The Libido Shuffle: Dealing With a Loss of Desire
Posted 4/21/2016 by UHBlog
So you’re not in the mood. It happens.
Contrary to the common stereotype, a man’s desire for sex doesn’t always switch on instantly like a lamp. But if your interest in intimacy wanes for an extended length of time, there may be something else going on – physically or emotionally.
A lot of things can interfere with a healthy sexual relationship. When they do, emotions and false assumptions often take over and make the situation worse, says family medicine specialist Dominic Lefoer, MD, who specializes in men’s health issues.
“Women often take it personally when their partner loses interest, and may assume that they are no longer attractive or desirable to him,” Dr. Lefoer says. “That can lead to a lot of stress on a relationship.
"Women should understand that a guy’s sexual desire is going to have peaks and valleys and it may not have anything to do with them," he says. "Like anything else in a relationship, communication is essential in working through sexual problems.”
According to Dr. Lefoer, many factors can contribute to a loss of interest in sex, including:
- Physical or medical problems – “In general, low libido tends to be reported more by women than men, but as many as 25 percent of men – at some point – do experience a reduced sex drive,” Dr. Lefoer says. “There are always periods in your life that are going to be better than other periods. It’s not usually a matter of having zero interest. It’s just a matter of how strong a guy’s desire is at different times.”
Sometimes, a low libido is confused with the inability to maintain an erection, Dr. Lefoer says.
“Low libido and erectile dysfunction are two different things,” he says. “If the interest is there, but a guy is physically unable to perform, he may have a physical problem that can be treated with medications like Cialis or Viagra. Stress and emotional problems also can cause erectile dysfunction.”
- Medications can dampen your sex drive – If a man is able to get an erection, but isn’t interested in using it, it may be time to seek out the reason.
“Medications like antidepressants and blood pressure medication are notorious for reducing libido,” Dr. Lefoer says. “Medical conditions like heart disease or circulation problems can hamper sexual sensation. Endocrine problems like thyroid disorder or pituitary gland issues can effect hormonal levels, which in turn can affect the libido. Low testosterone levels can have an impact. Testosterone levels usually drop as men get older.”
But exercise caution before you try those highly advertised testosterone boosts. Low testosterone levels aren’t the biggest cause of low libido, and low T products, patches and injections can have side effects of their own.
- The impact of stress – Stress that isn’t directly related to a man’s relationship with his partner is a common cause of a low sex drive, Dr. Lefoer says.
“Stress is huge,” he says. “It is often job stress, financial stress or family issues that affect sexual interest. It’s hard for many men to admit that they are having emotional or mental issues and it can be even harder to admit having libido issues. It threatens their masculinity, so they don’t acknowledge the problems, which can make things worse.”
- Psychological and emotional issues – Anxiety about sexual performance – often in a new relationship – can impact libido, Dr. Lefoer says.
According to Dr. Lefoer, if your interest in sex has diminished for an extended period of time – and if that lack of intimacy is creating stress in your relationship – the first step should be to communicate with your partner to solve the problem. If that doesn’t work, consider talking to your doctor or arranging counseling for yourself – or with your partner.
There is no rule of thumb for when to seek help, Dr. Lefoer says. It depends on what’s normal for you and your partner. Low libido usually comes on gradually, and it may take weeks, or even months, before you or your partner notice that there is a problem.
“Ignoring the problem isn’t going to help,” Dr. Lefoer says. “Stress, false assumptions and lack of understanding can destroy a relationship. It’s important for women to understand that other things going on in a man’s life can affect what happens in the bedroom.”
Dominic Lefoer, MD is a family medicine specialist who specializes in men’s health at University Hospitals Streetsboro Family Practice. You can request an appointment with Dr. Lefoer or any University Hospitals doctor online.