Lost that loving feeling? Turns out, as much as 40 percent of women complain about having a low sex drive at some point in their lives, and a survey out of the University of Chicago found that about 33 percent of women ages 18 to 59 complain of a low libido. The problem: There are dozens of reasons why a woman of any age may experience a low sex drive—although "low" can be difficult to define. According to the Kinsey Institute, people in their 20s have sex an average of 112 times a year—a number that drops to 86 times per year for people in their 30s and 69 times a year for people in their 40s. This decline in sexual activity over time is considered normal. But what if the desire is suddenly gone all together...or is on serious life support? Here's what might be hurting your sex drive—and how to snap out of it and live a healthy life in (and out) of bed.
Libido Challenge: FATIGUE
A hectic work schedule—and the mental and physical stress that comes with it—can wreak havoc on your sex drive. Add traveling for work to the mix, and you might as well slip your libido an Ambien since a lack of sleep is more than enough to shut down sex drive. But what if it's even more than a packed calendar? The World Health Organization recently recognized what's called "Adrenal Fatigue"—which encompasses a myriad of symptoms, such as low sex drive, salt cravings, irritability, digestive problems and—like the name suggests—an overall tired feeling. The disorder can be improved with a healthy diet, vitamins B and C, and magnesium supplements.
Libido Challenge: MENTAL/EMOTIONAL STRESS
Depression, anxiety and everyday stress can also squash sex drive—particularly for women, who, more often than men, have difficulty reaching orgasm due to mental "blocks" and the effects of stress. It also doesn't help that some medications used to treat depression and anxiety, including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, have been known to decrease libido. Luckily, there are alternative medications that have not been shown to negatively impact sex drive—so talk to your doctor. Also, be sure to share any life changes, like the beginning or end of a relationship, moving, a new job, family issues and other things that may be affecting your mental and/or emotional state.
Libido Challenge: BIRTH CONTROL SIDE EFFECTS
Hormonal birth control options, particularly low-dose varieties, may prevent women from experiencing their normal level of sexual desire—which many consider necessary to leading a healthy life and maintaining a romantic relationship. While it's yet to be widely recognized by the medical community that birth control side effects could include a decreased libido (no official stats exist on the matter), low sex drive is a common complaint among women on the pill. Here's why: The pill and other hormone-based birth control methods mess with the body's levels of testosterone—the hormone that puts the "drive" in sex drive—by stopping ovulation. They also increase levels of estrogen, which, after being process by the liver, attaches estrogen hormones to some of the remaining testosterone hormones, diminishing libido even more. Ask your doctor about different contraceptive options—including IUD's, diaphragms, condoms and more—if you're experiencing birth control side effects.
Libido Challenge: RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS
The phrase, "It's not you, it's him," might actually be true when it comes to female sex drive. Women who no longer trust their partners due to physical or verbal abuse, infidelity, inability to communicate, unresolved arguments and other issues, may no longer desire sex. As long as abuse isn't present, couples counseling and/or individual therapy may help resolve emotional issues that result from the effects of stress on a relationship and help rebuild intimacy.
Next Page: More ways to boost your libido
Libido Challenge: ILLNESS
Women who suffer from diseases like diabetes are at a higher risk of low libido than those without. Cancer—particularly if being treated with chemotherapy—can also decrease sex drive, as can illnesses related to blood pressure and heart health. This comes as no surprise, since many chronic diseases cause stress and leave the body feeling fatigued. If you're suffering from low libido, talk to your doctor and see if he/she recommends a full physical with blood work to rule out potential problems. Also, inform him/her of any medications you may be taking.
Libido Challenge: SELF-ESTEEM ISSUES
It's hard to crave sex when you don't feel…well…sexy. Weight gain, not getting enough exercise, and eating a diet high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats can also have a negative effect on body image—which lowers self-esteem and makes sex more anxiety-producing than enjoyable. According to a 2005 study out of the Netherlands, relaxation is also a key component to female sexual pleasure (particularly when it comes to orgasm)—which is hard to achieve for women worrying about how they look and/or what their partners think of them. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help boost confidence and increase libido, but if the issue is more emotional than physical, therapy may be recommended as well to get back to a healthy life.