Sex is a natural part of life; yet in order to have sexual drive comes you need to have a healthy and balanced libido.
Libido is generally defined as the desire to have sex. There is no universal or mathematical standard by which to judge whether libido levels are ‘normal’ since it varies for each person and is influenced by their personal preferences and their chosen lifestyle. In cases where your sex drive is noticeably decreased, it is helpful to know some practical tips on how to increase libido.
Causes of low libido
It’s important to note that libido naturally increases and decreases during times of heightened emotional change, and that’s ok! If you do feel like you’re experiencing low libido consistently over prolonged periods of time, there are three main things to look out for in order determine whether it might be an issue.
First, you have no desire to engage in any form of sexual activity, even masturbation. Second, you find that you have few or no thoughts about sex or sexual fantasies. Third, you have a sense of concern about this lack of interest in sexual activity or thought (6).
Loss of libido in men and women differ in several ways but there are general causes for both sexes.
Some medicines (2), such as antidepressants, affect sexual desire. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) (e.g., Zoloft, Prozac), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (3).
Arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and neurological illness, are just some of the health problems that may lead to loss of libido (6).
This pertains to tiredness from lifestyle issues, childcare, parent care or one’s own job (6).
External factors that contribute to reduced libido include mental health issues, poor body image and low self-esteem (6). Stress (physical or psychological) releases hormones that can reduce sexual drive (2). An effort as to how to increase libido is managing stress (9).
One among the symptoms of this mood disorder is the loss of desire or appetite for the things people usually enjoy (10).
Sexual desire can change if partners differ in the frequency at which they engage in sex or if they differ in terms of sexual preferences (2).
Experiences, such as premature ejaculation or painful sex could cause lowered libido in men (2).
Other possible causes for loss of libido in men and women is a lack of intimacy between partners (i.e., not having or not making time for one another), loss of attraction, familiarity (couples who have been together for quite some time tend to have sex less) or even too much exercise (2).
Relationship issues may also bring about reduced sex drive (2). Couples who have unresolved fights, trust issues and do not communicate enough or in the proper manner, may lack the necessary connection that partners need to be intimate with each other (6).
Loss libido in women
For females in particular, lowered libido may be caused by menopause, which often involves a decline of sex hormones (2). Menopause is a normal part of aging for women, defined as the point 12 months after a woman’s last period. In perimenopause, or the lead-up to menopause, women may experience hot flashes, trouble sleeping, pain during sex, irritability or depression. It typically starts between the ages of 45 to 55. How long it goes on, depends on lifestyle factors, such as smoking, age when it begins, race and ethnicity. During menopause, production of hormones estrogen and progesterone is in flux. Postmenopause, women are more prone to osteoporosis and heart disease. These can be fended off by eating healthily, being more active and consuming enough calcium (4).
Other causes include dyspareunia (pain during sex), vaginismus (involuntary clamping of the vaginal muscles), inability to reach orgasm, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding (2).
Loss of libido in men
A decline in testosterone levels may affect libido in men, which is normal as a man ages (2). Another cause could be hypogonadism, wherein low levels of testosterone is produced, affecting memory, focus, muscle tone and sex drive (5). Other possible causes include impotence, premature ejaculation and inability to ejaculate (2).
How to increase libido
A study (7) suggested testosterone therapy as a method for how to increase libido. While the study showed that it helped older men with mild erectile dysfunction, the researchers discovered that libido improved with higher levels of testosterone (7).
In some cases, postmenopausal women were prescribed testosterone off-level to alleviate low sex drive. Ultimately, however, a study determined that the hormone was not a significant agent in increasing libido in women (8).
However, if the root of your lowered sex drive is not hormonal, you may want to speak with a qualified health professional in order to determine the reasons behind it.
Your doctor might conduct a pelvic exam to check for physical signs that may contribute to loss of libido: vaginal dryness, thinning of genital tissues and areas that trigger pain. S/he may run tests to check your hormone levels, underlying thyroid problems or other health conditions. They may also suggest consulting a sex therapist or counselor to assess external elements that may have led to it (9).
Lifestyle changes to increase libido
There are other techniques on how to increase libido which relate to lifestyle changes.
Proper exercise not only builds stamina, helps with body image, and boosts mood, but it also improves libido.
Managing stress from worries stemming from daily life, responsibilities and finances is also an effective way to help sex drive.
Focus on your relationship
Open communication between partners fosters a stronger emotional bond, which in turn may lead to a better sex life. Carving out dedicated time for intimacy, quality time or even time to have sex, could help improve libido. Changing up your sex life through new sexual positions, new locations, role-play or even sex toys, may also help.
Living a healthy lifestyle
Finally, striving for better health may improve sex drive too. This entails a more balanced diet, adequate sleep, mental self-care, as well as avoiding smoking, illicit drugs and excessive alcohol (9).
There are several possible causes, but also just as many ways for how to increase libido. The most important thing is to identify the factors contributing to it before employing a method to resolve it.
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- “Decreased Libido.” Hormone Health Network. Published May 2018 on https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/decreased-libido. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “Libido.” BetterHealth Channel. Published 26 Jul 2018 on https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/libido. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?” Mayo Clinic. Published 25 Jan 2020 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressants/faq-20058104. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “What Is Menopause?” National Institute on Aging. Published on 30 Sep 2021 on https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “Endocrine System.” Cleveland Clinic. Published 12 May 2020 on https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21201-endocrine-system. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “Low sex drive in women.” Mayo Clinic. Published 17 Dec 2020 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/symptoms-causes/syc-20374554. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- Rizk, PJ, et. al. “Testosterone Therapy Improves Erectile Function and Libido in Hypogonadal Men.” Current Opinion in Urology. Published Nov 2017 on 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000442. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- Cappelletti, M and Wallen, K. “Increasing women’s sexual desire: The comparative effectiveness of estrogens and androgens.” Hormones and Behavior. Published Feb 2016 on 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.11.003. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “Low sex drive in women.” Mayo Clinic. Published 17 Dec 2020 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374561. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.
- “Depression (major depressive disorder).” Mayo Clinic. Published 3 Feb 2018 on https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007. Accessed 23 Jan 2022.