Low Sex Drive
Dr. Britney Blair, Psy.D., CBSM
Last Medically Reviewed 11.21.22
Almost every man or woman will experience low libido at one time or another. The ebb and flow of sexual desire is part of what makes us human. But when decreased libido starts to cause stress and frustration for you or between you and your partner, it’s time to look into it more closely.
What is Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder?
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) - otherwise known as the loss of libido or reduced sexual desire - is a common problem that affects many men and women. Put simply, it describes a decreased interest in sex over a period of six months or more.
If you are someone who is experiencing low sexual desire, it can be helpful to identify what type of desire has dropped. Is it Situational Low Desire, where you lack sexual desire for your partner? Or is it HSDD, where you lack any desire for sex at all - including solo sex (or masturbation)?
When left unaddressed, HSDD in women or men can cause what is sometimes called a “dead bedroom”. I prefer to avoid this phrase however. Because while our disinterest in sex, unresponsiveness to our partner’s sexual suggestions, or avoidance of sex altogether can leave your partner feeling frustrated and depressed - these situations are often reversible with the correct treatment.
Fortunately, there are a number of options available on the market. Namely, the Lover app which the FDA has stated is a safe side-effect-free treatment option for low desire. Private, pill-free and developed by myself and my team of expert Doctors.
What Causes Low Libido in Men and Women?
So what causes low sexual desire? There are actually a number of potential causes:
Learning about the cause of your low libido is the first step to finding a solution.
Let’s focus on the psychological factors that may contribute to HSDD in women and men.
Stress & anxiety can impact your sex drive
Our mental health has a massive impact on our sex drive. Feelings of stress and anxiety alert your brain to danger, which puts it into fight or flight mode. Not only does this make it harder to want sex, but it also diverts blood away from your genitals and makes it harder to get aroused. This same reaction can lead to Erectile Dysfunction, Anorgasmia and even pain during sex.
Stress & anxiety are often part of everyday life, but by putting in place coping mechanisms and buffers between our stressful personal or work lives and our sex lives, we can better manage the impact. The Lover app has a number of exercises to help you do just that.
If body image or self-esteem is something you occasionally experience, keep in mind that this could be having an impact on your sexual appetite.
Feelings of self-doubt can create anxiety about rejection during partnered sex, which in turn can shut down our natural sexual response cycle.
These fears can also make it difficult to drop out of your head and into your body during sex itself, making it hard to enjoy yourself. By practicing mindfulness exercises, you can instead ensure you’re being present for pleasure.
More common in people experiencing Situational Desire, relationship factors can have a huge impact on your sex drive. These relationship factors falls into three main buckets.
Firstly, the stage of your relationship. It is normal for spontaneous desire between a monogamous couple to dissipate within 6 to 18 months of their relationship. This is nothing to do with the relationship “match”, and everything to do with the sexual side of your brain being hardwired to novelty.
While this isn’t in itself a drop in sex drive, it can often cause a very common problem called desire discrepancy, where one partner desires sex more or less frequently than the other. Left unaddressed, this can eventually cause issues that contribute to a lowered sex drive.
Secondly, there are relationship stressors. Every relationship has its highs and lows, and it is completely normal during the lows for this to create stress - which impacts your sex drive.
Finally, there is the quality of the sex you’re having. Often, people don’t lose their desire for sex. They just lose their desire for the sex they’re having.
Substance abuse, drugs, or alcohol can also impair your nervous system and lead to physical fatigue. This can often impact, and significantly subdue, your desire for sex.
Lack of sleep is another common cause for a decreased sex drive. When your body is tired, it may prioritize recovery over sex!
And of course, aging is also a significant libido inhibitor. Menopause in women causes vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse, which can make sex less pleasurable and therefore desirable. Men may also experience hormonal changes that may cause a drop in libido.
Some chronic illnesses may also cause low libido and sexual arousal disorder.
Type 2 diabetes
High blood pressure
Chronic organ failure (lung, heart, kidney, and liver)
Certain medications may directly cause low libido. For example, anti-depressants can result in a suppressed sex drive in both men and women.
These are other medications that may lower libido:
Opioid pain relievers
Chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer
Antifungal medication called ketoconazole
GERD medicine cimetidine
Birth control pills show some evidence of reducing sex drive
Whatever the cause of your low libido, addressing the issue is always advisable. You don’t have to suffer through a sexless relationship. Help is available for you.
What are the Symptoms of Low Libido?
Fluctuations in sexual desire are pretty normal. However, when there is a noticeable drop in your sex drive for a period of six months or more, it is time to take action. Acknowledging your symptoms is often the first step of the recovery process for low libido in men and women.
Here are the symptoms to watch out for:
Very little to zero interest in sexual activity
No sexual thoughts or fantasies, whether you are alone or with your partner
A lack of interest or excitement at sexual material which would have previously got you aroused (e.g. sex scenes in movies, books or online)
An unusual lack of pleasure when you do have sex
Treatment Options for Low Libido
There are a number of things you can do to boost your libido and get your sexual relationship back on track.
Simply living a healthier lifestyle can have a big impact - not only on your level of sexual desire, but also on the quality of the sex you’re having. Eating healthy and doing regular exercise are both known to be natural and significant libido boosters.
However in many cases, you may need more targeted treatment solutions. When your sexual desire has been low for some time, you may want to consider sex therapy or relationship therapy.
This is normally done face-to-face with a qualified professional and can be highly effective. However, it can also be costly. Some people also struggle with the embarrassment of talking to another person about their sexual problems - which is why I and my team of Doctors created the Lover app.