Why you have lost your sex drive

Emeh Joy
By Emeh Joy

Basic medical scientist, health research writer with experience writing for health brands like Dentistry Brands LLC and KompleteCare.

Do you remember a time when the thought of sex was more exciting for you? When the anticipation was fun for you? But now it seems the whole vibe and urge died down. What happened to your sex drive?

An aroused couple making love on the bed

Just like every other thing, life happens to sex drive too. Sometimes adults experience a decline in their sex drive (also called libido). It is normal in temporary cases (e.g., a moment of stress), but it is worth finding out “why” if it persists for long. 

When loss of libido is affecting your relationship or happiness, you need to take the bold step to bring back your libido.

First, you have to acknowledge the change in your sex drive. You can’t be looking for a solution if you can’t see the problem. 

The next thing is to determine what is happening to your mind and body. This is because the interaction between the mind and the body can affect your behaviour in and out of the bedroom.

There are different possible culprits to blame for low sex drive- they can be mental, physical, psychological or emotional. It can also be a combination of health and lifestyle factors. 

If you have read up to this point, chances are high that you can relate to this post, or you are just curious to know why people suddenly experience a decline in their sex drive. Below are possible reasons for low sex drive.

A health condition

If everything was going normal with you and all of a sudden you noticed a decline in sex drive, it could be that you are sick. When you are sick, it is difficult to have sex and enjoy it.

Some health conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and liver cirrhosis present with symptoms like low libido. 

According to a study, about 60-87 per cent of patients with heart failure experienced sexual problems- usually erectile dysfunction and low libido.3

Sexual dysfunctional issues like erectile dysfunction can also manifest as low libido. For women, health conditions like vaginismus (a pelvic muscle disorder that causes pain and penetration issues) can cause discomfort during sex which will, in turn, make a woman lose interest in sex.

If you are experiencing low libido, you shouldn’t panic; the cause could be a less severe issue. If you have ruled out other possible causes and are worried, go ahead and consult a doctor.

Hormonal changes

The hormones can be blamed for many things happening in the human’s body, including a loss of sex drive. Hormonal changes mostly affect women because this gender is prone to experiencing fluctuations in their hormonal levels at different stages of their lives.

According to the North American Menopause Society, the physical effects of the decline in estrogen levels during a menopause transition which includes night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness, can reduce sexual motivation and libido.5

Also, when women take birth control pills, the pills can reduce sex desire as birth control pills affect hormones. This, however, depends on the individual. Some people get the opposite effect when they take birth control pills. 

“Taking the pill is very effective and [women that are] more confident in their birth control device find that their sexuality improves”. Dr Raymond Hobbs said while speaking to TIME

If taking hormonal pills affects you negatively, you might want to opt for a non-hormonal IUD, a birth control device that sits right in your uterus. If you are not sure of what works for you, discuss your options with your gynaecologist. 

Men are not left out in this case. For men, libido can lag even when testosterone levels are normal. However, a low testosterone level is one of the possible causes of low libido. 

Depression

Photo by James Forbe on Unsplash

Depression is a common mental disorder that leaves you with a feeling of sadness and helplessness. In a depressed state, it is hard to think about sex even if you used to enjoy it.

“A primary symptom of depression is the inability to enjoy things you normally enjoy, like sex”4 Dr Jennifer Payne, explained in a post on the John Hopkins website. 

People suffering from depression have low confidence and may even resent their partner.

Dr Payne suggested that people passing through such depressive episodes be willing to have sex even when they have zero motivation with the hope that their sex life will eventually improve from one sex to another. 

Anti-sex medications

If you are on prescription medication, the medication could be the culprit hampering your sex drive. There are three major kinds of drugs that can kill your sex drive: birth control pills, antidepressants and diabetes drugs. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, e.g. Prozac, are antidepressants meant to cheer you up by boosting the level of your serotonin hormone. However, these drugs can tamper with your one potential source of happiness- sexual pleasure. 

An article published in Harvard Health Publishing noted that “some people taking SSRIs are not able to have an orgasm at all”.1

Also, both diabetes conditions and the medications used to treat them can affect sexual desire.

In all, everybody reacts differently to drugs. There are some set of people that “when you give them SSRIs, they get a libido and can be sexually functional when they weren’t able to be before”, said Marjorie Green, medical doctor and clinical instructor at Havard Medical School. 

Your doctor might recommend that you start with low doses of these medications to minimise effects on sex drive.

