Maybe you’ve gradually become less interested in sex. Maybe you woke up one day and your sex drive was gone. Regardless of how you got here, there might be one question on your mind that you’re too embarrassed to ask: why don’t I have a sex drive anymore?
It’s perfectly normal for male libido (the same as sex drive) to wax and wane. Work stress, significant life changes and other obligations can throw a wrench in your sex life, but it usually bounces back.
But for some men, low sex drive is chronic. And while a strong sex drive may not be medically necessary, sexual health and satisfaction are key factors in overall happiness and quality of life for many people.
Below, we’ve provided basic information about what libido is for men and what causes it to change, in addition to valuable tips for talking to your healthcare provider about your concerns and potential treatment options.
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You’ve probably heard the terms libido or sex drive thrown around even before you read this article. But what’s the lowdown on libido?
The male libido is typically used to describe a person’s sex drive or desire for sexual activity. There’s no one measurement of libido and everyone’s is different, driven by factors like hormones, brain function, health conditions, personal life and more.
As we mentioned above, it’s normal for male libido to dip now and again. But if you’re experiencing persistently low sexual desire, it could strain sexual activity and cause relationship issues.
Low libido in men could result in:
Loss of sexual desire for a partner
Disinterest in masturbation
Few or non-existent sexual fantasies
Stress or concern over lost interest in sex
Low libido is not the same as erectile dysfunction (ED), though the two can certainly co-exist.
Much like erectile dysfunction, low libido can be related to several factors, rather than having a single underlying cause. Identifying those factors is the key to treating low sex drive in men.
Wondering why you’re not interested in sex? The reasons for the loss of libido in men can vary, from physical and mental health issues to something big happening in your life at the moment.
A loss of libido is typical as you age but suddenly experiencing a low sex drive can cause concern.
In many cases, psychological factors are the primary cause but for some men, decreased libido is related to medication, lifestyle choices or underlying medical conditions.
You’re most likely familiar with testosterone, but if not, here’s a quick refresher. Testosterone is an essential male sex hormone produced primarily in the testes. It plays a role in building muscle and bone mass and stimulates sperm production.
Normal testosterone levels vary. However, testosterone production naturally decreases with age, sometimes referred to as “male menopause.”
Low testosterone levels can also be the result of a condition called hypogonadism, which occurs when the sex glands (the testes in men, for instance) produce little to no sex hormones.
Some signs of low testosterone include decreased semen volume, smaller testicle size, loss of body hair, fatigue and — yep, you guessed it — reduced sex drive.
There’s also a connection between low testosterone and ED, as testosterone deficiency affects your sexual function.
Another possible cause of low libido in men? Depression, a mood disorder with symptoms that include low mood, trouble sleeping, poor concentration and loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, including sex. Those with depression are also more likely to experience other sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction (which you can learn more about in this guide to depression and ED).
If you’re dealing with work obligations, money problems or other stressful issues, you may have noticed both your mood and your libido take a nosedive. That’s because stress can affect more than just mental health — it can also lead to low sex drive in men.
Aside from the worry and sexual performance anxiety that can come with high stress levels, they can also affect the production of sex hormones, which could impact your libido.
Stress triggers the body’s production of cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate several essential bodily functions. Excessive amounts of this hormone can negatively affect the male reproductive system.
When you are stressed for an extended period, cortisol levels stay high, which can reduce testosterone production and your sex drive. This can also negatively affect other sexual functions (see stress and ED).
It’s tough to avoid stress (kudos if you can keep your cool in rush hour traffic) but there are plenty of stress management techniques you can try — like breathing exercises, meditation and talk therapy — to lower your stress level, manage your hormone levels and hopefully boost your libido.
If your partner has complained about your loud snoring or if you’ve woken up with a dry mouth, you could be dealing with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include gasping for air during sleep, difficulty staying asleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Serious sleep disorders like sleep apnea can limit your sleep quality, which, aside from daytime sleepiness, can have a significant impact on your health.
There’s definitely a connection between lack of sleep and ED. But besides making you feel more tired during the day, how does sleep apnea cause low libido in men? It turns out that lack of sleep can reduce testosterone production, which leads to a low sex drive.
A 2018 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine showed that men with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from low libido.
Another very small study that mimicked the lack of sleep caused by sleep apnea and measured testosterone production found that otherwise healthy men had lower testosterone levels after losing four hours of sleep.
Stress is a beast that can take on many forms and sometimes you don’t even realize the toll it’s taking on your mental health and overall wellness. Your relationship anxiety and relationship problems are unique forms of stress that can affect your libido.
