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What Might Cause a Decreased Sex Drive? How Anxiety and Libido Relate

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Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
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Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
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Low libido affects 15-16% of men and more than double the amount of women.

Many may not feel comfortable having a conversation about it, and can end up suffering in silence. It's not something to feel ashamed about, but it is something that's important to understand if it's having unwanted effects on your life. It's also important if you want to improve your sex life.But understanding what might cause a decreased sex drive is the first step in overcoming it. 

In this article, we answer questions like, "how does stress affect a person's sex drive?" Continue reading to determine why you might be experiencing issues with low libido.

What are some common causes of low libido?

It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of low libido as there are multiple causes. 

In order to answer the question, "what are common causes of low libido," we will ask and answer a few others. The answers to the below questions are useful in determining what areas of your life could be causing your low sex desire. If you're looking for a comprehensive guide on low libido causes, we've got you covered as well, with this guide that talks about (almost) all reasons for low libido.

How do relationship problems affect libido?

In regards to what might cause a decreased sex drive, one place to look is your relationship. It's important to understand that a low sex drive doesn't mean you're unhappy in your relationship. However, it can be a sign that there are problems that need to be addressed for a healthier sex life. Here's a guide on Sexual Desire Discrepancy and how it might affect your relationship.

In some cases, you might lose interest in sex due to a loss of physical attraction to your partner. This can happen over time and/or as a result of physical or emotional changes in your significant other.

Other issues may stem from frequent conflict in your life, or with your partner. Conflict can lead to stress (which we’ll talk about later), and can even result in distrust between you and your partner. This constant conflict can then lead to a loss of physical desire for one another.

However, distrust can come in other forms as well, and they aren't all related to conflict. For example, you might find it difficult to be emotionally vulnerable with your partner. Without vulnerability, it can be challenging to have open and honest communication about your wants and needs as far as sex is concerned, and you might find it harder to be physically vulnerable with them, too. 

What kind of physical challenges affect sex drives?

Your issues with low libido can stem from physical challenges, meaning your body doesn't react the way you want it to. For men, this can include erectile dysfunction or difficulty ejaculating. For women, this can include vaginal dryness or an inability to orgasm.

Another common challenge facing both men and women is the ageing process. As you get older, you'll experience a decrease in sex hormones that are responsible for stimulating sexual desire.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions might answer the question, "what might cause a decreased sex drive?" Certain changes in the body can change the way your body responds to sexual stimuli.

For example, thyroid issues may decrease the production of sex hormones. A reduced number of sex hormones means a low sex drive. Certain medications for medical conditions can also play a role, but we will discuss medications later.

Some other conditions that can result in low libido include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Vascular disease

Does anxiety cause loss of sex desire?

One common question we get asked is, "does anxiety cause loss of sex desire?" The answer is that generalized anxiety can cause sexual dysfunction. Anxiety can also lead to other symptoms affecting libido.

Why does anxiety affect desire?

Sexual dysfunction is not caused by a condition or disease. Rather, it's a disruption in your sexual response caused by stress, anxiety, or other factors. There are three main types of sexual dysfunction: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Primary sexual dysfunction refers to never experiencing sexual satisfaction. In contrast, secondary sexual dysfunction refers to sexual desire that's been diminished. Tertiary sexual dysfunction occurs as a result of disability.

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, often contributes to secondary sexual dysfunction. It is a frequent and overwhelming worry that the person has trouble controlling.

GAD specifically affects approximately 3.1% of the population in the U.S, but roughly 19% of the US population experience some type of anxiety disorder. Any anxiety disorder might be the reason for your decreased desire for sex.

This occurs when your anxiety causes your body to become distracted from other sources of stimulation, such as sexual arousal. This relationship between libido and anxiety may result in women lacking clitoral stimulation while men may have difficulty becoming erect.

This experience can also lead to painful sex or a generally negative sexual experience. As a result, you may develop anxiety related to sex, making it even more difficult to enjoy sex and further diminishing your sex drive.

Anxiety and medications

A common treatment for anxiety and depression is a class of medications referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs have an effect on both anxiety and sex drive. They can make it difficult to become aroused and reach orgasm.

However, as we discussed, many people with anxiety or depression experience issues with their libido. Having anxiety or depression may be the cause of your low sex drive and not your medication. If you think your low libido is related to your medication, talk with your doctor.

Medications other than those used to treat anxiety may also affect your libido. For example, certain contraceptives have been shown to decrease sex drives. The good news is that this side effect tends to improve over time, but it's something you should discuss with your doctor if it persists.

How does stress affect a person's sex drive?

The question, "how does stress affect a person's sex drive," is best answered by understanding the release of hormones. As a person becomes stressed, their body releases high amounts of hormones like cortisol and epinephrine.

The amount of hormone production is demanding on the body, especially if it's chronic stress. In order to fuel stress, your body uses sex hormones. With the hormones consumed in the body's response to stress, sexual desire is diminished.

Like the relationship between anxiety and libido, stress has psychological effects as well. Just like anxiety can distract your body's reaction to sexual stimuli, so can stress.

Because of the inability to physically react to sexual stimuli, you may start to experience sexual avoidance. Depending on the development of other symptoms, sexual avoidance can become something more compulsive, such as sexual anorexia. It's important to note, however, that sexual anorexia is not a condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

How to battle issues with anxiety and sex drive

Once you've narrowed down the cause(s), there are several ways to address issues with anxiety and sex drive, such as working on managing anxiety. Start with getting an adequate amount of sleep each night and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Also, focus on improving your relationship with your partner. Take the initiative to communicate openly. Plan date nights to reignite intimacy and romance.

If you're still having trouble, don't underestimate the value of working with a professional. Sex therapy is a powerful tool. Your therapist can help you determine causes of low libido, such as having anxiety.

How can Blueheart help?

Now that you have a better idea of how anxiety, stress, and other factors can result in low libido, what can you do about it? Blueheart is dedicated to helping you improve your sex life by teaching you various techniques that work even if (and especially if) you have anxiety.

These techniques include verbal communication, sex education, and physical communication. One of the ways we do this is through a technique called sensate focus.

Sensate focus is a course of 'go at your own pace' low-pressure touch exercises for couples. It's about learning how to touch and be touched without the expectations or pressure of being sexual. You don't focus on evaluating what's happening with this exercise, but on being in the moment and feeling what's happening.

It takes a step away from the goal-oriented mindset of sex. Instead of focusing on getting your partner to climax, each of you is focusing on sensuality. It's a great way to work on being intimate with your partner and learning to enjoy the experience of touching.

The Blueheart app is another resource you can use to start overcoming issues with intimacy and libido in your relationship. Plus, the therapists stay behind the scenes in creation and maintenance of the app, so you don't have to attend face to face sessions with a therapist if that's not something you're interested in doing.

Understand what might cause a decreased sex drive

By understanding what might cause a decreased sexual desire, you're well on your way to learning how to overcome it. It's something that affects many men and women, but it's not something that is unmanageable.

Take the time to consider the questions in this article. Go back to questions, such as, "does anxiety cause loss of sex drive," and spend time thinking on whether or not that section applies to your life. If so, you have a great starting point in rebuilding your libido.

If you want to work on overcoming anxiety and sex drive issues, take the free assessment and take sex problems out from under the sheets.

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