Ten Sex-Drive Killers

Ten Sex-Drive Killers

by Tamar Love

If you're experiencing a decrease in libido, you are not alone. For most people your sex drive is like a roller coaster -- one minute it's up, the next it's down. A drop or decrease in sex drive is usually caused by changes in lifestyle or is a side effect of taking certain medication. Here, we've compiled a list of the most common reasons (and remedies) for your sex drive's decline. You may even be able to correct the situation with a few simple lifestyle changes.

Sex Drive/Desire v. Sexual Arousal
There's a big difference between sexual desire and physical arousal: desire (or libido) refers to your interest in sex, while arousal refers to your body's physical response, such as vaginal lubrication or the ability to have an erection. People with higher libidos often experience an easier time getting aroused; while, conversely, if your sex drive has gone down, you may have a more difficult time with some of the physical aspects of arousal. By increasing your sex drive, your body should respond with an increase in arousal. If it does not, speak to your health care provider.

1. Life

As we take on more adult responsibilities, the strong desire for sex we experienced in our youth often takes a huge nosedive. Between work, kids, friendships, school, hobbies, volunteer work, homemaking and exercise, there just doesn't seem to be time for sex. When we do get a minute of free time, often the last thing we want to do is spend it in an amorous cuddle. Watching TV, reading a good book or stealing a few extra minutes of sleep can seem so much more gratifying. It's not that we don't want to have sex, it has just become a low priority.

Sex is an important part of an adult relationship. Just as we need to make time for ourselves, we also need to make time for our partners. Scheduling sex into your calendar may make you giggle, but if that's what it takes -- do it! Designate a night or two a week to spend quality romantic time with your partner. Make a game of it: take turns bringing something new to the bedroom, such as sex toys, or an illustrated book, video or technique. By planning ahead, you're making a commitment to yourself, your partner and the relationship, a commitment you'll keep -- just as you'd keep a meeting you scheduled with your best friend, your child's teacher or a business associate.

2. Stress, Fear & Anxiety

When we're experiencing stress, fear or anxiety, sex is usually the last thing on our minds. Work dilemmas, relationship woes, family issues and money problems can be devastating to our libidos: it's hard to feel sexy when you're worried about the mortgage payment. Fear and anxiety associated with sex itself can also be problematic. We often worry about everything from STDs to fear of pregnancy to sexual performance, all the while dampening our sex drives and hampering our chances to have a satisfying sexual experience.

The first step to putting stress, fear and anxiety in their places is ensuring your body is healthy. Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, sleep at least eight hours a night, exercise regularly and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. If you won't do it for your general health, do it for your sex life! You should also strengthen your mind: spend time doing things that are good for you, such as reading, talking to your friends, kids and partner, and writing in a journal. With a healthy body and mind, you're much better equipped to keep your problems from intruding in the bedroom. If you've tried these techniques and still feel that anxiety and fear are damaging your libido, it may be time to see a professional. If you are comfortable with the idea, try talking to a sex therapist. Otherwise a psychologist, life coach or marriage counselor can help you feel better and enjoy sex more.

3. Boredom

Although many people's relationship goals include settling down in a monogamous relationship, familiarity can be a big sex drive killer. After twenty years together, it's perfectly normal to feel bored or uninspired by your mate. By that time, you've pretty much done it all ... and have ruled out or forgotten about anything else you haven't tried. Even couples who have been dating for only a few months can get into a sexual rut: after the first flush of puppy love has worn off, many people find themselves having missionary position sex on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays - not that there's anything wrong with that schedule, but a little spontaneity never hurt anyone!

Get back to your sexual roots. Forget about everything you like and don't like and try to view sex as an entirely new experience. Talk to your partner about things you'd like to try in bed -- it could be that you just need to introduce something new to your sex life. Buy some sex toys and use them together. Watch a sexy video together and try to emulate the actors. Read or look through some illustrated sex guides. You might feel some initial embarrassment as you and your partner try new experiences together, but if you both keep open minds, you'll soon find yourself having the time of your lives.

