When I tell people about my job as a sex therapist, it’s regularly assumed that most of my clients are women. And while a large number are women – an equal number of men need help, too. And a lot of these men specifically want help with low libido. It’s for them – for you – I’ve created this ultimate guide to causes of low libido in men (and what to do about them).
Men aren’t raging hormones (which you’ve probably already figured out because you’re here, reading this) – and believing they are, can lead to low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
Men I’ve talked to feel like there’s something seriously wrong with them if they have low sex drive.
Like there’s something missing in life.
Like they’re less manly.
If this is you, know that you’re not broken and that low libido in men is common.
13-28% of men experience low sex drive. And just like female sexuality, male sexuality is in actual fact a little complicated.
This in turn means solutions aren’t always straightforward. In fact, if increasing sex drive were always as simple as adding more testosterone, sex therapists like myself, would be out of a job.
As you’ll see in this ultimate guide to causes of low libido in men, there are lots of reasons you’re experiencing a loss of desire, and equally, lots of things you can do to get your sex drive back.
If you’re willing to put in the time to work out why your libido is gone – it truly is possible to want sex again.
Table of Contents
Biological and Medical Reasons
When troubleshooting low sex drive, it’s important to address everything, and this includes your body and physical well-being. In this section, I’ve listed 3 causes of low libido in men that may be responsible for your waning appetite for sex.
1. You’re on medication
Sometimes, the very medications we take to make us feel better both physically and mentally – lower our sex drive or eradicate it completely – the very thing that we still enjoyed doing. Popular antidepressants such as SSRIs and SNRIs are common causes of low libido in men.
If you feel like your medication is affecting your libido negatively – talk to your doctor.
When it comes to antidepressants there are other options that have fewer sexual side effects, and if sex is important to you, it might be worth trying a new one, such as: Bupropion, Mirtazapine, Vilazodone or Vortioxetine.
2. You have a chronic illness
Desire demands of us that we’re present in our minds and bodies, but the thing is, when we’re suffering from a chronic illness such as high blood pressure, fatigue or chronic pain – we don’t really want to be present all the time – because it’s uncomfortable.
Seeking the help of a sex therapist is a great way to increase libido.
We’re used to working with clients who have all kinds of difficulties and there are things you can do to work around pre-existing conditions and create a satisfying sex life.
3. You have low testosterone
Low testosterone is often thought of as the reason why men lose their libido. And even if it certainly can be one factor contributing to low sex drive, it’s not the only one.
The fact of the matter is – testosterone is only one driving force behind sexual desire, and more often than not, the causes of low libido in men are several, (a lot of them psychological and relational in nature).
If you’ve had low libido for a while, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to check that there are no hormonal imbalances. This way, you’ll also feel more confident working with a sex therapist if and when you know that the root cause isn’t biological.
The brain is our largest sexual organ, which is why it’s important to consider what’s going on in our minds if we want to understand and increase sex drive. Listed below are 7 psychological causes of low libido in men that are likely contributing to your plummeting desire.
1. You’re low or anxious
Mental well-being and sexual health are often closely linked. Because of this, the way you deal with negative emotions also affects your sex drive. If you find it hard to accept sadness or worry – and instead push these feelings away – this can, over time, lead to low libido. For some, worry can also develop into anxiety and feeling low can turn into depression.
It may sound strange, but allowing yourself to actually feel sad, angry or worried can be the key to increasing your sexual desire. It’s important to tune into all your emotions, not just the positive ones, if you want to get your sex drive back.
However, if you have more bad days than good ones, and think you may be suffering from clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, you’ll probably need more than my guide. Seeing your doctor is the next best step to feeling better.
2. You have (or had) a lack of erotic thoughts during sex
We usually think of sex as this purely bodily experience, and that being in the moment during sex is being devoid of all thoughts. This isn’t entirely true. According to Carvalho & Nobre, causes of low libido in men are often psychological, and specifically, a lack of erotic thoughts during sex has been found to be a significant predictor of low sex drive.
When you have a lack of sexy thoughts, you’re not focused on what’s turning you on. Perhaps your brain is more interested in scanning the situation for potential threats – like your partner not enjoying themselves, or your erection going soft. When your mind isn’t focused on the sexual – this leads to decreased sexual desire.
Mindfulness has been all the rage for quite a few years now and is often toted as an important part of self-care. Practicing mindfulness is great for low libido in women– and recently, new studies suggest this is also a good way to increase desire and sexual pleasure in men, too.
