December boasts plenty of reasons for celebrating, but we could always use one more. On 21st December this year, Global Orgasm Day was created by activists Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell, who asked us to dedicate our orgasms to World Peace. December is all about ‘Peace on Earth’, after all.
But for many, orgasms can be complicated beasts. They’re closely linked to what is known as our ‘libido’ – a term which loosely equates to sexual desire. Sexual pleasure does not need to include orgasm to be satisfying. Still, a better understanding of our libido can make all the difference to achieving a rewarding sex life, whatever that looks like for you.
What Exactly is My Libido?
By libido, we mean a person’s sex drive. Controlled by the brain, it is a biological force that determines how we think and act sexually. It may sound simple enough, but libido is affected by many factors at any given time, including certain medications, how we’re looking after ourselves, and how we feel in our relationships.
We can expect our libido to change over time, and it is normal for it to decrease as we age. For some, however, low libido or loss of libido can be a frustrating and alienating experience, especially if it is long-term or recurrent. This is not least because, for many, sex is a complex thing that can bring up all sorts of emotions, associations and feelings.
Knowing what could be causing your lost or reduced sex drive is empowering, as it’s your first step towards regaining it. So, what’s going on when we go off sex?
Causes of Decreased Libido
Libido and Age
Ageing can affect our sex drive in many ways. The decline in the male and female sex hormone levels, testosterone and oestrogen, respectively, can cause fatigue and a reduced desire for sex. For those with female sex organs, this experience is a common part of menopause.
Ageing also raises additional concerns, such as medication side effects, age-related health conditions and a reduced level of fitness. These can be challenging obstacles, but there are ways of reconnecting sexually with yourself or a partner that you may wish to try. More information about sex in later life can be found at age.uk.
Please remember, wherever your libido is at, it’s just as important to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in later life as it is at any other time. Order your discreet, convenient at-home testing kit today if you have any concerns:
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Where’s Your Head At? Sex Drive and Mental Health
Reduced libido often occurs alongside low mood or depression. Sufferers of depression often report a decrease in sexual desire and sexual excitement, diminished or delayed orgasms, and erection and ejaculation problems.
Aside from mental health conditions, challenges such as becoming a parent, going through grief, or having a stressful period at work or school can cause changes to our sleeping habits and stress levels, which in turn can affect our libido.
Fortunately, help is available. Your GP can help with any mental health symptoms you are experiencing. Mental health charities, such as Mind.org.uk, also offer more information on mental health. Practising mindfulness and checking in about how you feel can help you become more aware of your mental wellness.
Medication and Lower Libido
Frustratingly, just as mental health issues can decrease libido, so too can some of the medications we take to help with mental health. Common side effects of drugs used to treat depression include reduced sex drive and difficulty achieving orgasm. If you feel drug side effects are messing with your libido, speak to your healthcare provider about an alternative regime.
Hormonal contraception, such as the patch, pill or implant, can be linked to a change in sex drive. If you think this may be the case, it might be worth switching methods or using a non-hormonal method such as a copper coil or condoms.
It’s important that you don’t cease taking any of your prescribed medication until you have consulted your GP. Your GP can advise on any concerns about the medicines you are taking.
A common cause of reduced sexual desire is relationship issues. Frequent quarrelling, lack of communication and an unequal relationship are all common causes of changes in sexual desire. The first step to promoting a happy, healthy sex life is discussing any problems with your partner(s). Some people find it difficult to discuss such a personal issue. There are various private, charity, volunteer and NHS counselling services available that can help.
Lifestyle Factors and Libido
If you’re looking to increase your libido, there are some basic lifestyle factors you can change yourself that may help:
Quit smoking: In a study from earlier this year, smokers reported more frequent lower libido than nonsmokers
Check your alcohol consumption: As Shakespeare said, alcohol “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance”. Drinking ultimately reduces sexual desire, and drinking over an extended period has been linked to longer-term impotence. You should limit alcohol consumption to no more than 14 units per week.
So, what can be done about low libido?
Prioritise Pleasure: Boosting Your Libido
First things first, if you’re experiencing a reduction in sexual desire, don’t panic – there’s nothing wrong with you, and you’re not alone. In fact, low libido happens to more than one in five of us at some point in our lives.
What’s encouraging is that many of the factors that cause reduced libido are within our control, meaning there’s a whole lot of libido exploring open to you if you’re aiming to increase it. So, for the libi-dos and don’ts, read on.
The Food of Love: Diet and Libido
We’ve all heard the rumours of everything from chocolate to oysters working as aphrodisiacs – but is this where the relationship between food and sex ends?
The truth is, a healthy diet high in fibre, fruit and veg, and limiting salt, sugar and saturated fat certainly can’t hurt. When we eat well, our energy levels increase, which may stoke our sex drive in turn.
Still, that’s not to say you can’t enjoy experimenting – with food or in the bedroom.
Hot and Sweaty: Exercise May Boost Sexual Pleasure
You don’t need us to tell you that exercise is good for you, but did you know the benefits it has on our sex life?
Evidence has found that even small bouts of exercise can drastically improve our sex lives. Exercise boosts mood, self-esteem and overall fitness - all contributing to feeling sexy! What’s more, moderate exercise is thought to particularly benefit postmenopausal women by helping them maintain a healthy body and good mental health. Finally, incorporating exercise helps protect against age-related health conditions that affect sex drive, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD).
If nothing else, a fulfilling sex life is a great incentive for those days when reaching for the workout gear takes some extra encouragement.
Go And Love Yourself
Whether partnered or single, if you’re looking to increase your libido, masturbation is a great way to reconnect with yourself sexually and explore what a fulfilling sex life might mean to you.
Masturbation is safe and fun. You can get to know what turns you on sexually while staying safe from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as a bonus (if you’re masturbating alone, of course). During masturbation, we may wish to explore fantasies, figure out where we like to be touched, or experiment with sex toys. All are perfectly healthy choices and help us discover what we might wish to experience with a partner in future.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it so long as you feel comfortable. Why not check out these 10 masturbation myths, before you dive in?
Communicating With Your Partner About Sexual Pleasure
If you’re experiencing a reduction in your sex drive, there’s a chance that you may also be dreading, or even avoiding, bringing up the issue with your partner. This is understandable – sex is a sensitive topic for many people. But remember, a good partner will listen to your concerns with respect and be supportive of the next steps you want to take. Relate offers advice on speaking to your partner about your changing sex drive.
The good news is that once the conversation has opened up, the fun can start. Going at the right pace for you, you may wish to actualise some of the things you’ve learned through your solo efforts or even just talk about what makes you horny.
In pursuit of trying to increase your libido, now is a great time to try a whole host of different techniques to see what works for you as a couple. Try not to focus on orgasm as the end goal: focus on building intimacy through communication, quality time together and other kinds of physical touch such as cuddling and massage.
If you’re the partner of someone experiencing low libido, Verywellmind offers guidance on how to support them.
Treatments for Low Libido
Armed with the knowledge of what could be putting the brakes on your sex life, and what might help to get going again, you’re already in a great position to recapture your sexual spark. It’s worth noting, however, that there are treatments beyond the suggestions above that may be an option for you. These include:
- Relationship counselling
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Medicines to help with sexual problems
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Switching medications
- Treatment for health conditions
A Word on Being Safe
Hopefully, you can see a path back to your ideal sex life. Just be aware that, if and when you see an increase in your libido, it’s important to prioritise safe sex in order to protect against STIs. If you’re at all concerned about your sexual health, pick up one of our STI kits today.
Now, let the experimenting commence. And remember to have fun.