Q: I have recently come to the conclusion that I have a lower libido than most people. I enjoy sex when I have it, but throughout all of my previous relationships, my partners have gotten frustrated at how little sex I need. Is there something wrong with me? Is there something I should do to make myself more horny?
A: In a perfect world, we'd all be ready to strip naked and get busy at a moment's notice.
Unfortunately, reality often serves us the occasional dish of stick-in-the-mud sex drive, and that's something that can affect anyone at any time in their lives - regardless of age, gender, or marital status.
Before you go running to your doctor, consider that low libido can be a short-term or a chronic condition, and that there are many possible underlying reasons for a decrease in your desire. Here are a few pointers and possibilities (and some remedies you might consider).
You're not alone
Don't equate low libido with lack of masculinity. If you're a man with low sex drive, one of the most important first steps you should take is recognising how common your condition is. Irwin Goldstein, MD, editor in chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, told WebMD Magazine that one in five men "have such low sexual desire they’d rather do almost anything else than have sex."
Sydney Sexologist, Dr Michelle Mars PhD, says low libido can be a problem for both women and men. "I work with clients on rekindling desire and building the physical capacity for greater enjoyment of sex. Men whose sense of sexual self is linked to their ability to maintain a firm erection often experience low libido as they age or as a result of prostate cancer interventions. Changing the way they think about sex is often a first step rebuilding libido."
What are you putting in your body?
Have you checked your medications recently? The drugs you're putting in your body - and this frequently includes those two glasses of wine you have with dinner - can have a huge impact on your libido. Things like SSRIs, high blood pressure medication, certain hair-loss remedies and anti-seizure medication can all be wet towels for your sexual campfire. And alcohol, cigarettes and other hard recreational drugs have been known to snuff the wayward flame as well. If you're on a non-negotiable medication talk to your doctor about any potential alternatives.
This might seem like low-hanging fruit, but consider that beauty sleep also equates to sex sleep. Fatigue is not a great precursor for a healthy sex life, and one recent study has actually suggested that women who sleep more tend to have more sex.
Check your hormones
Testosterone affects sex drive in both men and women. Because libido is such a hormonal thing, it could be worth your while to go to a doctor and get some blood work done. There are testosterone supplements and shots available for men, though this can be trickier for women who aren't keen on getting the associated side effects.
For women specifically, the hormonal culprit is usually lack of oestrogen (especially during menopause), which leads to vaginal dryness. Pregnancy and breast-feeding can also put a major damper on things, and birth control pills have long been suspected to snuff libidos - though there's less of a medical consensus on that one, as some women report healthier libidos on the pill.
Dopamine, one of your brain's feel-good chemicals, also plays a large role in fuelling your sex drive. This may be more of a forward-looking treatment, but there is currently a dopamine-boosting drug in clinical trials. It's designed for women, but if approved, will likely lead to a male equivalent as well.
What’s on your plate?
How's your diet? A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine pointed to a correlation between high cholesterol and women who struggle with arousal and orgasm. That's because cholesterol can inhibit the flow of blood through the arteries, which includes the flow of blood to your juicy parts. If you currently consume a lot of fatty foods and animal products, move in the direction of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
Maybe it’s personal
Have you assessed how you're doing with yourself, and with your partner, emotionally? Sex drive is more than just a biological phenomenon. It's all-encompassing, so your mental and spiritual health play a large role as well. Whether you're dealing with a major past trauma or you've got some minor relationship issues to iron out, a therapist can help you deal with some of your less tangible hangups.