You can find great exercises for free on Youtube, and there are also apps, like Headspace, that include a whole library of exercises for different difficulties.
3. You’re carrying trauma
We don’t always talk about it – but sexual assault happens to those who identify as boys and men, too. This kind of trauma often affects us deeply and can lead to a whole host of difficulties. It is also one of the causes of low libido in men, and one which must be addressed if you want to regain your desire.
No matter how long it’s been since you were subjected to sexual abuse, it’s possible to start wanting and enjoying sex again. If you haven’t yet processed what you’ve been through, I recommend seeing a sex therapist or other mental health professional first. Once the trauma has been addressed and worked through, you’ll be able to take steps towards increased desire.
4. You’re stressed
If you have low libido, stress is probably one of the causes. Stress isn’t actually a bad thing in and of itself. Stress mobilizes the resources needed in our bodies to help us get out of harm’s way.
However, in our modern society we often stress about that aren’t actually life-threatening; new emails popping up on the screen, and deadlines at work can all trigger a stress response.
Because of this, stress is more or less constantly present for a lot of us. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to feel less stressed and more amorous.
Find ways of de-stressing and make sure to incorporate them into your daily routine. Examples of ways of winding down are: working out and mindfulness exercises.
Even getting creative; drawing, painting, singing, or writing are all effective ways of calming down the body’s nervous system. And once you’re more relaxed, you’re more likely to feel like having sex.
5. You have high or unrealistic sexual expectations
Expectations surrounding sex can also take a toll on sex drive. If you’re constantly playing the comparison game, comparing your sex life to the stuff you see on tv, in movies or in pornography, it’s easy to feel like you’re falling short, sexually.
In turn, this can lead to sex being a less pleasurable experience, because you’re preoccupied with what you “should” be doing or experiencing instead of being in the moment. This leads to less motivation to have sex and therefore a decreased libido.
Researchers Carvalho & Nobre also point to the fact that restrictive attitudes surrounding sex, for example, that you’re not allowed to fantasize during sex with your partner or spouse – is also one of the causes of low libido in men.
Challenge your own expectations – of yourself, your sexuality, your partner and your relationship. Ask yourself if what you think you should be experiencing, for example, rock-hard erections that never falter or wanting sex even though you’re going through a hard time – is in fact, realistic. If you can, practice being kind to yourself and being present in the moment, instead of judging yourself based on media’s depictions of sex.
Low libido affects relationships – and relationships affect libido. Even though we can’t get away from the obvious back and forth impact, there are lots of things we can do to better our relationships and get our sex drive back. Below are four common relationship causes of low libido in men, and corresponding solutions.
1. You have relationships issues
If you’re feeling angry at your partner, or resentment is looming on the horizon, this might be one of the reasons you’re not feeling like having sex.
Conflict in relationships is common – however, even if we know this, it’s not always easy to resolve them on our own, and this is one of the reasons working on communication is so important in relationships.
Learning how to deal with your emotions head-on – instead of stuffing them away somewhere, is important in order to let go of anger and resentment.
Once you have a better handle on your emotions, it will be easier to communicate them to your partner, without causing conflict. It will possibly offer more understanding of your partner and where they’re coming from, too.
If more in-depth help is needed, couples counseling is a great way of learning how to deal with conflict and deep-seated anger.
2. You’re experiencing a lack of intimacy
Society places a lot of emphasis on men’s sex drives as visually driven. And even if finding your sex partner attractive is often important – intimacy is too. In fact, according to sex researcher Lehmiller, men’s sex drive is “very much based in the emotional connection they have with a long-term partner”.
Moreover, a study by Murray & Milhausen, suggests that intimacy cultivated in long-term relationships is more beneficial to men’s desire than it is to women’s; relationship length seemed to have a more detrimental effect on women’s sex drive than it did men’s.
If you’ve been feeling disconnected from your partner or spouse lately, increasing intimacy might be a good way of increasing libido and general relationship well-being. There are lots of ways to do this. One is to do a quick google for exercises by John & Julie Gottman – relationship researchers that have extensive experience in what makes or breaks relationships.
3. You’re having sex to avoid conflict
Several studies show that the reasons we have sex, affect our sexual desire. If you’re having sex as a means of connecting or experiencing intimacy – this leads to more satisfaction and increased libido. However, if you’re sleeping together to avoid negative things such as conflicts and irritation – this leads to low libido.
