Loss of libido (reduced sex drive)
Loss of libido (sex drive) is a common problem that affects many men and women at some point in their life.
It's often linked to relationship issues, stress or tiredness, but can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, such as reduced hormone levels.
Everyone's sex drive is different and there's no such thing as a "normal" libido. But if you find your lack of desire for sex is distressing or it's affecting your relationship, it's a good idea to get help.
This page explains where you can get help and some common causes of a low libido.
Where to get help and advice
- a GP – they may be able to offer some helpful advice, or refer you to a specialist for an assessment and treatment
- a psychosexual therapist – a GP may be able to refer you a therapist; find out more about what sex therapists do
Try to not feel embarrassed about getting help. Lots of people experience problems with their sex drive and seeking advice can be the first step towards resolving the issue.
Common causes of a low libido
One of the first things to consider is whether you're happy in your relationship. Do you have any doubts or worries that could be behind your loss of sexual desire?
A low libido can be the result of:
- being in a long-term relationship and becoming overfamiliar with your partner
- loss of sexual attraction
- unresolved conflict and frequent arguments
- poor communication
- difficulty trusting each other
- physical sexual problems
A GP may be able to refer you and your partner for relationship counselling
Another thing to consider is whether the problem is a physical issue that makes sex difficult or unfulfilling.
For example, a low sex drive can be the result of:
Stress, anxiety and exhaustion
Stress, anxiety and exhaustion can be all-consuming and have a major impact on your happiness, including your sex drive.
If you feel you're constantly tired, stressed or anxious, you may need to make some lifestyle changes or speak to a GP for advice.
Depression is very different from simply feeling unhappy, miserable or fed up for a short time. It's a serious illness that interferes with all aspects of your life, including your sex life.
In addition to low libido, signs of depression can include:
- feelings of extreme sadness that don't go away
- feeling low or hopeless
- losing interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy
A low sex drive can also be a side effect of antidepressants. Speak to a GP if you think this may be causing your problems.
Getting older and the menopause
A reduced sex drive is not an inevitable part of ageing, but it's something many men and women experience as they get older.
There can be many reasons for this, including:
- lower levels of sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) just before, during and after the menopause in women
- lower levels of sex hormone (testosterone) in men
- age-related health problems, including mobility problems
- side effects of medicine
Speak to a GP if you're concerned about this. They may ask about any other symptoms you have, and sometimes they may arrange for a blood test to check your hormone levels.
There are treatments to increase hormone levels if low levels are causing problems, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with or without testosterone treatment for women going through the menopause.
Pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding
Loss of interest in sex is common during pregnancy, after giving birth and while breastfeeding.
This can be because of:
- changes to your hormone levels
- changes to your body and issues with your body image
- painful sex caused by an injury, such as a cut or tear, during childbirth
- changed priorities, such as focusing on looking after your baby
These issues may improve over time. Speak to a GP if your sex drive does not return and it's a problem for you.
Underlying health problems
Any long-term medical condition can affect your sex drive. This may be a result of the physical and emotional strain these conditions can cause, or it may be a side effect of treatment.
For example, a low libido can be associated with:
- heart disease
- an underactive thyroid – where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones
- major surgery – for example, surgery to remove the ovaries and womb in women
Speak to a GP or specialist if you think your low libido may be the result of an underlying medical condition or treatment.
Medicine and contraception
Certain medicines can sometimes reduce libido, including:
- medicine for high blood pressure
- many types of antidepressants
- medicine for seizures (fits), such as topiramate
- medicines called antipsychotics, such as haloperidol
- medicine for an enlarged prostate, such as finasteride
- medicine for prostate cancer, such as cyproterone
- hormonal contraception, such as the combined hormonal contraception pill, patch or vaginal ring, the progestogen-only pill, the contraceptive implant and the contraceptive injection
Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if low libido is listed as a possible side effect.
See a GP if you think a medicine is affecting your sex drive. They may be able to switch you to a different medicine.
Alcohol and drugs
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period can reduce your sex drive, so it's a good idea to not drink excessive amounts.
Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 alcohol units a week on a regular basis.
Drug misuse is also linked to a loss of sex drive.