Libido is a person’s overall sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. Libido is influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors. Biologically, the sex hormones and associated neurotransmitters that act upon the nucleus accumbens regulate libido in humans. Social factors, such as work and family, and internal psychological factors, such as personality and stress, can affect libido. Libido can also be affected by medical conditions, medications, lifestyle and relationship issues, and age e.g. puberty. Siddha Spirituality of Swami Hardas Life System appeals to all our valuable readers to read in-depth about libido for well-being.
What is Libido?
In a general sense, the word libido is used to describe the basic desire for sex. The term was coined by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Originally, he used the word specifically to describe the sex drive, but eventually, he started using it to describe the overall human desire to create. He often compared it to the desire to destroy. This more wide-ranging definition is less commonly used, and when most people talk about libido, they are usually specifically talking about sex drive.
What are the causes of low libido?
Causes of low libido among Men
A decrease in sex drive can develop both due to medical conditions as well as to psychological or emotional issues. Inhibited sexual desire is a type of sexual dysfunction that affects both men and women. A reduction in sexual desire has been associated with low testosterone levels in men.
Causes of low libido among Women
Likewise, women in the menopausal transition sometimes report a decrease in sex drive. Multiple types of chronic illnesses and chronic pain can also lead to a decrease in sex drive, likely through a combination of physical effects of the disease as well as the psychological stress associated with a chronic illness.
Painful intercourse (dyspareunia) can lead to loss of libido in women. Psychological factors that may be associated with low libido include:
- Poor body image
- Low self-esteem
- Stress, poor communication
- Lack of or breach of trust
- Unresolved conflicts
Certain medications, such as some antidepressants, can also cause a reduction in sex drive.
Psychological perspectives of Libido
Freud developed the idea of a series of developmental phases in which the libido fixates on different erogenous zones—first in the oral stage, then in the anal stage, then in the phallic stage, through a latency stage in which the libido is dormant, to its reemergence at puberty in the genital stage.
The analytical psychology of Libido
According to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, the libido is identified as the totality of psychic energy, not limited to sexual desire. As Jung states in “The Concept of Libido,” denotes a desire or impulse which is unchecked by any kind of authority, moral or otherwise. Libido is an appetite in its natural state. From the genetic point of view it is bodily needs like hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex, and emotional states or affects, which constitute the essence of libido.”
Defined more narrowly, libido also refers to an individual’s urge to engage in sexual activity, and its antonym is the force of destruction termed mortido or destrudo.
Factors that affect Libido :
Correlation between sex hormone levels and the menstrual cycle
A woman’s desire for sex is correlated to her menstrual cycle, with many women experiencing a heightened sexual desire in the several days immediately before ovulation, which is her peak fertility period, which normally occurs two days before until two days after the ovulation. This cycle has been associated with changes in a woman’s testosterone levels during the menstrual cycle.
According to Gabrielle Lichterman, testosterone levels have a direct impact on a woman’s interest in sex. According to her, testosterone levels rise gradually from about the 24th day of a woman’s menstrual cycle until ovulation on about the 14th day of the next cycle, and during this period the woman’s desire for sex increases consistently. The 13th day is generally the day with the highest testosterone levels. In the week following ovulation, the testosterone level is the lowest and as a result, women will experience less interest in sex.
Also, during the week following ovulation, progesterone levels increase, resulting in a woman experiencing difficulty achieving orgasm. Although the last days of the menstrual cycle are marked by a constant testosterone level, women’s libido may get a boost as a result of the thickening of the uterine lining which stimulates nerve endings and makes a woman feel aroused. Also, during these days, estrogen levels decline, resulting in a decrease of natural lubrication.
Although some specialists disagree with this theory, menopause is still considered by the majority a factor that can cause decreased sex desire in women.
Certain psychological or social factors can reduce sexual desire. These factors can include:
- Lack of privacy or intimacy
- Stress or fatigue
- Distraction, or depression
- Environmental stress, such as prolonged exposure to elevated sound levels or bright light
- Experience of sexual abuse
- Trauma, or neglect
- Body image issues
- Anxiety about engaging in sexual activity
Individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may find themselves with reduced sexual desire. Struggling to find pleasure, as well as having trust issues, many with PTSD experience feelings of vulnerability, lust, rage, and anger, and emotional shutdowns, which have been shown to inhibit sexual desire in those with PTSD.
