Low sex drive: Why?
I saw a 60-year-old guy recently who, at the very end of the visit, wondered why his sex drive (libido) was so low. He pondered—“Am I just getting older”. The same week I saw a thirty something with the same complaint---“It’s becoming a big source of conflict in my relationship”. The next day I saw a 40 something who complained about her husbands lack of sexual interest. She was feeling neglected and frustrated. She just didn’t understand why. “Is there something wrong with me?” she pondered.
I wondered— "Is there an epidemic of low sex drive?”
Low sex drive can have so many causes that it may be hard to sort out which factors are in play. Sometimes it’s obvious. New moms and dads, up several times a night soothing and feeding infants, are usually dog tired. It’s not a recipe for super sex. During this phase of life, moms and dads are far more interested in a good nights sleep than rock and roll sex. When teenagers are up at all hours, wandering around, parents are worried about where they are and what they’re doing—not a super sexy time either. So stage of life can be a big factor in sex drive.
Fatigue is a common culprit. Long hours at work, juggling too many responsibilities, two full time working parents, can all add up to lack of sexual interest. Sexual desire requires a certain amount of physical and mental gas. When an adult is over tired or exhausted, the basis for libido simply isn’t present.
Stress and stressful life events also put a dent in libido. A geographic move, financial problems, a death or illness in the family, or a new job or a job loss can reduce an adult’s desire for sex.
Hormonal changes, both after childbirth and in menopause, can result in lower libido in women. As a woman’s estrogen level is dropping both before and during menopause, she can experience hot flashes and insomnia. I remember when my wife was going through menopause she would wake up in the middle of the night, throw off the blankets, and open up all the windows in the bedroom. “I feel like there is a blow torch against my skin!” she would say. Obviously she wasn’t thinking about romance! Some women also experience lack of lubrication during sex due to the loss of estrogen. Sex can become painful or uncomfortable.
Low testosterone can be a factor in both men and women. Apparently, testosterone is an important hormonal factor in sex drive for both genders. In men, testosterone levels normally decrease with age. But some men may develop very low levels that result in less sex drive. Lately, there is more interest in testosterone replacement as a way of increasing sex drive, particularly in men.
Medications can whittle away at sex drive too. Lack of libido is a very common side effect of some antidepressants (SSRI’s), blood pressure medications, and anti-seizure drugs.
Medical conditions can also reduce sexual energy. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease can cause vascular problems that interfere with sexual function and then desire. Other chronic problems that result in pain and fatigue also impact sexual interest.
Relationship problems are often the “elephant in the living room” when it comes to sexual distress. When times are tough between couples, resentment is high, and conflicts are unresolved, sexual desire is probably going to be in the pits too. So what should adults do when they go through a long stretch of low sexual interest?
- Identify the likely cause. Do you have one or more of the possible causes listed above? Sometimes, adults may have more than one possible factor. What do you think is the cause?
- Make a trip to see your primary health care provider. Talk to your provider about your concerns. There may be some medications that you can take that will have less of impact on your libido. They can do some blood work that may identify whether there is an underlying medical issue at play.
- Don’t sweep this concern under the rug. Everyone deserves a satisfying sexual life. If you have low libido, investigate, and then do something about it.
Have you had experience with this challenge? If so, how did you deal with it?