Lost interest in sex lately? Or are you not sure you've ever had much of a libido to speak of anyway?

When does a low sex drive signify a problem, and can it be related to mental health?

Low sex drive and physical health

Losing your sex drive can be related to a physical issue, and a sign you need to see your GP.

According to the NHS, low sex drive in women can be related to hormonal changes, including perimenopause and pregnancy. In men it can be a sign of erectile dysfunction.

Other issues related to changes in sex drive can include thyroid issues, cancer, and medication side effects.

Losing your sex drive because of a medical issue can in some cases cause mental health issues, like depression and anxiety.

But sometimes it's the reverse. A loss of interest in sex is caused by a mental health issue in the first place.

Mental health issues and low sex drive

The following mental issues can lead to a lowering in sexual interest:

How do relationship problems result in a loss of libido?

Relationships can either support our sense of self, or diminish it. And often, if our self-esteem is being diminished, we don’t feel attractive. Or, for that matter, attracted to someone who is being unkind.

To that end, the sorts of behaviours in a relationship that can result in a loss of sexual interest include criticism and unproductive conflict.

Loss of sexual interest can also be related to loss of trust. This can look like betrayal, keeping secrets, or just a lack of real communication.

Sometimes couples claim that they aren’t sexually interested in each other as ‘the spark has gone’. But often that just means they have stopped communicating. Or that either one or both partners has forgotten to have their own life.

Keeping up your own interests and social circles mean you don't over depend on your relationship for a sense of self, and have new things to share.

Female sexual interest/arousal disorder

Low sex drive in women is sometimes given a diagnosis. Called either 'female sexual /interest arousal disorder’, or "hypoactive sexual desire disorder', it means a woman has no interest in sex, no sexual fantasies or thoughts, and that it is causing her undue distress.

But it’s a controversial diagnosis, given that many women who are given it are also diagnosed with depression. Furthermore, there is a strong link between a history of child sexual abuse and low sex drive in women.

A review of current literature around sexual dysfunction in women with child sexual abuse histories found the "concern most commonly reported... include problems with sexual desire and sexual arousal".

Depression and low sex drive

Depression makes us feel bad about ourselves and unworthy, and can also cause severe fatigue, all of which can affect our interest in sex. Instead of connecting with others we are more likely to want to withdraw and be alone.

A study on sexual dysfunction in those with major depressive disorder found that 33% of men and 42% of women reported decreased sexual interest.

Porn addiction

How could porn use lead to a diminished sex drive? Wouldn’t it mean you wanted more sex?

First of all, porn represents an unrealistic version of sex void of intimacy. If you watch more porn than sex, it's real sex that can start to seem strange.

Secondly, if you become addicted to porn, it’s like any addiction. Eventually your brain needs more of a substance to trigger the ‘high’ and the dopamine hit that involves. In this case, it can be more hardcore porn, taking you even further away from connected, real sex, or sex that is easy or possible to procure in real life.

It’s okay to not have a high sex drive

If your sex drive has always been low, and somebody has said something to make you feel worried? There might be nothing wrong with you at all.

There is no ‘normal’ sex drive. Our interest in sex can be determined by genetics. Some of us are naturally not interested (asexual), or only interested in occasional sex with someone they know very well (demisexual).

But if you are worried, do talk to your GP.

Or if you suspect that your sex drive is low because of negative childhood experiences, consider booking a session with a psychotherapist. A psychosexual therapist in particular will specialise in such issues.

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