Physical factors of Libido
Physical factors that can affect libido include:
- Endocrine issues such as hypothyroidism
- Effect of certain prescription medications (for example flutamide)
- Attractiveness and biological fitness of one’s partner, among various other lifestyle factors.
In males, the frequency of ejaculations affects the levels of serum testosterone, a hormone that promotes libido. A study of 28 males aged 21–45 found that all but one of them had a peak in serum testosterone on the 7th day of abstinence from ejaculation.
Smoking, alcohol abuse, and the use of certain drugs can also lead to decreased libido. Moreover, specialists suggest that several lifestyle changes such as exercising, quitting smoking, lowering consumption of alcohol, or using prescription drugs may help increase one’s sexual desire.
What are the treatments of Libido?
Some people purposefully attempt to decrease their libido through the usage of anaphrodisiacs. Aphrodisiacs, such as dopaminergic psychostimulants, are a class of drugs that can increase libido.
There are several ways to try and reap the benefits of antidepressants while maintaining high enough sex drive levels. Some antidepressant users have tried decreasing their dosage in the hopes of maintaining an adequate sex drive. Results of this are often positive, with both drug effectiveness not reduced and libido preserved.
Oral contraceptives lower androgen levels in users, and lowered androgen levels generally lead to a decrease in sexual desire. However, usage of oral contraceptives has shown to typically not have a connection with lowered libido in women. Multiple studies have shown that usage of oral contraceptives is associated with either a small increase or decrease in libido, with most users reporting a stable sex drive.
The age factor of Libido –
Males reach the peak of their sex drive in their teenage years, while females reach it in their thirties. The surge in testosterone hits the male at puberty resulting in a sudden and extreme sex drive which reaches its peak at age 15–16, then drops slowly over his lifetime. In contrast, a female’s libido increases slowly during adolescence and peaks in her mid-thirties. Actual testosterone and estrogen levels that affect a person’s sex drive vary considerably.
Ages 11-14 :
Some boys and girls will start expressing romantic or sexual interest by age 10–12. The romantic feelings are not necessarily sexual but are more associated with attraction and desire for another. For boys and girls in their preteen years (ages 11–12), at least 25% report “thinking a lot about sex”. By the early teenage years (ages 13–14), however, boys are much more likely to have sexual fantasies than girls.
Ages 20s and 30s :
In addition, boys are much more likely to report an interest in sexual intercourse at this age than girls. Masturbation among youth is common, with prevalence among the population generally increasing until the late 20s and early 30s. Boys generally start masturbating earlier, with less than 10% of boys masturbating around age 10, around half participating by age 11–12, and over a substantial majority by age 13–14. This is in sharp contrast to girls where virtually none are engaging in masturbation before age 13, and only around 20% by age 13–14.
Ages 60s and 70s :
People in their 60s and early 70s generally retain a healthy sex drive, but this may start to decline in the early to mid-70s. Older adults generally develop a reduced libido due to declining health and environmental or social factors.
Postmenopausal women :
In contrast to common belief, postmenopausal women often report an increase in sexual desire and an increased willingness to satisfy their partner. Women often report family responsibilities, health, relationship problems, and well-being as inhibitors to their sexual desires. Aging adults often have more positive attitudes toward sex.
How to Boost Libido for Men?
Libido in men is often related to testosterone levels, which will naturally decline as men age. Testosterone replacement therapy can help some men.
There is little evidence to suggest that certain foods or supplements increase a person’s testosterone levels and sexual function. Some research suggests that zinc, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids may be important dietary components for testosterone.
How to Boost Libido for Women?
Sex-related hormones, such as estrogen and estrogen-like compounds, can also affect sexual desire in females.
Many women experience a dip in libido and sexual functioning at menopause when estrogen levels drop. Estrogen replacement therapy may help some women.
Vaginal dryness is another symptom of menopause. Using lubricants during sexual activity can increase people’s enjoyment.
Women also produce testosterone. Doctors once believed that testosterone might affect women’s sex drive, but to date, research has not found a strong link.
Certain birth control pills may also decrease libido. If a person suspects that their hormonal contraception is affecting their sex drive, they can speak with a doctor about changing pill type.