4. Relationship Problems

Unresolved conflict or unexpressed anger can definitely put a damper on desire, as can negative feelings, secrets or emotional upset. As you carry around negative feelings about your partner, your level of attraction for that person can wane dramatically, sometimes never to return. Whether it be something simple, such as lack of appropriate hygiene, or something more complex, such as infidelity, you need to deal with it before you can feel sexual again with your partner.

As any therapist or self-help book will tell you, communication is the key to any relationship. If you don't talk through your problems with your partner, they'll grow and fester until they explode into real conflict. If talking to one another doesn't work, talk to a therapist: couples therapy is becoming more and more common. If that doesn't work, see a sex therapist -- the problem could have deeper roots than you're aware of. If you're still having problems, it might be time to say good-bye. It's sad, but you have to face reality: sex is an important part of your life and your relationship. It's essential that you enjoy it.

5. Body Issues

Everyone hates some aspect of his or her body: jiggly thighs, curved penis, small breasts, fat belly or hairy back. The reality, however, is that to have good feelings about sex, you have to have good feelings about your body. While no one is 100% satisfied with the way they look, many of us have learned to live with it. If you haven't, you might need to take some action.

Whenever you find yourself having a negative thought about your body, try to back it up with a positive thought about yourself. For example, if you're obsessing on your extra roll of belly fat, stop yourself and force yourself to admit that you have really great eyes or incredibly soft, sensuous skin. Once you begin to feel a little sexy -- no matter what you look like -- your sex drive will improve. However, if you're carrying an unhealthy amount of weight, try to develop and stick to a weight control program. Get some help if you need to: a fitness counselor, nutritionist or doctor can be a great source of support and inspiration. If you're dealing with another body issue, see a psychologist or family therapist. You need to overcome your body issues and learn to love yourself for who you are, warts and all. Only then will you be able to have a really satisfying sex life.

6. Baby Blues

There's no doubt that babies change a couple's sex life. You might feel self-conscious about your changing body. Your partner may feel uncomfortable making love while you're pregnant. Both of you might be afraid of hurting the baby. Fluctuating hormonal levels can also severely impact your libido. Or maybe you're just exhausted from all of those 3 a.m. feedings! There is no "normal" amount of sexual desire during pregnancy; expect both partner's levels of sexual desire to rise and fall during and after pregnancy, and not necessarily at the same time. Try to spend time together being intimate and don't focus on "sex" per se. Once you and your partner have become comfortable with your new body, there's a good chance sexual desire will return. If not, try to be understanding and patient. Or try swapping a back rub for some oral sex.

It's also very common for a woman to be uninterested in sex after giving birth. Her body has just been through a rigorous workout and she's focused on nurturing her new baby, not necessarily sharing sexual treats with her partner. It's important that you and your partner talk about what you're feeling and find an alternative that will work for both of you until your desire returns: cuddling, sensual massage, kissing, hand holding, oral sex. Be sure to express yourself completely ... and don't forget to let your partner know when your libido returns.

7. Aging

Age is responsible for many unwelcome changes in our bodies: loss of bone mass, susceptibility to illness, painful joints, gray hair, decreased appetite, incontinence, sleep disorder, wrinkles, sagging flesh ... and yes, decreased sexual desire. Menopause and decreased testosterone production are the main reasons for the decrease, but fear, anxiety and depression about aging can also affect your sex drive.

If you're female and going through menopause, it's important that you understand the changes taking place in your body. In some cases, seeing a doctor about medical treatment for the physical changes can help make sex more enjoyable. Estrogen, in a variety of forms, increases the flow of blood to the vagina and increases arousal, which may positively affect desire. Hormone therapy that includes low-dose androgens has been shown to be particularly effective at increasing low desire. Also, don't forget that something as simple as using extra lubricant can be remarkably effective if you're experiencing the common side-effect of vaginal dryness.