Intimacy

Even perfect relationships go through trying times; it could be a misunderstanding between partners, causing a quarrel and a gap in the relationship. At such a point, such a couple will hardly have the desire to have sex.

Sexuality and relationship problems usually go hand in hand. This especially applies to women.

Women’s sexuality is more complicated. More males tend to have sex without emotional or intimate attachments (casual sex) than females. For women, beyond being horny, the sense of intimacy in the relationship matters.

You can be horny but unable to have sex with your partner because you are mad at them. Both physiological and psychological factors play a role here. 

Relationship and sex therapy can help couples experiencing a decline in sex drive due to intimacy/relationship problems.

Life progression

Photo by Pevel Danilyuk on Pexels

As you advance in age, your cells, tissues, organs and systems change. Sometimes a reduction in libido is only a natural life progression- a new and older you emerging.

Men’s testosterone hormone is usually high in their 20s, continue in their 30s and start decreasing towards mid-30 and early 40.

Women, on the other hand, are more fertile in their 20s. However, they experience a spike in sex drive around their early 30s to early 40s. Around 45, sexual urge starts declining as they head towards menopause due to a drop in estrogen levels.

Ultimately, these declines in sex hormones can affect sex drive in both men and women.

Exercise

Exercising is vital for healthy living, but do you know a term like “overexercising” exists? Some people over-exercise not just to keep fit but also to give themselves a sense of being in control of their bodies.

If you have been walking this path, you must note that high exercise intensity or frequency can cause your sex drive to plummet.

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise published a study that found that excess exercise can lower men’s libido2 (on the other hand, not exercising enough can cause some health problems which can affect sexual arousal). 

Working out can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, making it more likely for the sick to get well. It can also increase physical activeness in bed. So, for the sake of overall health, do not think twice to hit the gym. But, at the same time, do not overdo it.

Stress

Stress is a stressor on sexual drive and desire. It is hard to think about sex or be motivated to have sex when you are bogged down at school or work, dealing with family or relationship issues or having a challenging ride with life.

Stress often leaves you mentally, emotionally and physically drained. It puts you off the desire for sex.

Good Housekeeping cited a 2010 National Sleep Foundation survey which found that about 25% of participants reportedly felt too tired to have sex with their partner on many occasions. 

If this is the case for you, the good news is that the power to restore your sex drive is in your hands. Amidst the struggles of life, remember to create significant time for your relationship. 

Go to bed earlier with your partner, as that creates more time for cuddling and foreplay, which could put you in the mood for sex. Remember that it is okay to discuss all issues, including sex problems, with your partner!

Pregnancy and child-nursing

It is not abnormal to experience a drop in sex drive during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Studies show that many women report decreased sex desire when they are pregnant

During pregnancy, a woman’s hormones seem to be going haywire, causing changes in mood, food cravings and libido.

Even though the early weeks of pregnancy come with increased production of the sex hormones progesterone and estrogen, this increase usually comes with morning sickness and exhaustion. 

Sex drive might be restored at the end of the first trimester alongside an increase in vaginal lubrication and clitoris engorgement. However, the sexual desire might reduce again once the baby is born. 

Alcohol

Having a drink - a few glasses of wine or cocktails can relax you, putting you in the mood for sex. Drinking sounds like a recipe for a romantic night, but it does not always work that way. The key to setting the right mood for sex is moderate drinking.

Alcohol is both a central nervous system stimulant and a depressant. When taken in larger doses, alcohol becomes a depressant. This means with alcohol, you can go from ‘being in the mood’ to being ‘moody’.

Aside from drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes can reduce sexual appetite and overall satisfaction.

References

  1. Corliss, Julie. (2019, October 22). When an SSRI medication impacts your sex life. Harvard Health Publishing.https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/when-an-ssri-medication-impacts-your-sex-life 
  2. Hackney, A. C., Lane, A. R., Register-Mihalik, J., & Oʼleary, C. B. (2017). Endurance Exercise Training and Male Sexual Libido. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 49(7), 1383–1388. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001235 
  3. Jaarsma T. (2017). Sexual function of patients with heart failure: facts and numbers. ESC Heart Failure, 4(1), 3–7. https://doi.org/10.1002/ehf2.12108 
  4. Payne, Jennifer. (n.d.). Low sex drive - Could it be a sign of depression? John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/low-sex-drive-could-it-be-a-sign-of-depression
  5. North American Menopause Society. (n.d.). Decreased desire. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/sexual-problems-at-midlife/decreased-desire