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Low sex drive, often referred to as decreased libido or Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSSD), is a common concern that can affect individuals of all genders. It encompasses a wide range of factors, from physical to psychological, that can lead to a diminished interest in sexual activity. 

It’s estimated that about one-third of women and 15% of men in the United States experience low libido at some point in their lives. Low sex drive can lead to emotional distress and strain on relationships. 

However, the good news is that there are effective treatments and strategies available to address this concern, ranging from hormone therapy and counseling to lifestyle changes and stress management techniques.

Understanding the factors contributing to low libido and seeking appropriate help can often lead to a satisfying and fulfilling sexual life.

Low sex drive is a condition characterized by a persistent or recurrent lack of interest or desire for sexual activity. It’s essential to understand that low sex drive can be subjective; what is considered “low” varies from person to person. What’s crucial is whether this change in sexual desire causes distress or adversely impacts a person’s quality of life or their relationships.

Key Facts About Low Sex Drive

Before we dive into the biological mechanisms and prevalence of low sex drive, here are some key facts to consider:

  • Low sex drive is not uncommon and can affect people of all genders.
  • It is often influenced by a combination of physical, psychological, and relational factors.
  • Stress, anxiety, depression, and certain medications can contribute to low libido.
  • Hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone in men, can play a role in low sex drive.
  • Lifestyle factors like lack of sleep, poor diet, and excessive alcohol or drug use can contribute to low libido.
  • Open communication with a partner and seeking professional help can help address low sex drive.

How Common Is Low Sex Drive?

Low sex drive is more common than you might think. Here are some statistics to provide a clearer picture:

Approximately 15% to 16% of men and 33% to 43% of women report low sexual desire at some point in their lives [1].

A study found that about 25% of men over the age of 45 have low testosterone levels, which can contribute to reduced libido [2].

Among women, hormonal changes during menopause can lead to a decline in sexual desire, affecting up to 60% of women in this stage of life.

Who Is Likely to Suffer from Low Sex Drive?

Low sex drive can affect anyone, but certain factors may increase the risk:

Age: It’s common for both men and women to experience a natural decline in libido as they age. This can be influenced by hormonal changes, health conditions, and lifestyle factors.

Menopause: Decreased libido in women going through menopause is due to hormonal fluctuations, particularly a decline in estrogen levels.

Andropause: Men also experience hormonal changes with age, known as andropause, which can lead to reduced testosterone levels and a subsequent decrease in libido.

Physical Health and Lifestyle: Individuals with poor physical health, such as those who are obese, sedentary, or have a history of substance abuse, may be more likely to experience low libido.

Life Transitions: Major life changes, such as becoming a parent, dealing with the demands of a new job, or experiencing grief and loss, can temporarily affect sexual desire.

Menstrual Cycle and Pregnancy: Women may experience fluctuations in libido throughout their menstrual cycle, with some women reporting lower desire during menstruation. Additionally, pregnancy can lead to changes in libido, with some women experiencing an increase and others a decrease.

Low sex drive, also known as low libido, is a common concern that can affect people of all genders. If you’re wondering whether you have a low sex drive, here are some signs and indicators to help you assess your situation:

Lack of Interest or Desire: One of the primary signs of low libido is a persistent lack of interest in sexual activity. You may find that you’re simply not thinking about sex or that the idea of it doesn’t excite you as it used to.

Rarely Initiating Sex: If you’re consistently avoiding or rarely initiating sexual encounters with your partner, it could be a sign of low sex drive. This is particularly noticeable if it’s a significant departure from your previous behavior.

Difficulty Getting Aroused: Low libido can manifest as difficulty getting physically aroused, even when engaging in sexual activity. This may include problems like reduced natural lubrication in women or difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection in men.

Avoiding Sexual Situations: You might find yourself actively avoiding situations that could lead to sex or intimacy, such as avoiding cuddling, kissing, or even conversations about sex.

Negative Emotions: Feelings of frustration, guilt, or anxiety related to your lack of interest in sex can also indicate low libido. These emotions can arise due to the impact low sex drive may have on your relationship or self-esteem.

Lack of Fantasies: If you rarely have sexual fantasies or find that your thoughts rarely wander into sexual territory, it could be a sign of low libido.

Persistent Issue: Low sex drive is typically diagnosed when these symptoms persist for an extended period, often for several months, and create distress or problems in your life or relationship.

Low sex drive, also known as low libido, can be a complex issue that affects both men and women. It’s something that many people experience at some point in their lives and can lead to feelings of frustration and insecurity. 

Let’s dive into the causes of low libido in both men and women, shedding light on why it happens and what can be done about it.

Causes of Low Libido in Men

So what causes a man to not be sexually active? Here are some common factors that can contribute to low sex drive in men.

