Sex drive is affected by various factors and typically fluctuates over time. It is common to lose your desire for sex at some point in your life, especially during periods of stress. However, a change in libido level may also signal an adverse effect or even a health problem. Low sex drive can ultimately cause troubles in your intimate relationships. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about male & female sex drive, the factors that influence it, and what your libido (low or high) says about your health. Let’s dive in.
What Is Sex Drive (Libido)?
Sex drive, also known as libido, is the desire for sexual activity . It’s a natural & healthy aspect of human sexuality that vary between individuals and can fluctuate over time & in response to different situations. While having a low or high libido is not necessarily problematic, it can affect a person’s quality of life & relationships.
Libido can be affected by the following factors:
- biological: Certain hormones, such as testosterone, play a role in sex drive;
- psychological: This factor includes emotional and mental states, for instance, anxiety, stress, and depression;
- environmental: Examples include cultural norms & social conditioning.
In general, sex drive is not a measure of human sexual orientation or gender identity but rather a natural aspect of the way an individual experiences & expresses themselves sexually.
What Is Normal Libido? And Is There a “Normal” Level of Sex Drive?
Normal libido refers to the level of sexual desire that is typical for an individual based on their age, gender, and other factors. It varies from person to person, as well as from culture to culture. And what is considered normal for one person may be different for another. It can also change throughout a person’s life and be influenced by various factors discussed above. In general, a healthy individual with normal libido has a desire for sexual activity that is not excessive or distressing and doesn’t interfere with daily activities. It’s important to note that there is no right or wrong level of sex drive, as long as an individual’s level of sexual desire is comfortable & healthy for them.
Causes of Higher Sex Drive
A higher sex drive (hypersexuality or sexual addiction) is characterized by an excessive or obsessive desire for sexual activity. People with a high libido may experience intense sexual urges that are difficult to control, leading to sexual behavior that is often compulsive and may interfere with daily life. It’s more common in males than in women. However, highly sexual women have a higher sex drive & are engaging in more sexual activity .
Below are some possible causes of high libido:
- hormonal imbalance: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as estrogen, progesteron, & testosterone, might cause an increase in libido;
- medication: Certain meds such as hormonal contraceptives & blood pressure meds and dietary supplements like Tribulus terrestris can lead to high sex drive. Some people may feel more sexually aroused or have an increased desire for sex when taking stimulants like Adderall. But why does Adderall make you horny? This may be due to the effects of the med on the brain’s reward system & the release of dopamine, which can enhance feelings of pleasure & arousal;
- stress: High levels of stress can trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, which can increase libido as part of a survival instinct;
- neurotransmitter imbalance: An imbalance in certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin can cause an increase in libido;
- health conditions: Certain health conditions, e.g., bipolar disorder, hypersexuality disorder, & dementia, can enhance libido. In some cases, bipolar disorder may cause a higher sex drive during manic episodes.
An increase in physical activity and having a healthy sexual relationship may also enhance a libido level. It’s important to remember that what constitutes a “high” sex drive is subjective and can significantly vary from person to person.
Causes of Lower Libido
Low sex drive is a common sexual problem that can affect both men & women. It refers to a decreased interest in sexual activity and can be temporary or long-term.
Here is a list of some potential causes of low libido :
- medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease, and neurological disorders;
- some meds, such as antidepressants, antihypertensives, hormonal contraceptives, and antihistamines;
- hormonal imbalance, such as low testosterone in men or low estrogen in women;
- high levels of stress & anxiety;
- problems in a relationship, such as unresolved conflicts, lack of intimacy, and communication issues;
- sleep deprivation;
- negative body image or self-esteem issues;
- poor diet & sedentary lifestyle.
Also, substance abuse, particularly alcohol & marijuana, can lower libido by affecting hormonal balance and causing fatigue.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Low or Overly High Libido
Diagnosis and treatment of low or high libido may depend on the underlying cause. It is essential to seek professional medical help to determine the cause of the problem and to receive appropriate treatment. Since low or high sex drive has several possible causes, to make a diagnosis, a doctor may ask you some questions regarding:
- medical history;
- drug history;
- stress level.
If a doctor suspects that your problem is caused by a physical condition, they may order the following tests to determine the cause:
- physical exam;
- blood tests to check hormone levels, particularly testosterone levels;
- imaging tests like an MRI, CT, or PET scan.
Once a cause of the sexual problem is determined, the following treatment options may be considered:
- psychotherapy: A mental health professional can help a patient work through underlying emotional issues that may be driving their behavior. Also, joining a support group can help provide support and motivation for individuals who struggle with their sexual issues;
- addressing underlying medical conditions: Treating diabetes, heart disease, and depression can help manage low libido by addressing the root cause of the issue. For instance, managing diabetes or heart disease with a med, diet, & exercise improve overall health and blood flow, leading to enhanced sexual function and desire. Similarly, treating depression improves mood & reduces stress, which can improve libido;
- making lifestyle changes: Such changes include eating a healthy diet (a diet that is rich in nutrient-dense foods), exercising regularly, reducing alcohol consumption & quitting smoking, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep can improve overall health and libido;
- hormone replacement therapy (HRT): It helps increase hormone levels and improve libido in some individuals. For instance, women who experience a decrease in estrogen levels due to menopause may be prescribed estrogen therapy to heighten libido. Men with low testosterone levels may also be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy just to help ameliorate sex drive;
- sex therapy: It can help address emotional or psychological issues contributing to low libido by providing a safe & non-judgmental space for individuals to explore their thoughts & feelings around sex and intimacy. The therapy can aid individuals in identifying & addressing any underlying cause that may be affecting their sexual desire;
- meds such as sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis): These meds work by increasing blood flow to the penis, which can aid men in achieving & maintaining an erection. Nonetheless, they don’t directly address issues related to low libido. In some instances, treating impotence may indirectly improve libido by lessening performance anxiety & heightening sexual confidence. Also, meds like antidepressants or antiandrogens can be prescribed to reduce sexual urges by treating hypersexuality disorder.
Additionally, self-help strategies such as mindfulness can help manage symptoms & improve overall well-being.
Sex drive significantly varies from person to person. There are many reasons why an individual may have a low or high libido and why it might fluctuate. Chronic health conditions, medication, and a hormonal imbalance can all affect it. Certainly, libido issues can be treated. The first step is to comprehend that this problem is common & nothing to be ashamed of. It’s necessary to talk with a physician about the symptoms you’re experiencing & how to address them with viable treatment just to lead a happy and fulfilled sex life.
- Libido. Retrieved: February 18, 2023. Sciencedirect.com.
- How Highly Sexual Women Manage Relationships. Published: March 31, 2019. Reviewed by Lybi Ma. Psychologytoday.com.
- Low Sex Drive (Loss of Libido). Retrieved: February 18, 2023. Nhs.uk.
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