How to Boost Libido using natural methods?
Anxiety, relationship difficulties, health concerns, and age can all affect libido. While low libido is not usually problematic, it can affect a person’s relationships and self-esteem. In this article, we look at some of the best ways that men and women can increase their libido using natural methods.
Both men and women can boost their libido using the following methods:
1. Manage anxiety
People with an intense work schedule, caring responsibilities, or other life stresses may feel fatigued and, as a result, have a low sexual desire.
Anxiety and stress can also make it more difficult for someone to get or maintain an erection, which can put a person off having sex. A 2017 review of erectile dysfunction in young men has suggested that depression and anxiety can result in reduced libido and increased sexual dysfunction.
There are many things that people can do to manage their anxiety and boost their mental health, including:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Making time for a favorite hobby
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Working to improve relationships
- Talking to a therapist
2. Improve relationship quality
Many people experience a lull in sexual desire and frequency at certain points in a relationship. This may occur after being with someone for a long time, or if a person perceives that things are not going well in their intimate relationships.
Focusing on improving the relationship can increase each partner’s sex drive. This might involve:
- Planning date nights
- Doing activities together outside of the bedroom
- Practicing open communication
- Setting time aside for quality time with each other
3. Focus on foreplay
Having better sexual experiences may increase a person’s desire for sex, thereby boosting their libido. In many cases, people can enhance their sexual experiences by spending more time touching, kissing, using sex toys, and performing oral sex. Some people call these actions outercourse.
For women, foreplay may be especially important. According to some 2017 research, only around 18 percent of women orgasm from intercourse alone, while 33.6 percent of women report that stimulation of the clitoris is necessary for them to orgasm.
4. Get good-quality sleep
Getting good sleep can improve a person’s overall mood and energy levels, and some research also links sleep quality to libido.
A small-scale 2015 study in women suggested that getting more sleep the night before increased their sexual desire the next day. Women who reported longer average sleep times reported better genital arousal than those with shorter sleep times.
5. Eat a nutritious diet
Following a nutritious diet can benefit people’s sex drive by promoting good circulation and heart health, and by removing specific foods that can decrease libido.
Metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease can affect physical sexual functioning. Also, the polycystic ovarian syndrome can affect hormone levels, which may also disrupt libido.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables, low in sugar, and high in lean proteins can help prevent disorders that affect libido.
6. Try herbal remedies
There is little research into how effective herbal remedies are at improving sexual function in men and women, though some people may find them beneficial.
A 2015 review study states that there is limited but emerging data that the following herbal remedies may improve sexual function:
People should be wary of using herbal medicines without their doctor’s approval. Some herbal medicines can interact with existing medications, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them. For this reason, their quality, purity, and safety remain unclear.
7. Get regular exercise
Getting regular exercise can help libido in many ways. A 2015 study of men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy, which lowers testosterone levels, found that regular exercise helped men cope with issues such as body image concerns, low libido, and relationship changes.
A 2010 review of women with diabetes cites research showing that exercise may help lower diabetes-related symptoms in women. The study emphasizes that doing exercises of the pelvic floor may be useful in women without diabetes.
8. Maintain a healthful weight
Some people who are overweight may also experience psychological effects, such as lower body confidence.
Maintaining a healthy body weight can improve a person’s sex drive, both physically and psychologically. Eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise can help achieve this, as well as boost a person’s overall energy levels.
9. Try sex therapy
Sexual desire is complex, with both psychological and physical components. Even when a person has a physical condition that affects libido, such as diabetes, improving the emotional and psychological response to sex can improve libido and sexual functioning.
Therapy is an effective strategy for increasing low libido. Individual counseling can help address negative views about sex, self-esteem, and secondary causes of low libidos, such as depression and anxiety. Relationship counseling can help some people work through factors affecting their sexual desire.
Alongside talking therapies, mindfulness therapy may also help. One 2014 study found that just four sessions of mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy in a group setting improved sexual desire, sexual arousal, and sexual satisfaction for women.
10. Quit smoking
Smoking cigarettes can have a negative impact on a person’s cardiovascular system. Good heart health is important for good sexual functioning. People who smoke cigarettes may find that their energy levels and sex drive increase after they quit.