Fitness and body

When your libido just libidon’t

What happens when you’re not interested in sex? Emen8 takes a look at some of the myths and possible causes that concern a lack of libido.

A friend of mine made a confession over drinks not long ago. “I’ve been to see my doctor,” he said. “I haven’t been interested in sex for at least two months.”

This was a surprisingly difficult thing for him to say. To put that in perspective, this is a guy who once called me to ask if I’d mind checking his ass for suspected warts (they were bug bites). Even more interesting is the fact that he had lost his father about two months prior – which his doctor gently pointed out as a possible cause for his reduced sexual appetite.

“I never even thought about grief,” my friend said. “I mean, what does that have to do with sex?”

It’s easy to see why he didn’t make the connection. A high sex drive is assumed to be part of the factory settings for every man. Our higher levels of testosterone – the male hormone which is thought to switch on sexual desire – make us want more sex, more often than most women. Given the choice, we’d do it all the time, come hell or high water.

Or would we? Step outside the realm of anecdotal evidence and long-standing assumptions, and the science tells a different story. One in five men experience such a low desire for sex that they would rather do almost anything else. Everyone is different, age isn’t always a factor, and what’s normal for your friends may not be normal for you. And even for men who do have a naturally high libido, there are a whole range of factors which can affect sex drive.

“If ‘horny’ isn’t your default setting, you’re actually like the majority of men.”

So, if you’re feeling a little low on mojo, read on for some possible causes, and maybe a little peace of mind.

1. Stress

Stress can be caused by big life events (like the death of a loved one), work, money trouble, anxiety and relationship issues – most of the building blocks of life as an adult, in fact. Stress is more than just worry. It causes elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which in turn lowers your testosterone levels and your sex drive. This is also closely tied to erectile dysfunction which can create a vicious cycle: you’re stressed and can’t get hard for sex once, which gives you performance anxiety (i.e. more stress) about the next time, and so on.

If you’re going through a stressful time, or you’re finding life in general is causing you a lot of anxiety, it’s normal for your sex drive to subside. It’s your body’s way of conserving resources. And if you think you’re not coping and you don’t know who to talk to, have a chat to your doctor.

2. Too much porn

Studies have shown that too much porn desensitises the part of your brain which is responsible for sexual excitement. In essence, you’re stripping the gears of your complex arousal machinery with too much stimulation.

“If you find that you’re more interested in watching guys on screen than you are in seeing them in the real world, it may be time to do a porn detox.”

If you find that you’re more interested in watching guys on screen than you are in seeing them in the real world, it may be time to do a porn detox.

3. Exercise

Exercise is important for your health, but as with all things, moderation is key. A recent study found a direct connection between intense physical training and reduced libido in men. Long, endurance-style sessions (think marathon training or competitive cycling) and overtraining (not giving yourself enough rest between sessions) actually put your body under stress – one of the primary enemies of libido. Participants in the study reported not only having no energy for sex, but also losing interest altogether.

The solution is shorter, higher-intensity training (45-minute sessions are ideal), which will still push your boundaries and increase fitness, without putting your body into survival mode.

4. Depression, anxiety and medication

These three go together because they’re often related. Depression is well-known to reduce sex drive. Anxiety causes wild fluctuations in hormones and energy levels, and will drag your libido along the rollercoaster behind it.

Unfortunately, many of the medications used to treat mental health issues are inherently sex drive killers. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft increase another hormone, serotonin, which improves mood but also may lower libido. Tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil have a similar effect.

“It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think your medication is having unwanted side effects,”

On the bright side, there are other options available which may have less of an impact on your sex drive .

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think your medication is having unwanted side effects, and not to make any changes without expert advice.

5. Light

Traditional light therapy affects the pineal gland in the brain, helping to regulate mood-affecting hormones. But a small study conducted in Italy last year found that men who were exposed to a light box – delivering 10,000 UV-filtered lux from a distance of one metre – for half an hour each morning also experienced greatly increased testosterone levels (around 50 per cent), increased arousal and increased sexual pleasure.

The idea that light may help boost sex drive isn’t new. Studies on animals have suggested that exposing your torso and testes to direct sunlight increases sperm production significantly. But there are some obvious problems (sun damage, skin cancer risk, public nudity) with catching some rays on your gonads. So other researchers have looked at the effects of exposing the testes to specific frequencies of red light, which boosted testosterone levels, sperm production and testicular size in animals.

Before you invest in studio lighting, be aware that none of these studies are at the stage where exposure to light can be clinically recommended for low sex drive – only one involving human subjects could do that. But researchers believe that light therapy may in the future offer many of the benefits of hormone-regulating medication, without the side effects.

The important thing to remember is that it’s very normal for your sex drive to fluctuate throughout your life (or even your working week). If ‘horny’ isn’t your default setting, you’re actually like the majority of men. But if you are concerned about a loss of libido, then it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor – there are lots of options to help you get back to a level you’re comfortable with.

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