What Causes Low Sex Drive And When Should You Worry About It?

Your sex drive, like the Kardashian-Jenners’ plastic surgery bodily proportions, is ever-changing, and sometimes not necessarily in a good way. Even though there seem to be an influx of memes about women over 30 having an insatiable sex drive, many women start noticing a decrease in libido with age. This can happen for various reasons. Some may be dealing with stress from work or relationships, others may feel disturbed by the veritable dumpster fire that is our current sociopolitical landscape, which is just kind of a buzzkill, while others may not be able to figure out exactly why they are less interested in sex. Whatever the reason, and despite what porn would have us believe, most women are not existing in a perpetual state of horniness just waiting for the right pizza delivery guy to get them off with three thrusts (though the pizza part does sound nice). If you are experiencing a decrease in sexual desire, at what point is it an issue and what can you do about it if it is?

Not to scare you, but if you’ve been experiencing a low sex drive, it could be a medical condition called Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). HSDD is defined by the American Sexual Health Association as “the absence of sexual fantasies and thoughts, and/or desire for or receptivity to, sexual activity that causes the personal distress or difficulties” in a woman’s relationship. HSDD is surprisingly common but unfortunately, not very well recognized: one study shows that nearly one-third of women between the ages of 18 and 59 have struggled with a decreased interest in sex, another that nearly half of women aged 30-50 have experienced a lower sexual desire at some point in their lives, and yet only 14% of women were aware of HSDD as a medical condition. There are a number of potential physical causes of HSDD, including hormonal imbalance, certain medications (like birth control and some antidepressants), and chronic illness.

But just because something is a medical condition may not mean anything is physically wrong. Because we live in such a fast-paced society, there’s a good chance that your low sex drive may be caused by emotional or psychological rather than biological factors. I spoke with Kiana Reeves, who is a doula, certified somatic sex educator, Certified Innate Postpartum Care Provider, and Certified STREAM (Scar Tissue Remediation, Education, and Management) Practitioner. Reeves said that, “current life circumstances, particularly in a culture that is highly and hyper stressed out all the time” can suppress the libido. So living in a constant state of anxiety might explain why I just want to go to sleep am barely in the mood? You don’t say. Other examples of these life circumstances are dysfunction in a relationship, major life changes such as pregnancy or breastfeeding, the way we view ourselves, and even past trauma.

When evaluating your own low sex drive, keep in mind that the inquiry is a subjective one. Too often, we compare ourselves to others and put ourselves down if we think we’re falling short of some ideal amount of sex. The truth is that there’s no “normal” amount of sex that any one person should be having. What matters is whether or not the frequency of the sex is having a detrimental effect on the relationship, which obviously requires communication with your partner. As long as both parties are comfortable with the amount of sex, then there’s no problem. However, if you’re feeling good about the frequency of sex in your relationship and are with a partner who pressures you for more sex than you are comfortable with, makes you feel sexually inadequate, or does not broach the topic with openness and empathy, my advice is simple:

If you’re worried about your low sex drive, there are a number of options you can explore to address it. Reaching out to a professional such as a sex therapist or medical doctor can help you to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s physical, emotional, or a combination of the two. For those who want to explore the issue even more deeply, somatic sex education may be a useful tool. Reeves explains that somatic sex education is “understanding the nervous system and understanding the language that the body speaks and paying attention to it through sensation primarily.” Because so many of us live in our heads, we lose our connections to our body and its urges. Somatic sex education can help you to reestablish this connection with the body’s signals so that you can recognize your patterns and, when necessary, bring yourself back into balance and open yourself up to the possibility of a sexual experience, whether alone or with a partner.

A thoughtful and honest dialogue with your significant other is another important approach, especially if there are underlying issues in the relationship that may be contributing to a lack of intimacy. Taking time for stress-relieving activities such as yoga or meditation can be beneficial as well. In some cases, CBD may assist those struggling with a low sex drive. Reeves says, “CBD’s primary function is to help bring the body into homeostasis, so it deeply impacts regulation of the nervous system. It’s been shown to be great at reducing anxiety.” One product Reeves recommends is Awaken by Foria Wellness, a topical and aromatic arousal oil that is 100% natural, multi-botanical and infused with CBD to enhance sensation and decrease discomfort.

A decrease in sexual desire as we get older is natural. Whether or not it’s a cause for concern depends on your individual circumstances, but wherever you land, there’s no need to feel shame or stigma. Our sex lives are far from linear, and desire is often responsive rather than spontaneous for many women. The first step in navigating a low sex drive is to acknowledge and honor your body as well as your feelings. A little pizza never hurt, either.

Images: Anthony Tran / Unsplash; Giphy (3)

Amanda Reiss
Amanda Reiss
Amanda resides in New York City. When she isn’t busy judging, she can be found watching Bravo, drinking chardonnay and talking about her favorite blind items. You can follow her on Instagram @skichica8.