Causes of low libido

Written by Rachel Giuliani

Low sex drive? Here's what could be causing it.

First of all, don’t worry: low libido happens to all of us. Regardless of age or gender, we all have times where sex just isn’t our thing. It’s okay and normal not to feel sexual desire sometimes (or ever, for some people).

But is it a problem? Well, that depends. The quote below is from this article about erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation (which can both be tied to low libido for folks with penises), but it can apply to people of all genders experiencing low sex drive:

First, do your best to separate what you’re experiencing right now from the guilt and shame that might be attached to it. It can be difficult of course, but it’s important to be able to consider your feelings first. So: does it bother you that your libido is low? For the moment, don’t worry about whether you’re letting down your partner, or whether you’re broken because you don’t want sex as much as everyone else seems to, or any of the other external things that could be causing you anxiety. How do you feel?

If your level of sexual desire feels comfortable to you, then it doesn’t matter how high it is. It’s okay not to want sex, or not want it often. Revisit this question from time to time, but on a fundamental level, there’s nothing wrong with you if you aren’t super interested in sex, and it’s totally normal for your level of interest to fluctuate. There may be tough conversations ahead with your partner, or you may still feel uncomfortable in sex-obsessed environments, but if you’re happy with your libido, there’s not really an issue.

If you think about it and come to the conclusion that you want to want sex more than you do, that’s a different issue. If your low level of sexual desire feels bad or abnormal to you, that’s something worth investigating.

Causes of low libido

Firstly, you may know that it’s natural for your libido to slow down as you age. If you think it might be that, talk to your doctor — there are therapies available for people of all genders to boost libido lessened by aging. But it’s also good to step back and take stock of your mental health — mental and emotional health have a huge role to play in whether your feel like having sex.

Common psychological causes of low libido

  • Stress
  • Relationship issues
  • Sensory processing issues
  • Depression
  • Trauma, especially sexual trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Body image issues
  • Complicated feelings after you or a partner gives birth
  • Worry/guilt about libido/sexual performance

Pay attention to your feelings: do you have guilt or dread? Are you anxious or overstimulated? Being honest with yourself and your partner is key to understanding why your level of sexual desire isn’t where you’d like it to be.

Of course, there are also plenty of physical reasons why your libido may have dropped, and physical causes aren’t always neatly separate from the emotional ones. It’s good to take stock of your physical health as well — have you noticed anything different lately?

Common physical causes of low libido

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Alcoholism
  • Chronic illness
  • Hypertension
  • Medication side effects
  • Marijuana use
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of sleep

Maybe none of these causes sound right. That’s okay. That’s when it’s time to see a doctor to discuss your options and try to uncover other reasons why you might be less interested in sex than you’d like to be. If all else seems normal in your life, low libido could be a sign of a condition you’re unaware of. So think about whether you have other unexplained abnormalities going on in your life too, and go from there.

Whatever the cause, if you’re unhappy with your libido, don’t keep it in! If you have long-term partners, talk it over with them in a non-sexual setting. Waiting to have these conversations until a sexual encounter is a recipe for more shame and silence. If you think it’s possible, give your partner a chance to be part of the solution and part of your support system. Or, if there’s an imbalance in your levels of sexual desire, but you’re otherwise okay with it, let them know that, too. And of course, if low libido is making a negative impact on your life, it’s always helpful to talk to a doctor or therapist if you can.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.