By Martin Muthare.
Low libido is a decrease in sex drive that can interfere with sexual activity. While it can cause tension in a relationship, fostering doubt and guilt in both partners, it can often be treated if the underlying cause is identified.
What is a normal libido for a man?
Many men understand that libido drops over their lifetime, but don’t know what a normal libido should feel like at their age.
As a clinician, I see more and more patients complaining of low sex drive, so I wanted to share what I recommend to them as, hopefully, it might help you as well.
If there was a really hard question for me to answer, this is it. There is no “normal libido”, as there is no specific way to measure it. Libido is completely up to the individual. For example, I have seen men who describe themselves as having low libido when they only want to have sex 3 times a week instead of 5. Other men do not have sex for 8 months but are happy with their libido.
So first of all, know that “low libido” is extremely subjective.
However, there are some very common causes of low libido in men. Here is what each of them look like, as well as what to do about it.
Top causes of low libido among men
Testosterone is a crucial hormone involved in sex drive. Adult men are considered to have low testosterone when their levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter.
Contrary to popular belief, low testosterone levels rarely lead to erectile dysfunction. But low testosterone can interfere with sex in other ways. Some men with low testosterone experience a drop in libido, while others lose interest in sex completely. Additional symptoms of this condition include:
– Body and facial hair loss
– Reduced muscle tone
If you suspect your testosterone levels are low, a conversation with your doctor is in order. A diagnosis of hypogonadism —a condition where the gonads (testes in the case of men) fail to function properly, leading to reduced or no sex hormones— will only be made after checking your testosterone levels on two separate occasions.
Some medical conditions like Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) —which is when your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep— is associated with low testosterone.
Treatments depend on the specific sleep issue. They may involve stress management techniques and improved sleep hygiene in the case of insomnia, and the use of positive airway pressure to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, positively impacting on your libido.
There is a whole heap of medications that can meddle with your libido. This is usually due to the fact that they lower your testosterone.
Examples of possible interfering pills are antidepressants, blood pressure pills, pain relievers, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, benzodiazepines and statins.
If you are taking these kinds of medications, always talk to your doctor before stopping the treatment. As there will be alternatives to your current medication that you can try instead.
People who have depression experience a reduced or complete lack of interest in things they once found pleasurable, including sex.
Depression and low libido may go hand-in-hand. Depression can not only cause a lower sex drive, but it may also be its consequence, making a tough situation worse. Furthermore, while antidepressants can effectively treat depression, they can exacerbate problems with sexual desire.
There are alternative ways of treating depression aside from medications, including psychotherapy and counselling, but it’s advisable to consult your doctor first before stopping your medication.
Chronic health conditions contribute to sex being more difficult —due to other factors like physical pain or even erectile dysfunction—. This can be especially true for the following chronic diseases and conditions:
– Chronic fatigue syndrome
– Heart disease
– Kidney failure
When it comes to chronic illness and the loss of sexual function, there is rarely a straight line between cause and treatment. The medications used to treat the chronic condition (such as chemotherapy or cardiovascular drugs) may directly impair the male libido.
As such, it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of the loss of sex drive, and therefore to find a solution. In some cases, multiple doctors may be needed.
Stress and anxiety
This is obvious, but when you are under high stress or pressure your sexual desire decreases. This is because stress disrupts hormones in the body.Of course, stress can be very hard to avoid, but it is important to be honest with yourself and your partner about what you are experiencing, so that you can plan together how to improve your libido.
There are lifestyle factors that may contribute significantly to low libido in men. These tend to be more readily remedied by changing or stopping the behavior.- Alcohol and drug use: excessive or chronic drinking can result in reduced testosterone levels.
– Alcohol and drug use: excessive or chronic drinking can result in reduced testosterone levels.
– Too much (or too little) exercise: frequent high intensity exercise is linked to a lower libido. Too little exercise can also lead to a decreased libido in a variety of ways. Moderate exercise is known to lower cortisol levels at night and reduce stress, which can help increase sex drive. So just try to keep the balance right!
– Obesity: extra weight directly impairs metabolism and hormone function, resulting in significantly reduced total and free testosterone. By contrast, exercise and weight loss not only enhance mood and energy levels, but also improve sexual function and self-image.
– Smoking: this directly increases the risk of erectile dysfunction and indirectly impairs sexual arousal.
What to do next in the case of low libido?
I recommend that you figure out what is going on and get hormone levels checked. In many cases, in order to find out the cause, your doctor will determine if a blood test is needed.
There are kits which can test not just the testosterone levels, but also rule out the presence of prolactinoma, a common pituitary tumor that can cause low testosterone levels. However, there are a few countries, such as the US and the UK, where you can find such kits and test yourself at home or at your own convenience.
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About the author: Martin Mūthare is a licensed clinical officer and a public health practitioner.
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