The Lowdown on Low Sexual Desire

The Lowdown on Low Sexual Desire

By Dr. Sari Locker

December 2007

Each week, dozens of people e-mail me asking about the same issue: "I feel like I'm never in the mood for sex. What can I do about my low sex drive?" In this article, I answer this question with the basics about low libido.

If you find yourself avoiding sex because you’re not in the mood, then you’re not alone. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 33% of women and 19% of men have reduced sexual desire at some point in their lives. While the proverbial “headache” is a problem once in a while, when little excuses such as this become recurrent, you may be experiencing what is referred to as hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The disorder can evolve into a chronic condition and lead to severe interpersonal strife. Fortunately, low sexual desire can be identified and treated in sex therapy or with medical treatment. You deserve an evaluation to identify the causes and the best approach to this treatable disorder. To start the process, the following may help you assess why you have lost the desire for sex.

The first course of action in treating a desire issue is narrowing down the possible causes.  There are three primary causes of low sexual desire in a woman or man: physical, emotional, or relationship issues.  While sorting these out may require expert help, there are common offenders within each of these categories:

Physical Causes

Medication may be to blame if you have low libido.  Blood pressure medications, birth control pills, and many anti-depressants (like Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil) are common culprits. If you are on any medication, talk with your doctor about your sexual issues, and whether there is the possibility for you to change doses or medications to find out if your side effects will subside.

If medication is not causing your problem, then you should try to determine if you have an imbalance of your body’s natural level of hormones. In order to feel sexual desire, the amounts of hormones in one’s blood must be in balance. Testosterone plays an important role in desire for both men and women. You can get your levels checked through a blood test administered by your doctor. Sometimes hormonal levels resolve on their own, particularly if they were affected by a temporary change in your body, such as pregnancy. There are treatments for low testosterone levels, but they are not for everyone because of their side effects. It is important to talk to a medical doctor about your hormones when you notice lowered sexual desire. 

Emotional Causes

Stress is a major reason for hypoactive sexual desire. Whether you are having problems at work, with your finances, or family, stress certainly will keep you from feeling “in the mood”.  Major life stressors such as the death of a relative or friend can certainly shut down sexual feeling. Low self esteem, particularly when it is linked to poor body image, perhaps from a recent weight gain, may also cause one to detach sexually.

Desire problems that are rooted in emotions are often best treated by getting into psychotherapy.  Talking out the issues in your life may be all that you need to find your way to be being sexual. If you need more help, in some cases medication may be prescribed by a psychiatrist to help you cope with your emotions. Try to relieve stress through maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and doing cardiovascular exercise, yoga, or a stretching routine.

Relationship Issues

Sexual desire disorders often come to light in the setting of a relationship.  If you don’t feel turned on by your lover, but you still feel the desire to have sexual pleasure alone or with someone other than your partner, then the problem is probably more of a relationship problem than a sexual problem.

When your partner goes through a change in appearance or acts differently toward you, it could lower your desire. If you argue or have power issues in the relationship, sexual encounters may become infrequent. Lack of trust is also a common cause of lowered desire. If a spouse committed had an affair, and you are aware of it, you may not desire your spouse. Try to see a therapist as soon as you notice the problem, rather than waiting until you both pull away further.
Sometimes the answer to your desire issue is simply that sex has become routine, and you need more excitement to spice up your sex life. If that is the problem, talk openly with your partner. Then try to explore new sexual positions, new locations for sex, and other variations that appeal to both of you. With luck and a little work, you and your partner will find new ways to put some zing back into your sex life and reduce your frequency of "headaches".

Copyright (c) Sari Locker, Ph.D. 2007, 2008

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