Sex desire reduction (Loss of libido)

What is loss of libido?

Loss of libido (sex drive) is a common problem that affects many men and women at some point in their life. Everyone’s sex drive is different but if you find your lack of desire for sex distressing or it’s affecting your relationship, it’s a good idea to get help.

What are the causes of low libido?

Relationship problems

One of the first things to consider is whether you’re happy in your relationship. Do you have any doubts or worries that could be behind your loss of sexual desire? A low libido can be the result of:

  • being in a long-term relationship and becoming overfamiliar with your partner
  • loss of sexual attraction
  • unresolved conflict and frequent arguments
  • poor communication
  • difficulty trusting each other
  • physical sexual problems

Sexual problems

Another thing to consider is whether the problem is a physical issue that makes sex difficult or unfulfilling. For example, a low sex drive can be the result of:

  • ejaculation problems
  • erectile dysfunction
  • vaginal dryness
  • painful sex
  • inability to orgasm
  • involuntary tightening of the vagina (vaginismus)

Stress, anxiety and exhaustion

Stress, anxiety and exhaustion can be all-consuming and have a major impact on your happiness, including your sex drive. If you feel you’re constantly tired, stressed or anxious, you may need to make some lifestyle changes or speak to your GP for advice.

Depression

Depression is very different from simply feeling unhappy, miserable or fed up for a short while. It’s a serious illness that interferes with all aspects of your life, including your sex life. A low sex drive can also be a side effect of antidepressants.

Getting older and the menopause

A reduced sex drive isn’t an inevitable part of ageing, but it’s something many men and women experience as they get older. There can be many reasons for this, including:

 

  • falling levels of sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) just before, during and after the menopausein women
  • falling levels of sex hormones (testosterone) in men
  • age-related health problems, including mobility problems
  • side effects of medication

Underlying health problems

Any long-term medical condition can affect your sex drive. This may be a result of the physical and emotional strain these conditions can cause, or it may be a side effect of treatment. For example, a low libido can be associated with:

  • heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • an underactive thyroid – where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones
  • cancer
  • major surgery – for example, surgery to remove the ovaries and womb in women

Medication and contraception

Certain medicines can sometimes reduce libido, including:

  • medication for high blood pressure
  • Antidepressant
  • Antiseizures, such as topiramate
  • Antipsychotics, such as haloperidol
  • medication for an enlarged prostate, such as finasteride
  • medication for prostate cancer, such as cyproterone
  • combined hormonal contraception (pillpatchor ring), the progestogen-only pill, the contraceptive implant and the contraceptive injection

 

Poor nutrition

Heavy dieting, prolonged fasting and lack of enough nutrients in your diet could be another contributing factor or a cause of low sex desire. Eating disorders and low BMI are associated with poor sexual performance.

 

Alcohol and drugs

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period can reduce your sex drive, so it’s a good idea not to drink too much.

Opioids and narcotics could result in hormonal imbalance and affect the sex desire. Heavy and long term cigarettes smoking could result in vascular insufficiency and affect sexual desire and performance.

Anabolic steroid

Prolonged use of anabolic steroids could result in gonadal atrophy and suppression of secretion of these hormones from internal sources.

Laboratory work up

Your physician might order the following investigations:

  1. CBC to rule out anemia
  2. THS, T4: to check your thyroid hormone
  3. Blood sugar: to rule out diabetes
  4. Serum Testosterone, Prolactin, FSH, LH to assess gonadal disease

How is loss of libido managed?

Management of lack of sex desire depends on the underlying causes.

If your feel depressed your physician might start you antidepressants. Unfortunately, long use of some antidepressants could cause low sex drive. Luckily, these days there are better alternatives that has least effect on sex drive.

Avoiding alcohol and drugs is another way to improve sexual desire. Opioids such as heroin, codeine, morphine, methadone, suboxone, percocet, oxycodone and dilaudid are some common drug causes of low sex desire. If you are prescribed these medications for treatment purposes, your physician might start testosterone replacement therapy for you or prescribe viagra.

Individuals with high blood pressure or high blood sugar would need to control their blood pressure and blood sugar. Increasing physical activity, dietary and lifestyle modifications are among the most effective ways in controlling blood pressure and blood sugar and also improving sexual desire.

References

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  • Ponholzer A, Temml C, Mock K, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for erectile dysfunction in 2869 men using a validated questionnaireEur Urol2005;47:80–86.
  • Andréa Poyastro Pinheiro MD, PhD  T.J. Raney PhD  Laura M. Thornton PhD  Manfred M. Fichter MD Wade H. Berrettini MD  David Goldman MD  Katherine A. Halmi MD  Allan S. Kaplan MD Michael Strober PhD  Janet Treasure MD  D. Blake Woodside MD  Walter H. Kaye MD Cynthia M. Bulik PhD. Sexual functioning in women with eating disorders. Volume43, Issue2, March 2010. Pages 123-129.
  • Trilok N. Monga, Gabriel Tan, Henry J. Ostermann, Uma Monga & Martin Grabois. Sexuality and sexual adjustment of patients with chronic pain. Published online: 28 Jul 2009, Pages 317-329.

Important note:

This document is prepared by the “Mental Health for All” team. The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider properly licensed to practise medicine or general healthcare in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet, or fitness program. Information obtained on the Website is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment.

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