With each negative sexual encounter, your body and mind are effectively learning that sex isn’t a great idea. In order to make sure you don’t have these experiences anymore; your libido naturally decreases. In other words: if you’re having sex to avoid questions from your partner or arguments, it’s not at all strange you rarely feel in the mood.
In order to get your sex drive back, it’s important to get out of this vicious sex cycle. Not only is this bad for your libido, it can also make sex feel like assault or even turn into sexual assault.
The best way to get out of this negative cycle is to address it with your partner. It might feel awkward and difficult, but it’s truly the only way to break the pattern and create a new, positive one.
4. You’re in a sexual rut
In the beginnings of relationships, sex is all about exploring – finding out what the other person enjoys, experiencing new sensations and ways of having sex. As we settle into a relationship, it’s not uncommon for our sex lives to settle into a routine. But if you know sex always starts with A, followed by B and a little bit of C, it gets predictable and boring. Our sex drive needs novelty and this is why a sexual rut is one of the causes of low libido in men.
Spicing things up in the bedroom is a great way of sparking desire. Sometimes, the mere idea of trying something new can put us off because it feels like it has to be wild and crazy – it doesn’t.
You can go slowly, by stroking or kissing your partner in a new place, or starting with B instead of A. If you’re nervous about broaching the conversation, search for information that will help make sure the conversation runs smoothly.
Sex is, for a lot of people, a very private matter. Because of this, we often don’t really know what other people’s sex lives look like – leaving us vulnerable to the way media depicts sex. Causes of low libido in men are, in part, fuelled by the culture we’ve grown up in and what it’s taught us about sex.
1. You’re affected by negative messages about sex
As parents, we pass down all sorts of values and morals, including ones about sex. If your parents felt ashamed about sex, you’ll likely have picked up on this, registering in your body and mind, and affecting how you feel about sexual pleasure.
Try and think back to the way sex was handled in your family or perhaps by your religion. What messages were you taught about sex? How do you believe this has affected you in general – and what kind of impact has it had on how you feel about sex?
Understanding why we feel a certain way can sometimes be enough for us to let it go. However, sometimes we need more help. Sex therapy is a great way of working through negativity surrounding sex and increasing libido.
2. You don’t feel “manly” enough
In western society we’re constantly subjected to messages about men and masculinity; men are supposed to be tough beings with no emotions and a constant want for sex. In fact, in a study by Vannier & O’Sullivan, it was found that young men with low desire tend to initiate sex more often than young women with low libido.
This could indicate a willingness to fulfill masculine stereotypes of male sex drive – even when you don’t feel like sex.
Because of the way society views men, not living up to the unattainable ideal of “a real man” who always wants sex, can have a negative impact on your mental well-being and it is thus one of the causes of low libido in men.
If you’re ready to explore what invisible messages you’ve been consuming that are contributing to your low libido – seeing a sex therapist is a good idea. We’re used to working with clients on self-image and sexuality and there are lots of ways of dealing with negative and anxious thoughts around these topics.
3. You feel ashamed about sex
Sex can be a wonderful way of letting go and experiencing intimacy and pleasure. However, the things that grant us pleasure aren’t always things we like on an emotional level.
Perhaps what turns you on stands in stark contrast to who you are otherwise – or what you need to come makes you feel embarrassed.
If you’re getting off to things you think your partner won’t like or you’re not communicating your turn-ons because you feel ashamed about them – chances are it’s impacting your libido negatively.
Moving past the shame that’s blocking your sexual desire is important if you want to get in the mood again. Learning to be present in your mind and body, even if what’s going on is shameful, can help you move through the shame and increase your libido. This can be done by exploring self-compassion through mindfulness exercises. You’ll find lots of these for free, on Youtube.
You Can Learn To Want Sex Again
Sex drive is complex.
It’s affected by things such as shame, low testosterone, relationship issues, sexual assault, a lack of erotic thoughts and intimacy, and chronic illnesses.
If you’re experiencing low libido, you’re not alone and there is help. By taking a holistic approach and understanding all the factors responsible for your low sex drive, you really can start to enjoy sex again.
Now you’ve been versed in lots of causes of low libido in men, you can take your new-found knowledge one step further, by working out which of these factors are most responsible for your low sex drive.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.