All the reasons you might have lost your sex drive
If we were to believe everything we saw on Sex and the City, none of us would be living our best lives unless it was spent getting hot and heavy seven nights a week.
But in reality, if you don't have the libido to have that much sex, you are definitely not alone.
But what if you never want to have sex?
If your lack of interest in sex is causing you stress, we spoke to Christine Rafe, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist from Good Vibes Clinic to fill us in on everything she knows about why you may have lost your sex drive - as well as how to get it back.
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What does it mean to have a low sex drive?
"Sex drive (which is also commonly described as sexual desire or libido) is perhaps one of the most complicated human behaviours to predict and understand.
If you notice that your interest in sex (by this I mean all forms of sexual touch as well as penetrative sex) has been lower than is usual for you, or is completely gone, there may be an underlying reason. Remember that there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ level of sex drive, and comparing yourself to others is not helpful.
When considering if you have a low sex drive, only compare to yourself, as ‘low sex drive’ is quite subjective to each person."
What are some physical reasons a person may have lost their sex drive?
- Illness: "Some of the physical/physiological reasons that someone may lose or reduce their sex drive can include any form of physical illness, as simple as a cold, as well as more significant illness such as cancer and chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, arthritis and neurological diseases."
- Medications: " Medications including some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, anti-seizure medications, chemotherapy and cholesterol medications can also influence sex drive."
- Hormone imbalance: "Imbalanced hormones can have a significant impact on sex drive, and this could include hormonal contraceptives (such as the pill, Implanon etc.) as well as life stage hormonal changes like puberty, pregnancy, menopause and hormonal imbalances of unknown cause. If you are taking any of the mentioned medications and you noticed a reduction in your sex drive since taking the medication, make sure you speak to your prescribing doctor about this before making any adjustments to your medications."
What are some psychological or lifestyle reasons a person may have lost their sex drive?
"Your sex drive can vary completely across weeks, months and years, and be related to various factors that may have little to nothing to do with sex or sexuality." In Christine's practice, the most common lifestyle and psychological reasons for reduced sex drive she's sees are:
- External life stressors - a stressful job, ill family members, overwhelming living situation, grief, lack of sleep and low energy.
- Relationship concerns.
- Confidence in sex.
- Sexual functioning concerns.
- Overall sexual enjoyment and satisfaction.
- Generalised anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
"As mentioned, if you are not enjoying the sex you are having, this is a sure-fire reason why you might not be motivated to do it. We wouldn’t be motivated to put our hand on a hot stove-top once a week/fortnight/month, would we? Similarly, if your sex life has become lacklustre, monotonous or doesn’t feel pleasurable or fun, it makes sense that you might lose interest. This is a common scenario for long-term relationships where we can easily slip into a routine of what ‘works’, taking away the excitement and anticipation of sexual intimacy."
If someone is concerned about their low sex drive, should they go to the doctor?
"If one of the medical conditions or medications previously mentioned relates to you and your loss in sex drive, I would suggest seeing your doctor to review a suitable treatment plan for any illness or condition. Similarly, if you noticed a change in your sex drive around the same time as taking one of the medications listed above, seek support from your GP or prescribing doctor for review. Please bear in mind that fluctuations in sex drive on a weekly and monthly basis are very common, and many women describe different levels of sexual interest based on their ovulation cycles – this is perfectly normal and no cause for concern.
"If you have noticed a limited or no sex drive for a period of six months or more, and it is causing you concern, certainly reach out to your doctor for a general check-up.
If you suspect that your lowered sex drive may be related to one of the lifestyle or psychological factors as mentioned above (lifestyle stressors, relationship concerns, self-confidence, confidence in sex, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions), seek support in addressing the specific concerns.
Most of the clients I see in Good Vibes Clinic present with relationship concerns, sexual and self-confidence issues and lowered or limited sexual enjoyment (including sexual pain and performance issues). A Sex and Relationship Therapist can support in identifying, communicating and addressing many of the lifestyle factors associated with a lowered sex drive."
What are some things someone can do to try and get their sex drive back?
Take some time for yourself
"Take some time on your own to reflect on what might be influencing your lowered sex drive. Using the above physical, lifestyle and psychological influences is a good place to start. Highlight what may be relevant to you. If you can clearly identify the issue, then make a plan to address this. This plan could be something you can action on your own (such as changing your living situation to make you feel more comfortable, or educating yourself on pleasure and seek out to understand what you like), or something more complex that you can seek support with."
"Seeking support could include; speaking to your GP about your medication or to develop a mental health care plan for any generalised mental health conditions; communicating with your partner about what you would like sexually, addressing any relationship concerns with your partner (and seeking support from a Relationship specialist if relevant); or making an appointment with a Sex Therapist to discuss and address performance, pleasure or confidence-related issues."
Prioritise time to be sexual
"Consider also that the solution may be as simple as prioritising and dedicating time to being sexual. Sexual interest doesn’t just happen out of nowhere, the brain is the biggest sexual organ and we need to provide ourselves with the opportunity, time and energy for sexual intimacy. We also need to consider what stimuli that our brain considers ‘sexually relevant’ to spark the desire and arousal process.
"In the busy lives we lead, many of us don’t stop and think about our last pleasurable sexual experience, or fantasise about our partner (or crush, movie star or anyone in between), or explore our own bodies to discover new types of pleasurable touch. If you want to increase your sex drive, you need to prioritise being sexual, whether alone or with a partner. The more you engage in sexual intimacy that is pleasurable, comfortable and fun, the more you want to do it again. We use our own memories of sex as foreplay for the next experience. Think about when you have time in your day/week/month with the energy to be sexual, and then allow yourself to flirt (even if with yourself), build anticipation and fantasise in and around that time."
Can relationship issues cause a decrease in sex drive?
"Yes absoutely! If you are harbouring resentment, mistrust, or lack confidence with your partner, you are not setting up a safe container to be vulnerable and sexual with them, and therefore you aren’t motivated to be sexual."
What should I do if my partner seems to have lost their sex drive?
"Approach it gently, as sex is considered the most difficult and vulnerable topic to discuss within relationships.
We aren’t taught how to talk about sex, and because society places so much emphasis on what ‘good sex’ should be, people can become hurt very easily at conversations around sex drive and performance. Speak to your partner about it from your perspective and come at it from a ‘we’ approach, with comments such as 'I love being intimate with you, is there a way that we could make more time for it in our relationship?' rather than 'Why won’t you have sex with me, what’s wrong with you/me?'.
Remember that the issue is not the person with the lower sex drive, but the different levels of drive between you and your partner. If you look at it from a relationship perspective instead of something your partner is not doing, this is a positive space to start and doesn’t feel like you are blaming them. Speaking to a Sex and Relationship Therapist can be instrumental in having positive conversations about sex, if you don’t feel confident to do it alone."
Have you ever experienced a loss in sex drive? How did you go about getting it back?