Loss of Libido in Men: Common Causes

loss of libido
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
24th August 2020

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In 30 Seconds

Low libido is a term used to describe a decreased interest in sexual activity.
Your libido will vary at points throughout your life, and it’s also normal for your interest in sex to not always match that of your partner.
A loss of sex drive is a common issue. It’s often linked to stress, tiredness, or relationship issues.
However, low libido can also be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Low libido can be upsetting, unsettling, and perplexing. After all, who wouldn’t want to have sex?

But it’s not so cut-and-dry as simply not feeling “in the mood”. It’s deeper than that.

It’s an increasingly decreased interest in sexual activity, and it’s one that can cause tension and feelings of guilt and doubt in a relationship the longer it goes on.

A loss of libido over an extended period of time can also point to an underlying health concern — and in this article, we take a look at some of the most common causes of low libido in men.

What Causes a Loss of Libido?

There are a number of contributing factors when it comes to a loss of libido. However, many of them have something in common — low levels of testosterone. 

So, let’s start at the root cause:

Low Testosterone Levels

Testosterone is a vitally important hormone, responsible for muscle and bone mass, fat distribution, facial hair, and sperm production.

And it can also affect your libido.

You see, when your T-levels go down, your sex drive does too.

While a gradual decline of testosterone is a perfectly normal part of the ageing process, a sudden and drastic drop can be cause for concern. If you start to lose interest in sex, coupled with other symptoms of low testosterone, you should talk to your doctor. 

Other causes of low testosterone (and loss of libido) include:

  • Certain Medications and Medical Treatments – Some medications and treatments can interfere with your T-levels which, in turn, can lead to a lower sex drive. 

For instance, radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, opioid pain relief (such as morphine), and some antidepressants can lower testosterone. Meanwhile, blood pressure medication can impact the ability to maintain or achieve an erection. 

If you’re experiencing low libido as a side-effect of your medication, speak to your doctor. They may be able to suggest an alternative treatment. 

  • Stress & Anxiety – Periods of stress and anxiety, whether in your personal or professional life, can put a dampener on your sex life — and with good reason. 

Stress makes you tired, irritable, and distant, and can also disrupt your hormone levels

  • Poor Quality Sleep – A lack of quality sleep is another culprit in the low testosterone stakes. One study of healthy young men found that T-levels decreased by up to 15 percent after one week of restrictive sleep. 

What Else Causes Decreased Sex Drive? 

Depression 

Depression and libido can be a double-edged sword.

For starters, one of the most common symptoms of depression is a lack of interest in what you once found enjoyable — and that includes sex.

But if you decide to treat your depression with antidepressants, you may find that a common side effect of the medication is — you guessed it — low libido.

Chronic Illness

Likewise, chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic pain can wreak havoc with your sex drive.

This can be due to the emotional and physical strain caused by these conditions, or it may be linked to a side effect of treatment. Either way, if you don’t feel physically well, there’s a fairly good chance that sex won’t be high on the to-do list. 

Not Enough Exercise (Or Too Much)

Not getting enough exercise can result in a number of health problems, many of which can impact libido. 

Taking regular exercise can stave off the risk of the chronic health conditions mentioned above, while also lowering cortisol levels, which helps keep stress at bay.

However, there’s a balance to be struck when it comes to working out. Too much exercise can also affect sexual desire. One study found that intense endurance training is “significantly associated with decreased libido scores in men.” 

Low Self-Esteem or Poor Body Image

The way you feel about yourself — and your opinion of how you look — can majorly impact your desire to have sex. If you have low self-confidence and feel unattractive, you’re less likely to seek out sexual encounters. You may even avoid having sex altogether. 

Suffering from low self-esteem can also trigger anxiety about sexual performance, and mushroom into larger mental health issues, such as depression or alcohol abuse, which, as we’ve discovered, are associated with low libido. 

How to Get Your Groove Back

The good news is, there are several options available to you when it comes to increasing your sex drive. These include:

  • Switching medications if your low libido can be linked with an underlying health condition and/or its treatment (but only if safe to do so under the direction of your doctor or prescriber);
  • Seeking help from a qualified therapist or counsellor if your low libido can be linked with depression, stress, anxiety, or relationship issues;
  • Or by simply adopting a healthier lifestyle, with the right amount of exercise, sleep, and a balanced diet. In fact, there are a number of foods that can boost libido by helping you to increase testosterone levels, improve heart health and blood flow, and enhance erectile function.
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Key Takeaways

It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a “normal” libido, so you mustn’t try to benchmark your own desire for sex with someone else’s. 

Instead, try to be mindful of your libido to better understand what’s normal for you. Then, if you notice a decrease in sex drive, you can take the necessary steps to identify the underlying causes.

Finally, take care not to blame yourself (or your partner) in this situation. This can be harmful to your self-esteem and your relationship, which can make matters worse.

References

  1. Mayo Clinic – Cancer treatment for men: Possible sexual side effects: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-treatment/art-20045422

  2. Cecilie Hurup HansenLizette Weber LarsenAmalie Møller SørensenBent Halling-SørensenBjarne Styrishave(2017). The six most widely used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors decrease androgens and increase estrogens in the H295R cell line: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28179152/

  3. Salam Ranabir and K. Reetu (2011). Stress and hormones: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/

  4. Rachel Leproult, PhD and Eve Van Cauter, PhD (2011). Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy MenFREE: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445839/

  5. Christopher B. Harte and Cindy M. Meston (2012). Association between smoking cessation and sexual health in men: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3235242/

  6. Cleveland Clinic – Drugs and Male Fertility: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15229-drugs-and-male-fertility

  7. Harvard Men’s Health Watch – Exercising to relax: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

  8. Ovid  – Endurance Exercise Training and Male Sexual Libido: https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00005768-201707000-00013

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Further reading

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