Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Want to reestablish a relationship with your libido?

By Michael Bates, M.D.

Loss of libido gets a lot of media attention, so just what is libido, anyway? It is sexual desire or to put it another way, desire for sexual activity. Is this a common problem? Yes, it is a common problem. Does loss of libido affect women and men equally? No, women are more affected than men, 30% of women compared to 15% of men is a generally quoted statistic.

So how does one know if he or she has a loss of libido, what is normal for a couple? In my experience as a practicing OB/GYN, normal varied tremendously, with intercourse ranging from daily to once a year while on vacation! Credible studies usually report normal as around once a week in long term committed relationships. As a general rule, if you have had a change, a decrease of sexual interest and intercourse frequency for at least six months, and if it is adversely affecting your relationship, you likely have a problem.

Loss of libido is not something that changes overnight, it is usually a gradual process. What are some warning signs?

  • You don’t look forward to sex.
  • Sex is mechanical and routine.
  • You have rare or no sexual thoughts or fantasies about your spouse.

Some causes of libido loss are shared by both sexes, while others are sex specific. Let’s look at the shared causes first.

Stress, the challenges of day-to-day life, these range from job stress, in most relationships both partners are working, to raising children, especially teens, caring for aging parents, a flat tire, navigating a telephone menu, to…well, you get the picture. If these challenges lead to loss of interest in sex for either, this can cause tension between partners.

Medical problems, the diagnosis of cancer, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic alcoholism, underactive thyroid, and bladder problems are causes shared by both sexes.

The medication to treat these problems, SSRI antidepressants, tranquilizers, blood pressure meds, chemotherapy, as well as illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin can all cause loss of libido.

And finally, and perhaps the most important, the quality of the relationship.

Sex specific causes include the menopause in women and erectile dysfunction in men. Decreased estrogen causes decreased blood flow to the pelvic organs, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. If something hurts, you are less likely to be interested in it. Erectile dysfunction and fear of performance cause some men to withdraw from sexual contact altogether.

So what is one to do? First of all, get a medical check up, and if there are medical problems, make sure that they are well controlled. Second, talk frankly and openly with your doctor about any sexual issues. Estrogen for women and Viagra-like medication for men can help a lot. Medications which may cause loss of libido can be adjusted or changed, either by lowering the dose or by trying other meds that have different mechanisms of action.

Finally, if all is well otherwise, back to the title, reestablish a relationship with your libido. Remember what brought you together, talk, touch, laugh, expand your horizons by watching an erotic video together or by experimenting with a sex toy. Mature sex can be the most satisfying sex of your life. Sexual vitality and sexuality are critical for our sense of well being, for loving, long-term relationships, and for satisfaction with life.