Decreased Sex Drive

A temporary or long-term reduction of interest in sex

  • More common with increasing age
  • In rare cases, due to an extra chromosome
  • Physical and mental stress and the use of certain drugs may be risk factors
  • Gender is not a significant factor

Someone whose sex drive has decreased loses interest in sex, does not fantasize about sex, and feels little or no pleasure during sexual activity. It is common for a person to experience a temporary loss of sex drive, or libido, at some point in his or her life. However, a long-term decrease in a person’s sex drive may become a problem if it causes distress either to the individual concerned or to his or her sexual partner.

Sex drive is partly controlled by sex hormones, which decrease gradually as you grow older. As a result, sex drive also declines naturally with age. However, men and women have different patterns of sexual desire. Sex drive is most intense in young men in their teens and 20s, whereas women tend to reach their sexual peak later in life, often not until their 30s. Different people have different levels of sex drive and activity. For this reason, a decrease in your sex drive should be judged only in comparison with your own normal sex drive and activity, not in comparison with the claims of other people.

What are the causes?

Many women experience a temporary decline in sex drive after childbirth or gynaecological surgery, and sometimes during pregnancy. Menopausal women may also be affected both because of fluctuations in the levels of their sex hormones and because of their emotional responses to the menopause. Many women experience regular fluctuations in sexual desire that reflect the normal changes in hormone levels that occur during the menstrual cycle.

A number of psychological problems may trigger a loss of interest in sex in either men or women. Such problems may include anxiety disorders, depression, stress, and general problems with the relationship.

A reduction in sex drive may be a side effect of certain drugs, including some contraceptive pills; some types of antidepressant drug; and certain antihypertensive drugs, such as beta-blockers. Heavy drinking may also decrease sex drive.

Other possible causes include illness and tiredness as well as a few rare genetic disorders, such as Klinefelter’s syndrome, which affects only males and results in low levels of sex hormones.

What can I do?

You may be able to identify the reason for your loss of sex drive. If you suspect that stress or heavy drinking may be the cause, try changing your lifestyle. If you think that the cause is an underlying problem in your relationship, it may help to discuss the issue with your partner (see Communicating your sexual needs). If you cannot improve the situation, consult your doctor.

What might the doctor do?

Your doctor will discuss your lifestyle and relationship with you to determine which factors are contributing to the problem. If your doctor suspects that your decreased sex drive is the result of a physical condition, he or she may examine you and arrange for tests to look for a disorder. For example, blood tests may be used to check for abnormally low hormone levels in men. If your decreased sex drive is a side effect of a particular drug, your doctor may give you a different medication. The doctor may also suggest changes in your lifestyle, such as reducing stress or cutting down on alcohol intake. If the cause seems to be psychological, your doctor may recommend that you and your partner have sex therapy.

Most people who consult a doctor about a decrease in their sex drive can be treated successfully.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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