Lost your libido? Here’s how to revive your sex drive

Feel like you’re just not in the mood for it? You’re not alone — loss of libido is quite common. But there are ways to get your sexual groove back. Here’s how.

While all adults can go through fluctuations in their sex drive, a libido that goes walkabout for a prolonged period of time can be a tricky situation for all concerned.

Loss of libido is a common problem for both men and women.

But when it starts to affect relationships, it might be time to seek help.

What causes loss of libido?

Although each person is different, it is normal for women’s sexual desire to fluctuate, according to a Jean Hailes for Women’s Health report.

And while it is often assumed men are always “up for it”, a Portuguese-led study found almost 15 per cent of men surveyed reported a troubling lack of sexual desire lasting two months or longer.

There can be both physical and mental causes for libido to go AWOL.

“These may include being in unhappy or sexually unsatisfying relationships, feeling stressed or tired, parenting demands, financial and cost of living stress, hormonal changes, ageing, medication side effects, and physical or mental health issues,” sex and relationship therapist Lisa Torney says.

What is a normal libido?

Psychologist and Couples Therapy Melbourne co-director Emma Cholakians says there is no such thing as a “normal” libido level and everyone’s sex drive is going to be influenced by factors such as age, gender and health.

“Libido should be viewed as a fluctuating aspect of human sexuality,” Emma says.

“Understanding this can help reduce anxiety and set realistic expectations for sexual relationships.”

Emma says evidence suggests libido peaks at particular ages and also varies between genders.

“Research generally indicates that men experience a peak in libido in their late teens, whereas women typically reach a peak in their 20s,” she says.

Can someone have a high libido?

Although a lack of sex drive can be of concern, having a high libido could also be something to take note of.

Emma says a high libido can be described as a persistently increased desire for sexual activity, which is noticeably above what could be considered typical for an individual’s age and circumstances.

According to Mayo Clinic, a high libido can become problematic if it causes disruptions in your life or becomes a fixation, which is referred to as “compulsive sexual behaviour”.

“Within the therapeutic context, we would suggest that a ‘high libido’ warrants attention when it disrupts one’s daily functioning or causes emotional discomfort,” Emma says.

How does pregnancy or menopause impact libido?

Due to the significant hormonal and physical changes your body goes through in pregnancy and during menopause, your libido can be affected, Lisa says.

While you are more likely to have a low sex drive during menopause, your libido can dip or fire up during pregnancy.

“However, libido may increase following menopause as you are no longer becoming pregnant and don’t have to manage periods,” Lisa notes.

Emma adds that converse effects of giving birth and motherhood may also cause a lower sex drive.

“The combined effects of sleep deprivation, physical recovery from childbirth and the demands of breastfeeding contribute to continued low libido.”

What if your libido doesn’t match up with your partner’s?

A 2018 study found that although participating couples were mostly in sync with each other’s sexual needs, they showed regular fluctuations in desire over the course of the study.

Lisa says if you and your partner have different sex drives, having an open discussion is a fundamental first step to getting on the same page.

She also suggests consulting a sex therapist, who can help you regain your libido, feel connected to your partner, and normalise how you are feeling.

“Sex therapists can explore with people what factors may be impacting their libido and assist you to have conversations you may feel unable to have yourselves,” Lisa says.

Emma adds there are many benefits to meeting with an accredited sex therapist, as they can provide guidance on psychosexual therapy and suggest behavioural techniques to improve sexual desire.

How do you regain your libido?

Most people who have lost their libido will at some point want it back and there are ways to tackle the issue.

See your doctor

If you are worried about a loss of libido, Emma says it is important to consult with your doctor to rule out or address any medical reasons for your low sex drive, such as a hormonal imbalance.

Talk about it

Beyond addressing any medical concerns, our experts say it is up to you and your partner to be open and honest about your needs and desires in the bedroom.

“People worry about hurting their partners’ feelings; however, having open discussions can help us feel less awkward and embarrassed,” Lisa says.

If talking about sex is difficult, seek professional help.

“Sex therapists can help you feel less awkward and explore ways to bring the spark back in your relationship,” Lisa says.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Making changes to your lifestyle — such as eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, reducing stress and prioritising time for intimacy — may also help keep the fire burning in the bedroom.

In particular, research suggests a low-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet may boost sexual arousal and desire in women, and may help prevent erectile dysfunction in men.

Foods that might directly boost libido, often called aphrodisiacs, are generally high in zinc and include oysters, lobster, red meat, fortified breakfast cereals and pine nuts.

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Originally written by Sally Heppleston, August 2019. Updated by Ravisha Rajapaksha, May 2024.