What You Don't Know About Low Sex Drive and What's Really Going On
I’m pretty sure my mom envisioned me to be a doctor. Instead, here I am talking about low sex drive. I think it’s close enough for someone who is notoriously bad at STEM. Sex drive, like sex itself, is a complicated topic. Taboo? Extremely. Should it be? Not at all. There are many reasons why someone might have a low sex drive, so let’s get into it.
- Low sex drive is caused by a number of physical and psychological components
- Keeping your body, hormones, and brain healthy can help restore sex drive
- Lower libido might be caused by relationship troubles
Why care about sex drive?
This has somewhat of a complicated answer. Is sex the end all be all? To some people no, to some people yes. What is categorized as a “normal” sex drive will vary from couple to couple (1). The textbook answer to why we care about low sex drive is that the state of your libido can reflect that state of your physical and mental health (1). That being said, physical intimacy may be an important part of your relationship, so the lack thereof may take a toll on some couples.
Causes of low sex drive in men (AMAB)
1. Low testosterone
Testosterone is the male sex hormone that allows males to produce sperm (2). As men age, their testosterone levels naturally decrease, often resulting in lower sex drive (2). However, some men might also have lower testosterone levels due to antidepressants or obesity (2).
2. Unhealthy lifestyle
As mentioned above, obesity can often cause or accompany low testosterone levels and low sex drive. Conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar will affect libido (2). It’s also important to look at lifestyle factors such as getting enough sleep, nutrition, and laying off drugs and alcohol (1).
3. Too much exercise
On the flip side, too much exercise might be killing your libido (5). While exercise has been touted to improve your sex drive, everything good needs to be in moderation. If you’re exercising intensely, you could be experiencing “exercise hypogonadal male condition”, where your testosterone and luteinizing hormones are being suppressed (5). Furthermore, all the exercise could be contributing to physical and mental fatigue, causing your sex drive to drop off the charts (5).
Aside from the general anxiety that comes with life, I think there’s a pretty damaging narrative out there that men need to be horny and sex-crazed all the time. This kind of expectation to perform can actually put a lot of pressure on a person. If sex becomes associated with negative emotions, there is little motivation to want to do it.
Causes of low sex drive in women (AFAB)
1. Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control, the [unfair] burden that women often bear to prevent unplanned pregnancies. The pill lowers your testosterone (yes women have this too), which can send out libido plummeting (4).
In your 30s, 40s, and 50s, your estrogen levels are starting to change. During menopause, your ovaries are shutting down and so will its estrogen supply (4). This causes tons of physical symptoms that can put a damper on your libido, such as hot flashes, sleep disruption, mood swings, and vaginal dryness (4).
3. Unhealthy lifestyle
Like with men, poor health can lead to low sex drive. Many of the same factors listed before are also true for women. I also wanted to note that a strict diet (ugh diet culture) might also be the reason behind lower libido. If we aren’t getting enough nutrients, our androgen levels (associated with male sex hormone) can lower (4). This can be accompanied by losing your period, something that female competitive athletes and bodybuilders may encounter (4).
4. Stigma against sex
For women, we’re often told that sex is horribly inappropriate and no “good girl” will ever do it. Masturbation is seen as a taboo topic for women while it’s acceptable for men to be more open about it. Our society has long been built on the concept of female purity and other sexist sh*t like that. And don’t get me started on the orgasm gap. All of these things are extremely problematic, especially when, in a relationship, we’re suddenly expected to want sex.
1. Relationship troubles
Now, this is one point I really want to emphasize. Any relationship troubles will impact a person’s sex drive. Does one person not pick up their share of chores? Are you bored of the relationship? Are there underlying issues that cause resentment between you and your partner? Are you meeting each other’s emotional needs? Oftentimes, these “little things” will manifest themselves in the bedroom (5). The answer to a better bedroom life might just be investing more into your overall relationship.
2. Stress, depression, or other mental health concerns
Sex isn’t just a physical act, it’s mental as well. Our lives are inundated with deadlines, projects, huge life changes, and millions of other issues. It can be hard to get in the mood when life won’t stop beating you down. If you wish to improve your sex drive, it’s important to find a way to better cope with life’s stresses. This can be anything from making more self-care time, consulting your doctor for a different medication, or actively removing negative influences in your life.
Written by Jessica Lu