Low sexual desire, often thought of as low sex drive or low libido, is when you have, perhaps obviously, low interest in sex. More specifically, and for it to be diagnosed as a sexual dysfunction according to how the DSM-5 talks about female sexual interest/arousal disorder, you must have three of the following six symptoms: “absent or reduced interest in sexual activity; absent or reduced sexual thoughts or fantasies; no or reduced initiation of sexual activity, and typically unreceptive to a partner’s attempts to initiate; absent or reduced sexual excitement or pleasure in almost all or all sexual encounters; absent or reduced sexual interest/arousal in response to any internal or external sexual cues; and absent or reduced genital or non-genital sensations during sexual activity in all or almost all sexual encounters.” The symptoms also need to persist for at least six months and must cause you “clinically significant distress” — an important distinction, since that’s a part of what separates low sexual desire from asexuality. Low sexual desire can also be lifelong or acquired, and can be general or situational.
Among allosexuals, or people who do generally experience sexual desire and sexual attraction, the level of that desire fluctuates over the lifetime. Sometimes, brushing up on how to work with your desire type can be all it takes to get your groove back. Other times, you may benefit from chatting with an expert about your situation in a more casual setting, or even seeking sex therapy.
Is my sex drive normal?
So how do you tell if your sexual desire is normal? The truth is, what a “normal” sex drive looks like is different for everyone. First of all, there’s no objective way to measure sexual desire across different populations to arrive at a universal standard. Second of all, even if there were, how you feel about your sexual desire — and, to a lesser extent, how it lines up with anyone you’re in a relationship with — is far more important. Some people are totally happy and satisfied with what for other people would be a very small amount of sex, while others are happy and satisfied with what for other people would be a very high amount of sex.
Sexual desire also shifts over time. This is the case for everyone eventually. Unless you find yourself at an extreme of no sex drive at all and feeling concerned about it, or a sex drive so high it’s interfering with your ability to live your life, a fluctuation in sex drive doesn’t need to be a cause for concern. However, if it’s impacting your life and relationships, or if it’s making you unhappy, it might be time to consider seeking expert support.
What causes low sexual desire?
A few different factors can contribute to low sexual desire.
Relationship factors, like relationship dissatisfaction, may result in a lack of sexual connection with your partner, and/or trust issues which in turn can act like a brake pedal for sexual intimacy.
Physiological factors include being on a medication that impacts sexual desire, having a sexual dysfunction (like anorgasmia), and even exhaustion. (Even if you think your medication might be a culprit, check with your healthcare provider before making any changes.)
Hormones can also be a factor. Depending on your body, pregnancy, menopause, going on or off hormone replacement therapy, and more can all impact your level of sexual desire.
There are often a few issues contributing to low desire together, so it’s about checking in with yourself and seeing where the problem may lie. When there’s so much pathologizing around sex, it’s also worth checking in with yourself and considering whether there’s a problem at all. If you’re happy with your sexual desire as it is, and it’s not causing any issues in your life that you aren’t sure how to handle, then just keep honoring the place you’re in. But if you are concerned about it, or it’s causing problems that you’d like to address, there are a few strategies that can help. You can also chat with an expert to explore your options in the Lover app.