Loss of libido
Loss of libido (sex drive) is a common problem that affects many men and women at some point in their life. It's often linked to relationship issues, stress or tiredness, but can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, such as reduced hormone levels.
Where to get help and advice
Everyone's sex drive is different – there's no such thing as a "normal" libido. If you find your lack of desire for sex distressing or it's affecting your relationship, it's a good idea to get help.
Help is available from:
- your GP – they may be able to offer some helpful advice, or refer you to a specialist for an assessment and treatment
- a psychosexual therapist – your GP may be able to refer you on the NHS, or you could pay to see a therapist privately
- Relate – a relationship support service that has online advice about sex and relationships, telephone and online counselling and local support services, as well as therapists you can pay to see
- Sexual Advice Association - a sexual health charity with online factsheets about sex problems
Don't feel embarrassed about getting help. Lots of people experience problems with their sex drive, and seeking advice can be the first step towards resolving the issue.
Common causes of a low libido
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 over-familiar with your partner
- loss of sexual attraction
- unresolved conflict and frequent arguments
- poor communication
- difficulty trusting each other
- physical sexual problems
You may find it helpful to talk about sex with your partner. Your GP may be able to refer you and your partner for counselling if you're having persistent problems, or you may wish to contact Relate for support and advice.
Another thing to consider is whether the problem is a physical issue that makes sex difficult or unfulfilling.
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 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 is a serious illness that interferes with all aspects of your life, including your sex life.
As well as low libido, signs of depression can include:
- feelings of extreme sadness that don't go away
- feeling low or hopeless
- losing interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy
It's important to see your GP if you think you might be depressed. They can advise you about treatments for depression. A low sex drive can also be a side effect of antidepressants. Speak to your GP if you think this may be causing your problems.
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 just before, during and after the menopause in women
- falling levels of sex hormones in men
- age-related health problems, including mobility problems
- side effects of medication
There are treatments to increase hormone levels if low levels are causing problems, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with or without testosterone treatment for women going through the menopause.
Pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding
Loss of interest in sex is common during pregnancy, after giving birth and while breastfeeding.
This can be because of:
- changes in hormone levels
- changes to your body and issues with your body image
- painful sex caused by an injury during childbirth
- changed priorities, such as focusing on looking after your baby
These issues may improve over time. Speak to your GP if your sex drive doesn't return and it's a problem for you.
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 a side effect of treatment.
A low libido can be associated with:
- heart disease
- an underactive thyroid
- major surgery – for example, surgery to remove the ovaries and womb in women
Speak to your GP or specialist if you think your low libido may be the result of an underlying medical condition or treatment.
Medication and contraception
Certain medicines can sometimes reduce libido, including:
- medication for high blood pressure
- many types of antidepressant medication
- medications for fits (seizures)
- medications called antipsychotics
- medication for an enlarged prostate
- medication for prostate cancer
- hormonal contraception
Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if low libido is listed as a possible side effect. See your GP if you think a medicine is affecting your sex drive.
Alcohol and drugs
Drinking too much alcohol over a long period can reduce your sex drive, so it's a good idea not to drink too much.
Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 alcohol units a week on a regular basis.
Drug misuse is also linked to a loss of sex drive.