If you are male, decreased levels of testosterone may be affecting your level of sexual desire. Talk to a therapist or doctor about your alternatives. Your doctor may prescribe testosterone, but the dosage must be carefully monitored, as too much of the hormone can cause depression and other side effects. In addition, it is not clear how safe it is to take the hormone for a long period of time. Alternatively, Viagra ® might be a good option. Regardless, you need to speak to your doctor first.

8. Sexual Abuse

Victims of sexual assault or abuse often have a difficult time experiencing physical intimacy. It's no wonder: we're encouraged to take time to let our bodies and minds heal, but little attention is paid to our sexuality. Don't despair -- many people have been able to have healthy sexual relationships even after a sexual assault; with counseling, time and patience, you can be one of them. Do take as much time as you need. Don't let anyone (including yourself) pressure you into becoming intimate again until you're ready.

9. Medication

A common side effect of birth control pills (specifically combined oral contraceptives) is diminished sexual desire: decreased androgen production or lowered testosterone levels can cause some women to experience a lowered sex drive and less vaginal lubrication. In addition, mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, high blood pressure pills and other medications have been shown to decrease levels of sexual desire and arousal. Even if you have a medical condition that is completely unrelated to your libido, your sex drive can still suffer: many common medications adversely affect your level of sexual desire or arousal. Talk to your doctor when taking any new medication. If your doctor thinks it may affect your sex life, he or she might be able to suggest an alternative.

Depression has become a frighteningly common diagnosis over the last few decades. If you're feeling down and can't seem to shake it, you may have depression. While there are many wonderful resources for people with depression, the best thing to do is see a doctor as soon as possible. In addition to making you listless, drowsy, sad, angry, upset and emotional, depression can have a profound effect on your sex life - as many as 75% of people with depression report a loss of sex drive. Ironically, the very drugs used to treat depression (MAOIs, SSRIs and Tricyclics among others), can also cause sexual dysfunction, such as delay in orgasm, inability to orgasm, or ejaculation and erection impairment. Any of these conditions can have an adverse affect on your level of desire. Until recently, the only remedies were to reduce your dosage, change your medication, take a holiday from your antidepressants or take a medical antidote, which can cause further difficulties. However, some doctors think that taking Viagra ® may help people using antidepressants. Or you might try ginkgo biloba, which is thought to help with lack of desire related to taking Paxil and other antidepressants. Recent studies have shown the antidepressant Wellbutrin to be effective in combating reduced sexual desire, so you might consider switching antidepressants if your doctor says it's okay. If you notice a drop in your sexual desire around the time you start a new medication, talk to your doctor to see if there is a connection. Just remember: do not stop taking any medication without talking to your doctor first.

10. Medical Dysfunction

Most people are familiar with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and female sexual desire disorder, but did you know that loss of libido can be related to a thyroid condition? Hormone deficiency can also be the culprit, especially in older people. A metabolic disorder -- anything that adversely affects your metabolism (including an eating disorder, accident, trauma or illness) will almost undoubtedly cause some lack of sexual desire. And, did you know that one in five American women have hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), more commonly referred to as low sex drive? The point is, if you've ruled out all other possibilities for your decreased libido, see a doctor. You could very well have an easily remedied medical condition.

What is normal?

If you're frustrated about your lack of sexual appetite, try to go easy on yourself. Everyone's body is different. There is no "normal" level of sex drive. Your personal sense of normality is defined by how you feel about your sexuality and whether or not you're happy with how you are expressing it. If you're one of the lucky people who is perfectly comfortable with his or her sexuality, congratulate yourself. If you're like the millions of others who feels they could use a little boost, explore the remedies we've suggested. But don't hold out for a miracle ... while some of these recommendations have worked for many people, there's no guarantee they will work for you. 

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