Loss of libido (sex drive) is a common problem affecting up to one in five men – and even more women – at some point in their life. It’s often linked to professional and personal stress, or important life-changing events such as pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Libido loss doesn’t usually happen suddenly – it’s not like catching a cold where you wake up one morning and whoops, there it is. It can be a gradual process. It is a lack of interest in sex for several months of the past year.
However, an unexpected loss of libido – especially when it lasts for a long time or keeps returning – can also indicate an underlying personal, medical or lifestyle problem, which can be upsetting to both partners in a relationship.
The first thing you should consider is whether you’re happy in your relationship. If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you may have become over familiar with your partner and feel a degree of erotic dissatisfaction. This is quite common and can have a negative effect on your sex drive.
Another thing to consider is whether the problem is a performance issue that makes sex difficult or unfulfilling. For example, many men experience ejaculation problems or erectile dysfunction, and women can experience painful sex or vaginismus (when the muscles around the vagina tighten involuntarily before penetration).
Stress, anxiety and exhaustion
Stress, anxiety and exhaustion can be all-consuming and have a major impact on your happiness. If you feel you’re constantly tired, stressed or anxious, you may need to make some lifestyle changes or speak to Doctor for advice.
Drugs and alcohol
Drinking excess amounts of alcohol can reduce your sex drive, so it’s a good idea to moderate your intake to no more than three to four units a day if you’re a man and no more than two to three units a day if you’re a woman.
Less commonly, low libido may be caused by an underactive thyroid. This is where your thyroid gland (located in the neck) doesn’t produce enough hormones. Common signs of an underactive thyroid are tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed.
An underactive thyroid is easily treated by taking hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid isn’t making. A hormonal problem called hyperprolactinaemia can also have a negative effect on your sex drive. This is where you have a raised level of a substance called prolactin in your blood.
Many people lose some interest in sex as they get older, mainly as a result of falling levels of sex hormones, age-related health problems, or the side effects of medication. Older men especially can develop low testosterone levels, which can cause fatigue, depression and a reduced sex drive.
As women start to approach the menopause, levels of the female hormone oestrogen begin to fall, which can affect libido. Women can also suffer from low testosterone levels, especially after a hysterectomy. Testosterone is another hormone that can affect sex drive.