people stress or dysfunction in their lives, it can actually enhance overall well-being.

Dr. Sandra LaMorgese, a sexpert, professional dominatrix, fetishist, and a holistic practitioner in mind, body, and spiritual holistic living in New York City, N.Y., believes BDSM can help couples bond and feel at ease. “During BDSM sessions, clients often experience a release of dopamine and serotonin, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These two chemicals are associated with feelings of happiness, tranquility, joy, self-confidence, emotional well-being, and motivation. In addition, the release of the chemical vasopressin compels people toward feeling bonded to one another,” LaMorgese told Medical Daily in an email.

Here are six other reasons why it may be time to take a pass on vanilla sex.

1. Improves Communication

Couples who practice BDSM tend to fare better than non-kinky couples when it comes to communication. This is because couples are more aware and communicative about their sexual desires that they know the importance of having a discussion. The utility of tools like “safe words” and making a distinction between “play” and otherwise typical relationship interaction is what contributes to the excellent communication between partners.

“BDSM friendly couples require impeccable communication whereas many mainstream relationships communicate about their sexuality as a result of 'inflammation' or challenges that arise. For a BDSM relationship to thrive, it must rely on a foundation of transparency and effective interaction,” Dr. Jeffrey Sumber, a psychotherapist in Chicago, Ill., told Medical Daily in an email.

2. Increases Intimacy

Adventure in between the sheets can increase intimacy among couples. The fact that many of these activities involve physical risk actually contributes to the level of intimacy that BDSM can produce. Patricia Johnson, award-winning co-author of Partners in Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy, and Long-term Love told Medical Daily in an email: “If someone is going to bind your wrists or tie you to a Saint Andrew’s cross and flog you, there has to be a high level of trust at work. This is also why you should seek instruction before trying anything but the mildest forms of kinky play.”

A 2009 study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found people who report their SM activities that go well actually show an increase in relationship closeness. This is in conjunction with the displays of caring and affection seen in consensual SM activities. The couples also showed a decrease in cortisol levels.

3. Encourages Fidelity

Sustaining a healthy BDSM or even polyamorous relationship is a significant investment couples make. Sumber believes it can actually “dissuade many people from cheating or acting out of integrity,” because of the energy, emotional space, and trust both partners put into the relationship. “[M]any who take it seriously are not interested in sabotaging the safety and trust that is imperative to its success,” he said.

4. Better Mental Health

Past assumptions of BDSM have been correlated with abuse, rape, or mental disorders, but science has proven time and again it’s not. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found people who practiced BDSM scored better on certain mental health indicators than those who had vanilla sex. The BDSM-friendly participants were less neurotic, more open, more aware of and sensitive to rejection, more secure in their relationships, and had a better overall well-being.

Physical contact between BDSM couples promotes a sense of wellbeing. LaMorgese believes this is because “the skin is the largest organ of the body, with millions of receptors right under the surface; receptors that, when stimulated by human touch, can lower our cortisol levels.” “When someone touches our skin,” she says, “through massaging, playing, hugging, hand-holding, or having physical sex, we begin to experience physiological and physical healing.” The mental healing comes from expressing your sexuality and truly being present in the interaction.

5. Reduces Psychological Stress

Stress levels tend to decrease when engaging in BDSM activities. In the same 2009 study previously mentioned, researchers found bottoms and tops (submissive and dominant) consistently had lower levels of cortisol after engaging in bondage compared to before. Although bottoms did experience an increase in cortisol levels before coming down at the end, they reported low psychological stress. This could be attributed to BDSM's nature of experiencing physical intensity while letting go of judgment, expectation, and anxiety in sexuality.

6. Reduces Anxiety

The sexual enjoyment of giving or receiving pain can actually reduce anxiety even for the most anxious of souls in the bedroom. A 2014 study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Austin, Texas, found the practice of SM alters blood flow in the brain, which can lead to an altered state of consciousness similar to a “runner’s high” or yoga. The brain changes seen in the prefrontal and limbic/paralimbic pain regions were activated when participants either received pain or gave pain by the roll of a dice. Tranquility is felt due to the high that is caused by the lack of blood flow to the area, therefore reducing anxiety.

So, although BDSM may not be as stigmatized as it once was, thanks partly to Fifty Shades, it's good to know that besides pleasure, the activity benefits other areas of our lives. LaMorgese went as far as likening it to a form of yoga, explaining how “focusing solely on the present moment is rejuvenating, as in a yoga practice or meditation.”