Low Libido: 11 Common Causes (& What to Do)

Updated in June 2023

Low libido can occur in both men and women, and is usually caused by hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, relationship problems, chronic disease or use of medications like antidepressants or antihypertensives. 

Libido is another word for sexual desire, and is an important part of basic human instinct. It can be influenced by physical or emotional occurrences and can fluctuate from low to high depending on certain life phases. 

It is important for women to consult a gynecologist or men to consult a urologist if your low libido is affecting your relationship or your quality of life. An assessment will help to determine the underlying cause and guide treatment as appropriate. 

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Common causes

Low libido can be temporary or chronic, and is usually caused by: 

1. Psychological illness

Some psychological illnesses, like stress, anxiety and depression, can directly affect mood and disposition. This can lead to a temporary decrease in libido. 

What to do: It is important to consult a psychologist and/or psychiatrist so that any possible psychological condition can be identified and treated. The doctor may opt to prescribe psychotherapy and/or medications, as well as recommend coping strategies for stress and anxiety. Specific suggestions may include exercise, meditation, or soothing teas, although these should not replace medical interventions.

Check out a list of herbs for anxiety that can be used to prepare relaxing teas.

2. Emotional trauma

Emotional trauma can also lead to low libido, especially if the trauma is tied to a sexual encounter or sexual violence. 

Post-traumatic stress can also make people constantly relive traumatic events from the past, or can make memories very intense, which can reduce libido.

What to do: Treatment for emotional trauma or post-traumatic stress should be evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist. It can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or antidepressants. 

3. Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which min are unable to achieve and/or maintain an erection. This can interfere with a pleasurable sexual experience, causing frustration and low libido.

Erectile dysfunction can occur in men at any age, and is often related to natural aging. However, men who consume illicit drugs, smoke, experience excessive stress or have a chronic health condition (like diabetes or kidney disease) may also suffer from erectile dysfunction. 

Check out the other causes of erectile dysfunction and what to do. 

What to do: It is important to consult a urologist to evaluate the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction. The doctor may prescribe medications like sildenafil, tadalafil or vardenafil to help manage related symptoms. The doctor may also recommend a psychological evaluation, as personal insecurities can also contribute to this problem.

4. Relationship problems

Some relationship problems, like unresolved conflicts, fights, untrustworthiness, lack of connection or communication problems, can affect you or your partner's mood and lead to low libido. 

What to do: It is important to keep an open dialogue and to try to resolve conflicts, insecurities and communication issues. Couples therapy may be beneficial in helps to reestablish a connection between two partners and can help to make sex healthier and more pleasurable.

5. Use of medications

Some medications, like antidepressants, diuretics or anti-hypertensives, can reduce libido like a side effect. These medications can affect the part of the nervous system that is responsible for sexual desire, or can reduce blood flow to the genitals. 

In women, birth control can also alter hormonal levels and interfere with sexual desire, leading to low libido. 

In men, prostate or hair loss medications, like goserelin acetate, bicalutamide, flutamide, finasteride or dutasteride, can reduce testosterone levels and affect libido. 

What to do: It is important to consult your prescriber if you notice low libido to substitute it for another if possible. You should not discontinue treatment on your own without speaking to your doctor first. 

6. Post-partum phase

The post-partum phase or breastfeeding can lead to hormonal changes that can reduce sexual desire and libido. 

The changes in the body and fatigue from caring for a newborn can also affect mood and lower libido. 

What to do: It is important for couples to spend time on their own to strengthen their relationship and allow opportunities for physical contact. Even just touch, affection, loving words and quality time can help to increase libido and make sex more pleasurable. i

7. Menopause

Menopause is a moment in life that is characterized by the end of the fertility in women. During this phase, ovaries stop producing estrogen, which can lower libido and reduce any desire for intimacy. Learn more about the other menopause symptoms that women may experience and how they are managed.

Due to reduced estrogen production form the ovaries, women may experience vaginal dryness and a decrease in mucus that maintains vaginal moisture. This can lead to pain and discomfort during sex, which can also lower libido. 

What to do: You should consult a gynecologist, who may prescribe hormone replacement therapy, or vaginal estrogen (in cream or gel form). These treatments should only be done if prescribed by a gynecologist, as they are contraindicated for women with an increased risk for breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer or blood clot formation.

8. Decreased testosterone in men

Testosterone is the main male hormone that is directly related to libido and sperm production. When testosterone levels are low, men may experience low libido, reduced sexual performance and decreased mood. 

Low testosterone levels are expected after the age of 50. This phase is referred to as male andropause. This is similar to menopause in women, although men remain fertile, albeit fertility is slightly reduced. 

What to do: You should consult a urologist, who may prescribe testosterone supplementation. There are natural ways to boost testosterone levels, like regular exercise, foods that are rich in zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D, a good night's sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight. 

Check out other natural testosterone boosters that you can use as a complement to your medical treatment. 

9. Pain during sex

Pain during sex can cause a reduction in libido and reduced interest in sex. Some conditions that can cause discomfort in women include endometriosis, vaginal irritation, hormonal abnormalities or STIs. In men, pain may be related to phimosis or prostate inflammation. 

What to do: It is important for women to consult a gynecologist or men to consult a urologist to identify the cause of pain during sex. identifying the underlying cause will guide the most appropriate treatment approach. 

10. Lack of stimulation

In women, low libido can be caused by difficulty in reaching an orgasm or feeling aroused. This may be related to a lack of stimulation or foreplay from the partner. 

This lack of stimulation can make the production of natural lubricant more difficult, causing vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex. Many women may eventual lack any interest in sexual contact. 

What to do: A great strategy for these cases consists of increasing foreplay before sexual contact and exploring each other's sexual preferences. This can boost libido, which will promote adequate vaginal lubrication. 

11. Chronic diseases

Chronic diseases, like diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, coronary artery disease, neurological disease, liver disease or kidney disease can affect libido and reduce sexual desire. 

What to do: It is important for couples to communicate openly about their chronic disease experience, expectations, feelings and intimacy preferences so that each partner is comofrtable. Treatmetn for the chronic disease should be adhered to as prescribed by the doctor.