Low libido is defined as having difficulty becoming sexually aroused. There is no measure of what makes up “enough” arousal. A low libido is a subjective experience and can be measured only by what YOU consider to be not enough sexual desire. This does not mean what your partner thinks is not enough or what you heard your neighbor thinks is normal. Everyone has a different optimal level of sexual desire.
If you are troubled by how little you think about or desire sex read ahead. A low libido can interfere in your relationship; rob you of a natural stress reliever and take away one of the most important pleasures in life.
Causes of Low Libido
- Birth Control Pills: In the past the birth control pill contained high levels of both estrogen and progesterone. Any tiny imbalance of these hormones can set your libido off kilter. Today the pills are still effective as a fraction of the dosage and are less likely to cause substantial drops in libido, but if you are sensitive to hormones, which many women are, your dosage may be enough to knock out your desire. Talk to your doctor about switching to a dosage/combination of pill that will not affect your desire.
- Pregnancy: When pregnant your body spurts progesterone (known as the pregnancy hormone) preparing the body to create a soft cushy place for your fetus to live. Unfortunately, large doses of progesterone, no matter how normal and natural, can kill your drive. Desire fluctuates for other reasons too during pregnancy. Many women lose their desire for sex in the first three months because of morning sickness, making you too ill to want sex only to have it return (in spades) in the second trimester and then fade again with your ever-growing belly leaving you feeling too uncomfortable or unattractive to have sex. Have heart, it is only temporary. Hormone levels will return to normal, morning sickness will go away and many partners find a pregnant belly irresistible.
- Menopause: Hormones go all over the place in peri-menopause and menopause. By definition your hormones, especially estrogen, start to drop. Again it is the balance between the hormones that kills the drive for sex.
- Diabetes (vaginal dryness, decreased genital sensitivity and decreased libido).
- Heart and Lung diseases can interfere by taking away the energy reserves needed to have sex.
- STI’s can get in the way of sexual enjoyment and deter any sexual activity until dealt with.
- Other illness such as MS, autoimmune diseases and arthritis are known to directly affect sexual function and deplete arousal.
Often it is not the illness, but rather the medication that can leave some women feeling impotent.
- Anti-depressants: Anti-depressants don’t inherently decrease the urge for sex. But what they do is make it extra difficult to have an orgasm. After a while your body learns not to get aroused because it knows it will just get frustrated.
- Blood pressure medications:
Interfere with the nervous system including the neurotransmitter, dopamine, and prevents blood flow to the genitals.
This is one of the biggest killers of libido known to woman. Being able to multi-task can be a positive thing when you need to juggle kids schedules, work, home and marriage all at the same time, but it is not such a positive trait when you are trying to get aroused and reach orgasm. Focus, focus, focus is the mantra when it comes to arousal. Stay with the stimulation, the fantasy or your lover. If your mind is wandering to the bills or the kids, perhaps you need take care of the things before you even start to get aroused. Create a private time and space where you know you will not be disturbed. Read erotic fiction or watch a sexy film.
- Body Image:
Many women have been exposed to the traditional belief that their sexual value is in their attractiveness. Being overweight or just feeling unattractive can kill your drive. It is strong woman who can bypass this programming and focus in on her own sexual feelings. Or turn out the lights or play by yourself to practice emerging yourself into your own sexual bliss without some imaginary (or real) eyes judging you.
- Past Sexual Abuse:
Approximately 24% of women have experienced some sort of sexual abuse. After a traumatic sexual experience your body learned to put sex into the category of activities that cause tension and pain. Past sexual abuse can cause the body to “clam up” with tension before you even get to the foreplay. Once tight and tense, your body’s juices stop flowing. Blood flow will not make its way to the genitals and skin. These areas will become less sensitive to touch and arousal will be more difficult, if not painful. Staci Haines has written a wonderfully sensitive book on the subject called Survivors Guide to Sex.
10 Keys to Finding Your Libido
1. Do your Kegels: Kegel exercises get you in touch with your vagina, labia and even clitoris. The increased blood flow will let you feel more in your genitals and control more of the stimulation you get.
2. Read Erotica: Erotica is a great way to focus your mind on the sexual.
3. Watch Porn: There is no faster way to get your body going than with your eyes. They are directly connected to your clitoris somehow. A study in 1994 found that women responded with lubrication when they saw explicit sexual activity even though the women did not report being aroused. The arousal bypassed their censoring mind and headed straight south. Many women report have incredibly hot sex (masturbation) after watching porn even though they didn’t notice arousal directly from the porn.
4. Balance your Hormones: See your doctor if you experience a sudden shift in libido. This could be a sign of hormone imbalance. Testosterone or progesterone may be low if you are over 40 and are experiencing the symptoms associated with pre-menopause. Testosterone treatment or a progesterone cream may offer a simple solution to perking up the drive.
5. Eat right: Eating tons of fat and sugar will make you feel weak, lethargic and just plain sick. Oh, and did I mention, hate your body? That too. Eating veggies and fruit with lean protein is a fast way to feel healthy. And feeling healthy is feeling horny.
6. Exercise: A recent study found that exercise makes you horny and more open to sex. Exercise de-stresses, balances hormones (by burning off libido attacking hormone, cortisol) and increases blood flow to the erogenous zones, including the labia and vagina, making it easier for the blow to warm up those areas and be more sensitive to touch.
7. Take Ginseng: After sampling hundreds of aphrodisiacs, there is no magic horny pill. But the closest aphrodisiac is health (health = sexiness). Ginseng was single substance found to exhibit the most consistent results to sexual arousal, and that is because it was most effective in addressing general health.
8. Get out your Vibrator: You may not feel arousal until you feel a throbbing sensation on your genitals. Try a vibrator to get things going.
9. Kick Start your sex organs: Clitoral gels are designed to stimulate blood flow to the clitoris and labia, allowing warmth to flood these erogenous zones.
10. Use any of these ideas to start sexual arousal. Too many women wait to become aroused. Research has shown that most women need physical stimulation in order to become aroused. Don’t rely on just your head.
image is a copyrighted photo of model(s)
Dr. Kat is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.
© Copyright Dr. Kathleen Van Kirk