Don’t let one of these sneaky issues ruin your time between the sheets
Sex used to be so simple (if you don’t count birth control, STDs, and unplanned pregnancy). But as life gets more complicated, so does your sex drive. Whereas once you were ready to go at the drop of a hat (or pants, as the case may be), there are a number of emotional, physical, and psychological concerns that can easily dampen your drive. We talked to a handful of experts and compiled this list of the 16 biggest libido busters. Find out if one is, ahem, coming between you and the sex life you deserve.
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We are a nation of chronically sleep-deprived adults. This is not only affecting our looks, health, and ability to deal with everyday stressors, it’s also killing our sex drive. According to Dr. Robert D. Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, MO, chronic sleep deprivation, which can occur even if you get a solid six hours a night (the majority of adults need at least seven), can lower levels of testosterone—the sex drive hormone—in both men and women.
Chronic snoring not only interrupts the snorer’s sleep, but also the person sleeping beside them. Suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that causes abnormal breathing throughout the night, can also result in chronic sleep deprivation, which not only affects sex drive but can also increases appetite, leading to weight gain, Dr. Oexman says.
Depression is a common cause of poor sex drive and, in classic chicken and egg fashion, is often a reason for poor sleep quality. Not to mention that it can cause weight gain, leading to other libido-dampening medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Dr. Oexman says.
If the jeans you wore in college (or even last year) won’t go past mid thigh, there’s a good chance you’ve gone up two full pant sizes—about 20 extra pounds. Not loving how you look naked certainly won’t help your sex drive, plus those health conditions associated with weight gain can interfere with sex drive, adding insult to injury.
As any red-blooded male knows all too well, the penis is full of veins, and, according to Cully Carson, MD, a Rhodes distinguished professor of Urology at the University of North Carolina, one of the first things doctors check for when a patient complains of erectile dysfunction (ED) is underlying vascular disease or heart problems.
If your arteries aren’t up to snuff, it can inhibit blood flow to the genital area, resulting in weak erections. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can also cause ED.
Ironically, some of the drugs used to treat the conditions that decrease sex drive (the SSRI family of depression medications, some high blood pressure meds) can dampen it on their own.
“Any drug that affects the central nervous system can impact sex drive,” Dr. Carson says.
At the base of your throat is the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism via thyroid hormones. According to Karen Boyle, MD, a urologic surgeon at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and an expert in male and female sexual health, an abnormal thyroid can significantly decrease sex drive, especially in post-menopausal women. Depending on the type of thyroid abnormality, it could also lead to weight gain, which (hello chicken and egg) can mess with your sex drive as well.
Like sleep deprivation, anything that causes chronic, low-grade fatigue can lower sex hormones and increase appetite. In this case, excess exercise. While this is not a huge problem for most people, trying to work a full day then hitting the gym every night after work can result in the same libido-sapping exhaustion as skimping on sleep, Dr. Boyle says.
Unless you’re using it to watch a racy movie together (which we don’t recommend on such a small screen), technology in the bedroom is a guaranteed sex killer, says Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage.
“Laptops and smart phones just distract you from each other, and it’s nearly impossible to get your head in the right place for sex when two seconds ago you were responding to an email from your boss,” she says.
On Mad Men, Don and Roger can drink straight bourbon all day long, smoke cigarettes, and successfully seduce every woman in sight. Which is why it’s a TV show. According to Dr. Carson, smoking, a killer not just for your heart and lungs but for vein health as well, is one of the worst things you can do to your sex drive, and to a lesser extent drinking (mostly to excess—like Mad Men), which can reduce sensitivity and the ability to achieve orgasm in both men and women.
Living is stressful. And if you’re living together, you’re also stressing together. Of the emotional sources of low libido, stress is probably sexual enemy number one, whatever its root cause. The cure (at least temporarily) is to get away from the stress, aka take a vacation. Because they don’t call it vacation sex for nothin’.
This classic tailor euphemism for the direction in which a man’s penis curves could indicate a condition known as Peyronie’s disease, in which scar tissue (typically from damage caused during intercourse) results in a painful curvature of the penis—not the sexiest situation we can think of. Luckily the condition is pretty easily corrected with oral medication and injections.
Add up the sleep deprivation, the fluctuating hormones, the post-pregnancy weight, the worry, and you’ve got a recipe for seriously low libido, O’Neill says. And according to Dr. Boyle, childbirth itself can cause vaginal changes including tears, decreased sensitivity, and vaginal laxity that can make it difficult to achieve orgasm, or even become aroused at all.
Unresolved anger is one of the biggest issues O’Neill sees in her practice, especially in long-term relationships. When anger and resentment simmer for days or even weeks on end, these feelings can come to the surface in the bedroom, when external forces (kids, friends, coworkers) are removed, and it’s hard to feel attracted to your partner when you’re stewing over something, O’Neill says. Women will often sweep the fight under the rug to keep the peace, which can chip away at sex drive, she adds.
This one may be a no-brainer. While you’re supposed to love each other through thick and thin, if one partner has gone from thin to thick, it’s perfectly normal for attraction to wane.
It’s not harmful if no one gets touched, right? Actually, the “emotional affair” and flirtation that takes place at work, in your social circle, on Facebook, even on Pinterest (though we’re not sure how that would work) is detrimental because it’s taking time and energy away from your partner, which are both essential to keeping passion alive and well, O’Neill explains.