Perhaps one of the most frustrating barriers to sexual satisfaction one can go through is a libido that seemingly vanishes into thin air. Whether it is health-related, work-related or there are issues lying dormant in your relationship with your sexual partner or partners, a lowered libido is an obstacle that can really knock you back. For those who are sexually active, finding the kind of sexual fulfillment we crave can be a key to happiness and satisfaction; when the ability to achieve that fulfillment goes *poof!* then it’s time to step back and assess what’s going on.
First off, you should know that more often than not, if you are currently experiencing issues with a lower-than-normal (for you) libido and you want to actively fix it, then there is frequently an identifiable cause and an identifiable solution. You are not alone! Also, since we are living through a majorly traumatic moment (a global pandemic with several compounded reasons to grieve), it makes sense if you’re just not feeling it right now.
Now, let’s look at what might be causing your lower libido. According to Dr. Prudence Hall, who has more than 30 years of medical experience as a practicing physician, low libido generally can have both physical and emotional causes.
Among the physical causes is hormones and entering different stages of life. For example, women going through menopause and perimenopause have low estrogen and generally low testosterone levels, Hall tells SheKnows, adding, “[B]oth of these deficits can cause low sex drives or actual anger toward men.”
Another part of menopause is the dreaded vaginal dryness. Hall says that after having a few painful experiences, women may be less likely to want to engage in sex. And it doesn’t just have to be vaginal pain — any type of sex-related pain or discomfort can make sexual activity seem less important or urgent, she adds.
Hall also points toward weight gain as a cause for lower libido too. “When women gain weight due to low estrogen states and other reasons, they frequently avoid sex,” she explains. “So many women tell me they simply feel unattractive and ashamed about their bodies that they won’t show them to their partners — even with minimal weight gain.”
And never underestimate the impact of stress on all aspects of our everyday lives — including our sex lives. “Women who are exhausted tend to be less sexual,” Hall explains. “It’s not just that we are too tired. It is that our adrenal glands become depleted with chronic stress, which lowers testosterone levels. Healthy testosterone levels are critical for a woman’s sexuality.”
Finally, Hall advises women to look at the medications they are taking and examining whether they could be contributing to a lowered libido. While it is not advisable to immediately go off any kind of medication without first consulting your primary care physician, it is important to be aware of possible side effects, like a lowered libido, where medication is involved.
“The birth control pill induces extremely low levels of sex hormones in most women, which reduces her sex drive. Coming off the pill generally increases the sex drive,” Hall explains. “Many other medications, including antidepressants, statins and high-blood-pressure meds, can also definitely lower a woman’s libido.”
Research out of the Mayo Clinic also points to other potential physical causes of lowered libidos in women, including fatigue, recovering after surgery, alcohol and recreational drug use and certain medical conditions like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and neurological diseases.
But it’s not just physical issues that impact your libido — there’s a large emotional component as well.
“When a relationship is navigating troubled times, women feel less emotionally close,” Hall says. “This can frequently leads to a decrease in sexual activity. If [women] are feeling criticized, accused, micromanaged or simply ignored, [we] tend to distance ourselves emotionally and sexually. A woman who discovers that her partner is lying usually experiences a huge sexual turn-off. The intimacy of sharing generally increases a woman’s sexuality.”
The Mayo Clinic research also shows other potential psychological factors associated with lower libido, including mental health problems (such as anxiety or depression), poor body image, low self-esteem, a history of physical or sexual abuse and previous negative sexual experiences.
And so, while it may feel like resolving issues around your lowered libido is an unwinnable war, it is likely not the case in reality. If any of these factors in a lowered libido hit home for you and you want to take steps to resolve it, know that there are solutions because these are fixable problems. Be it consulting with your primary care physician, seeking out the help of a mental health specialist or safely and sanely taking your own steps toward resolving the issue, a lowered libido does not have to be a permanent roadblock in your life.
A version of this story was published January 2018.
Before you go, read up on some of the totally amazing orgasms you can have (that you may not have even known about!):