Low Testosterone Levels: Low testosterone levels are a common culprit when it comes to low libido in men [2]. Testosterone is a hormone responsible for regulating a man’s sex drive, among other functions. As men age, their testosterone levels tend to decline naturally, which can lead to a decreased interest in sex. However, other factors can also contribute to low testosterone, such as obesity, diabetes, and certain medications.

Stress and Anxiety: High levels of stress and anxiety can take a toll on a man’s sex drive [3]. When your mind is preoccupied with worries and stressors, it can be challenging to focus on intimacy. The release of stress hormones like cortisol can inhibit the production of testosterone, further exacerbating the problem.

Relationship Issues: Problems in a relationship, such as communication breakdowns or unresolved conflicts, can lead to a diminished desire for sex [3]. Emotional disconnection and tension in a partnership can make it difficult to feel sexually aroused.

Medications and Health Conditions: Some medications, particularly antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, list low libido as a potential side effect. Additionally, certain health conditions like chronic illness, high blood pressure, and obesity can contribute to low sex drive in men.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse: Excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse can interfere with sexual function and libido.

Lifestyle Factors: Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to hormonal imbalances and reduced sexual desire. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help improve libido [3].

Sleep Disorders: Sleep disorders like sleep apnea can disrupt the body’s hormonal balance, including testosterone levels, potentially affecting sexual desire.

Aging: As men age, it is natural for testosterone levels to gradually decline, which can contribute to a decrease in libido. However, this is not the sole factor, as other age-related issues, such as chronic health conditions, can also play a role.

Cultural and Societal Factors: Cultural and societal norms and expectations can influence how men perceive and express their sexuality. Societal pressures and stereotypes about masculinity can affect a man’s comfort and interest in sexual activity.

Causes of Low Libido in Women

So what is different with women when it pertains to libido? And what causes low libido in women?
Low libido in women can be attributed to a combination of physical, psychological, and relational factors. Here are some common causes of low libido in women:

Hormonal Imbalances: Hormones play a significant role in a woman’s sexual desire, and fluctuations can lead to low libido. Hormonal imbalances can occur during menopause, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and even while taking birth control pills [4]. These imbalances can affect the body’s natural lubrication and sensitivity, making sex less enjoyable.

Stress and Fatigue: Just like in men, high stress levels and fatigue can be major contributors to low libido in women. The demands of a busy life, work, and family responsibilities can leave women feeling physically and emotionally drained, leaving little room for intimacy.

Vaginal Discomfort or Pain: Conditions like vaginismus, vulvodynia, or other sexual pain disorders can make sex painful or uncomfortable, leading to decreased sexual desire.

Relationship Problems: Relationship issues can also impact women’s sexual desire. Emotional distance, unresolved conflicts, and lack of intimacy in a partnership can lead to a decreased interest in sex [4]. Feeling disconnected from a partner can make it difficult to feel sexually aroused.

Body Image and Self-Esteem: Body image and self-esteem issues can be particularly relevant for women when it comes to low libido. Feeling self-conscious about one’s body or experiencing negative thoughts about one’s appearance can inhibit the desire for sexual activity.

Medical Conditions and Medication: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, diabetes, and chronic pain, can affect a woman’s libido. Additionally, medications like some antidepressants and antihypertensives may have a side effect of reduced sexual desire.

Diagnosing low libido, or Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, involves a careful evaluation of a person’s physical and psychological health. 

Here, we’ll explore the methods and procedures used to diagnose this condition.

Medical History and Interviews 

Medical History: The healthcare provider will begin by taking a detailed medical history. They will inquire about any underlying medical conditions, medications, or surgeries that may be contributing to low libido.

Psychological Assessment: A psychological assessment is often conducted to understand the individual’s emotional and mental well-being. Questions about stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues may be asked.

Physical Examination

A physical examination may be performed to check for any physical conditions or abnormalities that could be affecting sexual desire. This examination may include checking blood pressure, assessing hormone-related physical changes, and evaluating overall health.

Laboratory Tests

Blood tests may be ordered to measure hormone levels, including testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormones. Imbalances in these hormones can contribute to low libido.

Blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels may also be checked, as conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol can affect sexual function.

Psychiatric Assessment 

If psychological causes of low libido are suspected, a psychiatric assessment may be conducted. This can help determine if conditions like depression, anxiety, or trauma are contributing to low libido.

Questionnaires and Self-Reported Assessments 

Healthcare providers often use standardized questionnaires to assess sexual desire and function. These questionnaires can provide valuable insights into the extent and impact of low libido.

Relationship Assessment 

Understanding the dynamics of a person’s intimate relationships is crucial. A discussion about the quality of the individual’s relationship, communication, and any ongoing conflicts can help pinpoint relationship-related factors contributing to low libido.

Rule Out Medication Side Effects

If the individual is taking medications, the healthcare provider will review the medication list to determine if any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs are known to have low libido as a side effect. Adjustments or changes to medications may be considered.

