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A lower libido (or sex drive) is a highly common problem affecting at least one in five men at some point during their life. It is even more common amongst women, so it's safe to say that if you're experiencing a low libido, you're not alone.
A lowered libido doesn't have to mean the end of your sex life. The best thing to do is try to get to the route of the problem, as most causes of low libido are easily fixable or treatable.
Listed below are some of the most common causes of a low libido:
This is probably the single most common cause of a lack of libido, and will affect everyone at some stage in their life. Sex is unlikely to be pleasurable if you're feeling under pressure, anxious or exhausted and this can come from work or family related issues.
What to do: First try and pinpoint if there is something in particular causing you to be stressed. General ways to calm anxiety are things like exercise, yoga and meditation. Take the time to unwind with your partner to relieve the stress of the day. You could also speak to a GP for additional advice concerning which lifestyle changes to make in order to keep the stress at bay.
Contrary to popular belief, sexual dysfunction does not just occur in men. Erectile dysfunction (ED) and female sexual dysfunction (FSD) can both significantly affect libido levels, because they can lead to feelings of anxiety over the pressure to perform during sex.
What to do: There are treatments available for both ED and FSD. Men may consider medications such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. Intrinsa patches are available for some women. These treatments are the most popular and effective options when looking to treat erectile dysfunction or female sexual dysfunction in the long term. The ED medications mentioned above work by increasing blood flow to the penis, allowing for a firmer and longer-lasting erection to occur during sex. Intrinsa patches work by providing testosterone, which is a sex hormone produced in both men and women. This allows natural testosterone levels to resume as normal, which then restores libido.
It is important to remember that alcohol and drugs are essentially chemicals that you are putting into your body. These chemicals can and do have an impact on the natural processes, including those that affect your sex drive.
What to do: Lower your intake of alcohol and stop taking harmful substances to allow your body to regain its natural balance. By moderating your alcohol intake to no more than three to four units a day (for a man) and two to three units a day (for a woman) you can avoid a drop in libido.
Certain medications can have an effect on your libido because they disrupt the chemical balance in your brain. Antidepressants are a common cause of a lowered sex drive, because they usually work to raise the levels of serotonin in your blood, which actually reduces libido. Medications for blood pressure (including diuretics) can interfere with nerve signals, which also affects libido. Some contraceptive pills, which affect the hormonal balance of the body, can also lower sex drive. This is also the case for medications used to treat psychosis (a mental condition), such as haloperidol. Medications, such as finasteride, cyproterone and cimetidine, can block the effects of testosterone or reduce its production, which can also have a negative affect on libido.
What to do: Discuss this with your healthcare provider before purchasing any of these medications, as they may be able to lower your dosage of medication or recommend an alternative treatment.
This particular syndrome, as the name suggests, consists of an irresistible urge to move your legs in order to stop any uncomfortable sensations. A prospective study found in the American Journal of Epidemiology discovered that men with RLS (also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease) were at a higher risk of developing ED than men who did not have RLS. This study also found that combinations of additional sleep disorders further increased the risk of developing ED. To be more specific, the men who experienced occurrences of RLS a minimum of five times per month were a staggering 50% more likely to experience ED than men who didn't have RLS. Furthermore, the men who dealt with episodes of this sleep disorder more frequently had a much higher chance of becoming impotent. As mentioned earlier, erectile dysfunction can have a negative affect on an individuals libido.
What to do: Mild restless leg syndrome can be treated by making some lifestyle changes. This can include exercising regularly, practicing better sleeping habits (i.e. going to bed and getting up at the same time each day), avoiding stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and tobacco in the evenings and by quitting smoking. However, if your symptoms are more severe medication, such as ropinirole, pramipexole or the rotigotine skin patch, may be required.
If you are feeling unwell as a result of a chronic illness it is unlikely you'll be experiencing the same level of sex drive you had prior to the illness. In the case of cancer, your sperm count can be diminished. Exhaustion, low self-esteem, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation can also occur as a result of cancer treatments, all of which can affect your libido. Treatments can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy immunotherapy, and a mixture of medications. Other side effects associated with cancer treatments that can leave you feeling weak affect energy levels include:
What to do: It is important to discuss different ways to be intimate with your partner. Further discussions with a marriage/couples counsellor or sex therapist can help to improve relationship openness and overall communication during this difficult time.
Being overweight or obese can negatively affect your libido in various ways. Firstly, it can lead to a number of conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all of which can diminish your libido. Obesity can also put major strain on your organs, which means that your heart will be working over-time to pump more blood to compensate. This can eventually lead to erectile dysfunction. The excess weight can also make it harder to perform the way you'd like to and can act as a barrier during sexual intercourse. Being overweight can also affect your body image and leave you with low self-esteem, which is related to a lack of sexual desire.
What to do: The effects mentioned above can be reversed by losing weight. This can be achieved by following a healthy diet and exercise plan that is individualised for you and your needs. You can speak to a healthcare provider to ensure that you follow a plan that's right for you and your requirements. Improving your overall health can also help to rebuild your self-esteem and body confidence.
All relationships have their ebbs and flows, and you are likely to experience periods when the sex is less frequent. Resentment and anger can build in a relationship, which can have more of a serious effect on each partner's libido.
" Replacement therapy with any of the various testosterones available can boost libido. Also, simply getting healthy can help." M. Leon Seard, II, MD, urologist in Nashville, TN.
What to do: Make sure your lines of communication are as open and honest as possible. If there is a build up of resentment for one or both of you, try to talk through the problem together. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse.
If you feel your lack of libido is linked to a more serious, long-term issue you should discuss it with a qualified health practitioner, who may be able to recommend treatments for you. Generally speaking, there is evidence to show that hormone replacement therapy (HRT), counselling, relationship openness and additional foreplay can make a significant difference when attempting to improve libido.