When you experience a significant decline in your sex drive, it may be time to ask yourself some tough but important questions about your relationship:
Are you still happy with your partner? Do you have any worries or doubts that could be contributing to the issue? Do you have any unresolved conflict or do you frequently argue with your partner?
Another truth that may be hard to swallow: it may also be the case that your sexual attraction to your partner has waned.
Emotions and attraction naturally fluctuate throughout a long-term relationship but don’t be afraid to ask yourself some difficult questions to get at the underlying cause of your recent sexual dysfunction.
We mentioned above that depression could be the cause of your low libido. If you’re struggling with depression, your healthcare provider may prescribe antidepressant medication — but unfortunately, like depression itself, antidepressants may also cause a low sex drive in men.
Antidepressant side effects can include a reduced sex drive in men and women. Two common types, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), have low libido as a listed side effect.
It’s a vicious cycle, but if you’re experiencing low libido as a result of antidepressants, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dosage or switching to another medication.
Other medications that might be the reason for a lower-than-normal sex drive?
Blood pressure drugs (like beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors)
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments
Opioid pain relievers (like morphine and oxycodone)
Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids
Certain antifungal medications
Just as mental health can affect your sex drive, certain health issues can also reduce your desire for sex. This makes sense — if you’re dealing with chronic pain or discomfort, sex may be the last thing on your mind.
Men’s health issues that can reduce libido include:
Type 2 diabetes
High blood pressure
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Liver and kidney problems
Chronic heart failure
Of course, the cruel, cosmic joke is that certain medications that treat these conditions may also cause a loss of libido in men. If you’re dealing with any of the above health conditions, talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns regarding your treatment and sex drive.
Drug use and excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to decreased testosterone production and lowered libido.
Men who drink heavily are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction such as ED, premature ejaculation and low sex drive.
Certain nutritional deficiencies may also play a role in causing low sex drive. For example, one combined human and animal study found that a zinc deficiency reduced testosterone levels.
Or if you’re dealing with other sexual problems that have made sex difficult or unfulfilling — like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation — this could also lead to a decrease in libido.
If you struggle with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or other sexual problems, talk to your healthcare provider to identify and treat the underlying cause.
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Dealing with low libido can certainly complicate your sex life. Fortunately, there are ways to treat a low sex drive, depending on the root cause.
Talk to a healthcare professional about low libido. The first thing you can do is talk to a healthcare provider. They’ll be able to help determine the underlying cause of your decreased libido and discuss treatment options. To prepare, compile an updated list of any medications you’re taking and try to think back to when you first noticed the decrease in your libido.
Make healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle. When you’re getting proper nutrition and exercise and feeling healthy, your sexual interest is more likely to increase. Working out has been shown to reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction, as well as lower stress and boost your mood and your energy levels. If you need some help getting started, lifestyle tips may increase sexual performance.
Get your mental health in check. Depression or high-stress levels can also impact your sex drive, causing you to feel less interested in sexual activity. Online therapy can get you connected with a mental health professional or sex therapist to discuss any issues that are on your mind, whether it’s just you or couples counseling for your relationship.
TRT may be a good option for low T. Low testosterone — which can reduce your sex drive — can be caused by many factors, like stress, sleep apnea and more. Testosterone replacement therapy is a common form of treatment, administered as an oral medication, intramuscular injection or transdermal patch. There are also a few natural ways to increase testosterone, such as exercise or getting enough sleep.
You’re probably well aware that if you search “low sex drive men,” hundreds of results promoting the best pills to increase sex drive or drinks that increase libido will pop up. While the research isn’t quite there yet on libido-boosting drinks or miracle pills, some certainly may be good for your overall health or will help treat other sexual dysfunction like ED.
A loss of libido isn’t an unusual thing. Men’s sex drives often fluctuate and what seems like it’s gone one day will bounce back the next. However, there are some potential underlying causes of a persistent low libido.
Let’s recap what to keep in mind if you’re finding yourself less interested in sex.
Libido or sex drive is the desire for sexual activity. When men experience a loss of libido, they might notice a loss of sexual desire for a partner, have no interest in masturbation and have few to no sexual fantasies.
There are many causes of low libido in men, such as low testosterone levels, depression, stress, sleep apnea, relationship issues, side effects of medications, health conditions, heavy drinking or drug use or other sexual dysfunction like premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction.
Treatment options for a low libido depend on the cause, but can range from regular exercise and a healthy diet to therapy or testosterone replacement therapy.
Your best bet for dealing with low libido? Talking to your healthcare provider to determine the cause. Once you’ve figured out the reason, they’ll provide you with options for treatment. For example, if your low libido cause is sexual dysfunction, they may recommend any of these common erectile dysfunction treatments or these premature ejaculation treatments.
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Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.