Rule Out Other Medical Conditions 

To make an accurate diagnosis, healthcare providers will rule out other medical conditions that may mimic low libido symptoms, such as chronic illnesses, neurological disorders, or gynecological issues in women.

Longitudinal Assessment 

In some cases, a diagnosis of HSDD may require a longitudinal assessment, which involves tracking changes in sexual desire over time. This helps ensure that the issue is persistent and not temporary.

Collaboration with Specialists 

Depending on the findings, healthcare providers may collaborate with specialists, such as endocrinologists, gynecologists, or psychiatrists, to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Experiencing low libido can be frustrating, but the good news is that various strategies and lifestyle changes can help reignite your sexual desire. 

Let’s explore some tips and strategies on how to fix low libido [3][4].

Address Underlying Health Conditions

If you suspect that a medical condition is contributing to your low libido, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider. They can perform tests and provide treatment options if necessary.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress-Reduction Techniques: Practices like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety, which are common culprits for low libido.

Counseling or Therapy: Speaking with a therapist can provide tools and coping mechanisms for managing stress and addressing emotional issues that may be impacting your sex drive.

Prioritize Good Sleep

Create a Sleep Routine: Ensure you get adequate rest by establishing a regular sleep schedule. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.

Improve Sleep Environment: Make your bedroom conducive to rest by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Diet and Exercise: Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Regular physical activity can improve blood circulation and overall health, which can positively impact libido.

Limit Alcohol and Drug Use: Excessive alcohol and substance use can interfere with sexual function and reduce libido. Moderation is key.

Communication and Relationship Building 

Open Dialogue: If relationship issues are contributing to low libido, open and honest communication with your partner is vital. Address concerns, express desires, and work together to improve intimacy.

Couples Therapy: Consider couples therapy or counseling to address relationship problems and enhance emotional connection.

Explore New Sexual Experiences

Try New Things: Exploring new sexual experiences or fantasies with your partner can reignite the spark. Communication about desires and fantasies can be a powerful tool.

Intimacy Beyond Sex: Intimacy doesn’t always have to lead to sex. Spend quality time together, cuddle, kiss, and engage in non-sexual affection.

Manage Medications and Side Effects

Medication Review: If medication side effects are a concern, consult your healthcare provider. They may be able to adjust your medication or recommend alternatives with fewer sexual side effects.

Self-Care and Body Image 

Self-Care Practices: Engage in self-care activities that promote self-esteem and body positivity. These can include self-affirmation, self-compassion, and practicing self-love.

Professional Help: If negative body image issues persist, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in body image concerns.

Spice Things Up

Sensate Focus: Try the sensate focus technique, which involves focusing on the physical sensations of touch and arousal without the pressure of intercourse. This can help increase intimacy.

Experiencing low libido can be challenging, but there are various treatment options available to help improve your sexual desire and overall sexual well-being. 

Let’s explore these treatment options, including those for males [2][4].

Hormone Therapy

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT): Treatment for low libido in males with clinically low testosterone levels (hypogonadism) usually starts with TRT. There is sufficient scientific evidence that they are effective in boosting libido. It can be administered through injections, gels, patches, or implantable pellets.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Women going through menopause may benefit from HRT, which includes estrogen and sometimes testosterone. This can alleviate menopause-related low libido.

Medications

Phosphodiesterase Type 5 (PDE5) Inhibitors: These medications, such as Viagra and Cialis, are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. While they don’t directly address low libido, they can enhance sexual function, which may indirectly boost desire.

Bremelanotide: This medication is FDA-approved for the treatment of acquired, generalized hypoactive sexual desire disorder in premenopausal women. It works by increasing sexual desire.

Therapy and Counseling

Couples Therapy: If relationship issues contribute to low libido, couples therapy can help improve communication, emotional connection, and intimacy between partners.

Sex Therapy: Sex therapists specialize in addressing sexual concerns and can provide strategies for overcoming low libido, including techniques to enhance sexual communication and intimacy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can be effective for individuals experiencing low libido and negative thought patterns.

Sensate Focus

Sensate Focus Technique: This structured approach to intimacy involves focused, non-goal-oriented touch to increase intimacy and reconnect with physical sensations.

Be Patient and Seek Professional Help If Needed 

Give It Time: Improvement in libido may take time, so be patient with yourself and your partner as you explore treatment options.

Consult a Specialist: If low libido persists despite your efforts, consult a healthcare professional or therapist specializing in sexual health. They can provide additional guidance and treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

1. The National Health Service. Low sex drive (loss of libido). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/loss-of-libido/

2. Healthline. Low Sex Drive: Common Causes and Treatment. https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/conditions-that-cause-low-libido#low-t

3. WebMD. Libido Loss: When Men Don’t Want Sex. https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/loss-of-libido-in-men

4. Mayo Clinic. Low sex drive in women. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374561

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