Low libido describes a decreased interest in sexual activity.
It’s common to lose interest in sex from time to time, and libido levels vary through life. It’s also normal for your interest not to match your partner’s at times.
However, low libido for a long period of time may cause concern for some people.
It can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying health condition.
Potential Causes of Low Libido in Men
Testosterone is an important male hormone. In men, it’s mostly produced in the testicles.
Testosterone is responsible for building muscles and bone mass, and for stimulating sperm production. Your testosterone levels also factor into your sex drive.
Normal testosterone levels will vary. However, adult men are considered to have low testosterone, or low T, when their levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), according to guidelines from the American Urological Association (AUA).
When your testosterone levels decrease, your desire for sex also decreases.
Decreasing testosterone is a normal part of aging. However, a drastic drop in testosterone can lead to decreased libido.
Talk to a doctor if you think this might be an issue for you. You may be able to take supplements or gels to increase your testosterone levels.
Taking certain medications can lower testosterone levels, which in turn may lead to low libido.
For example, blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers may prevent ejaculation and erections.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. A study found that men with RLS are at higher risk for developing erectile dysfunction (ED) than those without RLS. ED occurs when a man can’t have or maintain an erection.
Depression changes all parts of a person’s life. People with depression experience a reduced or complete lack of interest in activities they once found pleasurable, including sex. Low libido is also a side effect of some antidepressants.
When you’re not feeling well due to the effects of a chronic health condition, such as chronic pain, sex is likely low on your list of priorities. Certain illnesses, such as cancer, can reduce sperm production counts as well.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that no obese men with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experience lower testosterone levels. In turn, this leads to decreased sexual activity and libido.
In the study, researchers found that nearly one-third of the men who had severe sleep apnea also had reduced levels of testosterone.
Testosterone levels, which are linked to libido, are at their highest when men are in their late teens. In your older years, it may take longer to have orgasms, ejaculate, and become aroused.
If you’re distracted by situations or periods of high pressure, sexual desire may decrease. This is because stress can disrupt your hormone levels. Your arteries can narrow in times of stress. This narrowing restricts blood flow and potentially causes ED.
Self-esteem is defined as the general opinion a person has about their own self. Low self-esteem, low confidence, and poor body image can take a toll on your emotional health and well-being. If you feel that you’re unattractive, or undesirable, it’ll likely put a damper on sexual encounters.
Too Little (or too Much) Exercise
Too little or too much exercise can also be responsible for low sex drive in men. Too little exercise (or none at all) can lead to a range of health problems that can affect sexual desire and arousal. On the other hand, over-exercising has also been shown to affect sexual health.
Heavy alcohol drinking, or more than 14 mixed drinks in a week, has also been linked to a decrease in testosterone production. Over a long period of time, excessive amounts of alcohol can reduce your sex drive.
In addition to alcohol, the use of tobacco, marijuana, and illicit drugs such as opiates has also been connected to a decrease in testosterone production. This can result in a lack of sexual desire.
Smoking has also been found to have a negative impact on sperm production and sperm movement.
Low Libido in Women
Women’s sexual desires naturally fluctuate over the years. Highs and lows commonly coincide with the beginning or end of a relationship or with major life changes, such as pregnancy, menopause, or illness. Some medications used for mood disorders also can cause low sex drive in women.
If your lack of interest in sex continues or returns and causes personal distress, you may have a condition called sexual interest/arousal disorder.
If you want to have sex less often than your partner does, neither one of you is necessarily outside the norm for people at your stage in life — although your differences may cause distress.
Similarly, even if your sex drive is weaker than it once was, your relationship may be stronger than ever. Bottom line: There is no magic number to define low sex drive. It varies among women.
Symptoms of low sex drive in women include:
- having no interest in any type of sexual activity, including masturbation;
- never or only seldom having sexual fantasies or thoughts;
- being concerned by your lack of sexual activity or fantasies.
Changes in your hormone levels may alter your desire for sex. This can occur during:
Menopause. Estrogen levels drop during the transition to menopause. This can make you less interested in sex and cause dry vaginal tissues, resulting in painful or uncomfortable sex.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding. Hormone changes during pregnancy, just after having a baby, and during breast-feeding can put a damper on sex drive. Fatigue, changes in body image, and the pressures of pregnancy or caring for a new baby also can cause decreased sexual desire.
A wide range of illnesses, physical changes, and medications can cause a low sex drive, including:
Sexual problems. If you have pain during sex or can’t orgasm, it can reduce your desire for sex.
Medical diseases. Many nonsexual diseases can affect sex drive, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and neurological diseases.
Medications. Certain prescription drugs, especially antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are known to lower the sex drive.
Lifestyle habits. A glass of wine may put you in the mood, but too much alcohol can affect your sex drive. The same is true of street drugs. Also, smoking decreases blood flow, which may dull arousal.
Surgery. Any surgery related to your breasts or genital tract can affect your body image, sexual function, and desire for sex.
Fatigue. Exhaustion from caring for young children or aging parents can contribute to low sex drive. Fatigue from illness or surgery also can play a role in a low sex drive.
Your state of mind can affect your sexual desire. There are many psychological causes of low sex drive, including:
- mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression;
- stress, such as financial stress or work stress;
- poor body image;
- low self-esteem;
- history of physical or sexual abuse;
- previous negative sexual experiences.
For many women, emotional closeness is an essential prelude to sexual intimacy. So problems in your relationship can be a major factor in low sex drive. Decreased interest in sex is often a result of ongoing issues, such as:
- lack of connection with your partner;
- unresolved conflicts or fights;
- poor communication of sexual needs and preferences;
- trust issues.
Both men and women suffering from decreased sex drive should learn what causes their problem and then start to look for a solution. If the cause is based on hormonal imbalance, we are here to help. Get in touch with our qualified experts to learn more.