Low libido can loosely be defined as a lack of sexual desire. Low libido for an individual is a very personal issue and depends on many variables including age. It is the second most common sexual dysfunction in men after premature ejaculation, according to a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The loss of libido is also very difficult for men to discuss, despite the help available from health professionals such as Mens Clinic International.
The difference between weak erections or impotence and low libido
It is important to note that impotence and loss of libido are two separate issues. Impotence refers to the inability of a man to achieve or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse whereas low libido is indicated by a lack of desire. In other words a man suffering from low libido is able to achieve and maintain an erection but does not have the desire to do so. However, men who experience impotence, initially retain the desire for sexual intercourse but start to avoid intercourse to save them from the embarrassment of not being able to perform satisfactorily.
Causes of low libido:
The causes of low libido can be divided into two broad categories, physical and psychological.
Physical causes of low libido
Any medical problem or chronic physical condition can cause a reduction in one's sex drive. If a man is diagnosed with cancer for example, sex may be the furthest thing from his mind for a time. But even minor illnesses can diminish a man's sexual interest. Conversely, when men improve their health -- through exercise, a low-fat diet or, if necessary, medical treatment -- their libido is likely to increase.
While any illness can decrease sex drive, some conditions, such as thyroid disease, tumors of the pituitary gland (which controls most hormone production, including sex hormones) and depression, are directly linked to low libido.
Similarly, insufficient amounts of the male sex hormone testosterone may cause low libido, though such a condition is unlikely to affect erectile function.
Certain prescription medications and other drugs can also decrease libido. Many, though not all, antidepressants can diminish sex drive. Other medications with this side effect include tranquilizers and antihypertensive medications. Illicit drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana, when used heavily and chronically, may lower libido.
Psychological causes of low libido
Any kind of stress -- whether related to work, relationships or any other area of life -- that preoccupies someone is going to diminish that person's sex drive. In order to have a healthy libido one has to be engaged in the moment -- not angry or hurt. For example if you're having shouting matches with your partner, your libido is nearly certain to take a nosedive. Fortunately, if you work on your differences and good feelings are restored, sex drive is likely to return to baseline levels.
Some problems, however, such as depression or anxiety, intense job stress, family worries, serious marital conflicts, experiences of past abuse or conflicts about sexual orientation may require professional assistance. It is essential to seek such help if negative feelings interfere with the rest of life, if they are overwhelming, or if you are no longer able to experience pleasure.
Treatment options for low libido
Depending on the cause of the low libido various treatment options are available to assist patients suffering from this problem.
- Physical causes:
Generally speaking the treatment of the underlying physical condition will alleviate low libido for patients suffering from physically induced low libido. For example if the patients loss of libido is attributable to a decrease in the level of testosterone in the body going on to a course of hormone replacement therapy will assist with this problem. Similarly if the loss of libido is induced by certain prescription medication the patient should consult with his doctor about the possibility of swapping the medication with a similar one that does not have the side effect of loss of libido.
- Psychological causes:
Psychologically based low libido is generally treated with a combination of counselling and lifestyle modification. The duration of the treatment is dependent on the severity of the problem.
Finally, it is important that men suffering from low libido consult a physician bearing in mind that loss of libido is sometimes the only recognisable symptom of a serious medical problem.