What To Do When Your Sex Drive Is Low

Gif: Angelica Alzona, Gizmodo

A reader recently asked us, "Is there anything that can actually be done about a lack of sexual desire in women?"

Is there anything that can actually be done about a lack of sexual desire in women? I was such a horny teenager and in my early 20s it was like a switch was flipped and it went to zero. I’ve been told all kinds of stuff by doctors from "Have a glass of wine and forget about the dishes for a while" to "It will come back in your 30s" (I’m 37 now and nope) to "Yeah that sucks".

I’ve heard a lot of similar stories about doctors who give terrible (and frankly, insulting) advice. “Just have a glass of wine” is particularly infuriating. (It’s also the most common advice doctors give to women who have have never had an orgasm.) Unfortunately, you don’t need to get much training in sexuality to become a doctor, so a lot of doctors are woefully unprepared to deal with sexual issues.

In my experience working with clients, it’s almost always possible to pinpoint the reason why your sex drive started to decrease. Read on for my advice on how to figure out why your sex drive disappeared.

Find a New Doctor

It can take a lot of time and patience, but I highly recommend trying to find a doctor who is more versed in working with sexual concerns. Read online reviews and/or speak with the doctor before scheduling a visit.

It’s worth going through this effort because there are a lot of medical conditions that can cause a decrease in libido. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Imbalanced hormone levels (this can be checked with a simple blood test)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Thyroid imbalances (also an easy blood test)
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Neurological diseases
  • Sleep problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Kidney disease

Check Your Medicine Cabinet

Medications can also frequently cause a decrease in libido. Most doctors don’t talk about the sexual side effects of medications, and most people don’t read all the fine print in the little pamphlets that come with medications. As a result, a lot of people get surprised by a sudden decrease in libido because they didn’t make the connection to their medication.

The most common medications that cause decrease in libido include:

  • Anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medications, such as Valium, Ativan and Rivotril
  • Antihypertensive medications, such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications, such as Lipitor and Crestor
  • Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. Even Bupropion, which is advertised in the US as having fewer sexual side effects, can still have sexual side effects
  • Hormonal birth control, such as birth control pills, rings and the hormonal IUD

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the effects of medications, including:

  • Changing the dosage
  • Changing what time you take your dose
  • Adding other medications
  • Trying similar classes of medications

Of course, you need to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your medications.

Examine Your Lifestyle

Most of us take our sex drives for granted, expecting that they should just function on their own. That may work at certain points of our lives or relationships, but it isn’t a successful long-term strategy. Your sex drive needs your ongoing support in order to flourish.

Try asking yourself this question: “Does my lifestyle support a healthy sex drive?” Here are some factors to consider:

  • Do you even have the time to be intimate? Or is every single minute of your day scheduled?
  • Do you have the energy to feel desire? Are you taking care of your body by feeding it healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep?
  • Do you have a good environment for having sex? Take a look at your bedroom, or wherever you most frequently have sex. I’ve found that people often underestimate just how much of an effect our surroundings have on our desire. Does your space inspire desire? Or has it become cluttered, messy and distracting?

Take an Honest Look at Your Relationship

Your relationship can have a huge affect on your sex drive. Whatever dynamics are going on between you and your partner outside of the bedroom are going to affect things inside of the bedroom. If you and your partner have grown distant, if you hardly see each other any more, or if you’re fighting constantly, you’re not going to feel the desire to be intimate.

The differences in your sex drives can cause issues too. If you’ve always been the partner with the higher sex drive, sensitivity to frequently being turned down by your partner may have caused your own sex drive to tank.

If you’re having problems in your relationship, I highly recommend seeing a couples counselor or sex therapist. It really helps to have some outside support in examining and repairing the issues that are driving a wedge between the two of you.

Even if things are fine in your relationship, it can still be worthwhile to see a sex therapist. The simple act of investing yourself in your sex life mentally, emotionally and financially can naturally bring some energy back to the bedroom. You can also get ideas for reigniting the spark in your relationship.

Think About the Sex You’ve Been Having

Your sex drive is a self-perpetuating cycle. That old saying “Use it or lose it” sounds horribly cheesy, but it’s sort of true. If your sex life is boring, predictable or stale, your sex drive is naturally going to decrease. It just doesn’t make much sense to feel strong desire for something that isn’t that enjoyable.

The truth is that maintaining an active and satisfying sex life - and the accompanying sex drive - takes a lot of work! If you put effort into having better sex, you’ll probably notice your sex drive improve as well. Some options to consider include:

  • Scheduling sex or date nights
  • Trying new things in the bedroom together
  • Re-examining your boundaries and seeing if you’re willing to experiment with something different
  • Being vulnerable and sharing more of your desires or feedback with your partner

Consider the Possibility That Nothing’s Wrong

The reader mentioned that her sex drive changed dramatically when she entered her 20s. Most people have pretty intense sex drives as teenagers. Desire can be more subtle as we get older, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

One of the most common patterns I see is that people start needing more of a “nudge” to feel desire. For example, you may not feel desire until you’re already kissing your partner, or already taking your clothes off. Or you may be more sensitive about needing to set the mood with candles or music.

Try asking yourself, “What kinds of dynamics or situations typically help me feel even slightly more interested in sex?” Taking the time to look for patterns can make a world of difference.


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