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Loss of libido in men: How to deal with a low sex drive

man and woman sat laughing on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn

Are you worried about low libido? You’re not alone.

Reduced sex drive is something that affects many men and women at some time in their life, although it’s not often discussed openly.

However, it is nothing to be embarrassed about.1

Often, the problem goes away with time, but there are also several things you can do to help support your libido.

What is libido?

Libido is the term commonly used to describe your sex drive or desire for sexual activity.

The World Health Organisation says that sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality.

This is why modern physicians recognise the importance of libido as one of the key indicators of general health and quality of life.2

Loss of libido in men

As pointed out by the NHS, everyone has a different sex drive and there is no such thing as “normal” libido.2

Having said that, if you find your lack of desire for sex is beginning to affect your relationship or you are finding it distressing, it might be a good idea to seek help.

Before it gets to that, there are a few things you can try in order to bring your libido back naturally.

One of the best things you can do for your libido is maintain a healthy weight.

Obesity can cause low testosterone levels which can lead to reduced sexual desire.3

Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and if you are a smoker, try to stop as smoking has a negative effect on blood flow through your arteries.

Low libido in men

The first point here is that you should not feel embarrassed about a low libido.

A low libido in men is something many experience and seeking advice can be the first step to resolving the issue.

The NHS provides 9 pieces of advice, which might just help you find the cause of your low libido.4

9 possible causes of low libido in men

There are many factors that come into play when it comes to libido. Here are nine potential causes of a low sex drive in men. 

  1. Relationships

As per NHS advice, it might be worth considering your relationship and your happiness within it.

If you have any doubts or concerns it could well be a reason behind your loss of sexual desire.

This includes:

  • Long-term relationships can mean you become overfamiliar with your partner
  • Loss of sexual attraction
  • Regular arguments and unresolved conflict
  • Lack of communication
  • Loss of trust
  • Physical sexual problems

You may want to speak to your GP who can send you for relationship counselling. 

  1. Sexual problems

It may also be worth considering whether the problem is a physical one that can make sex difficult.

For example, a low sex drive could be the result of:5

  • Problems with ejaculation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful sex
  • Inability to orgasm
  • Involuntary tightening of the vagina (vaginismus)
  1. Stress, anxiety and exhaustion

Other contributing factors could be stress-related.

Stress, anxiety and exhaustion can all impact your happiness, which can include your sex drive.

If you’re constantly feeling tired, stressed or anxious it can also be worth looking at your lifestyle and making changes accordingly.

However, if it's something that you feel that might be something more serious then it's advisable that you seek advice from your GP.

  1. Depression

Depression is much more serious than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for short periods of time. It can be a serious illness that can interfere with all aspects of your life, including your libido.

Signs of depression may include:6

  • Feelings of extreme sadness that don't go away
  • Feeling low or hopeless
  • Losing interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy

If you think you might be depressed it's important to seek professional help from your GP.

  1. Age and the menopause

A lower sex drive is not an inevitable part of growing older, but it is something many men and women experience as they get older.

There can be several reasons that you might lose your libido as you get older, these include:7

  • Your sex hormone (oestrogen and testosterone) may lower as you get older. For women this can happen during and after the menopause
  • Low levels of testosterone in men
  • Age related health problem, such as mobility
  • Side effects of the medication you may be on

If this is something you are concerned about, you should contact your GP. They may ask about other symptoms, and in some cases may arrange a blood test to check your hormone levels.

  1. Pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding

When you’re pregnant, a loss of interest in sex is common. It may also occur after giving birth or while breastfeeding, there can be a few reasons behind this, including:8

  • Changes to your hormone levels
  • As your body changes you may become more body conscious
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Injury caused in childbirth, which can make sex painful
  • A change of priorities, such as looking after your new-born child

Over time these concerns may improve, if you continue to be worried about your sex drive then you should speak to your GP.

  1. Underlying health concerns

Long-term medical conditions may affect your libido. This could be a result of the physical and emotional strain that these conditions may cause, or a possible side effect of treatment.

For example, this could be attributed to:9

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Underactive thyroid – in this case your thyroid gland won’t produce enough hormones
  • Cancer or chemotherapy
  • Major surgery, such as the removing ovaries or womb in women.
  1. Medicine or contraception

If you’re taking certain medications such as medicine for high blood pressure, antidepressants, amongst many other types of medication you may find that you have a reduced sex drive.

In this instance, it may be worth speaking to your GP to find out how this might affect you.

  1. Alcohol and drugs

Men and women are advised not to exceed more than 14 units of alcohol per week on a regular basis.

Drinking alcohol to excess over long periods can result in a low libido, so it might be worth trying cut back on your alcohol intake to see an improvement.

Drug misuse can also result in a low sex drive. If drug misuse or addiction is something that you may have concerns about you can call the Frank drugs helpline on 0300 1236600.

How to increase male libido - general advice

Handpicked content: Weight loss and exercise for men

There have been many different foods associated with an increase in libido, although many are not supported by scientific studies.

However, it is sensible to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to include those which are known to support blood flow.

These include:

  • Celery
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Oats
  • Oranges
  • Beetroot
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Ginger

You also may have heard of ginseng, which is an Asian root plant with a well-deserved reputation as an alternative therapy for reduced sexual satisfaction.

There have been several studies in recent years which suggest that ginseng might be very effective in supporting libido in men.

A study on 90 volunteers revealed significantly greater sexual satisfaction in those that had taken ginseng extract.10

Handpicked content: Discover the health benefits of ginseng

3 ways to increase sex drive in men 

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when it comes to increasing your sexual desire. However, there are some self-help tips you can try that may help you lift your libido.

  1. Is it a problem?

The lack or loss of sex drive is only an issue if the person who is experiencing it believes it to be a problem.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes reported in 2018 that 34% of sexually active women and 14% of men in Britain had naturally lost interest in sex for three months or longer.11

  1. It’s always good to talk

Having problems with your relationship can be a leading cause in losing your libido.

In this instance, and if you are feeling comfortable enough to, it might be a good idea to talk through your concerns with your partner to try and find a resolution that suits both parties.

  1. Get some sleep

Burning the candle at both ends can be a passion killer.

In fact, one US study found that sleeping for less than 5 hours a night may reduce testosterone levels in young men.12

This also goes for women, a 2015 study found that women who had an extra hour’s sleep a day were 14% more likely to have sex the next day.13

Summary

Do not underestimate the effect your state of mind can have on your physical health. There are various emotional and psychological factors which can affect your libido, including relationship problems, stress, anxiety and negative thinking.

Take time for relaxation and enjoying time with your partner in a non-sexual way. If you think that performance-related stress or worry could be causing your low libido, you could try mindfulness which can help you get in tune with your body, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which can help break cycles of negative thinking.14

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional.

Last updated: 16 July 2021

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