Is your libido normal?
There's plenty of hype out there about what is, and what isn't normal when it comes to libido. Last weekend, some of the Expertrain team watched Joseph Gordon Levitt's directorial debut, Don Jon (check it out if you haven't seen it already), which got us thinking – what is classed as 'normal' when it comes to libido?
Your sex drive is highly personal and whilst there are stereotypes out there (such as the teenage boy who barely leaves his room), libido is different for everyone and can be affected by age, stress, relationship status and even illness, as well as a host of other factors. The key is recognising when your libido is different from normal, and finding out what you can do about it.
Baseline libido is an important term – it's what is normal for you, not for anyone else. Your baseline libido is your sex drive in its normal state, whether that's feeling in the mood once a day or once a week. What's normal for one person isn't necessarily normal for another, so using the word 'normal' to refer to something as personal as libido isn't a great idea.
If your libidio deviates from the baseline, it can become a problem – that is, if it affects you or your partner. Having mismatched libidos in a relationship is actually more common that you might think, so it's not usually a major cause for concern. It's when you feel your libido is fluctuating wildly that you should stop and pay attention.
Tackling a high libido
Whilst it isn't necessarily a bad thing to have a high libido, it could be a problem if you notice yourself engaging in compulsive sexual behaviour, or are worried you're suffering from sex addiction. When your sex life starts to interfere with the rest of your life (as happens to the character in Don Jon), it's time to assess the underlying issues.
There are mental disorders which could mean sex becomes the be all and end all of your life rather than just an enjoyable activity. Sex therapist Ian Kerner, PhD, says sex is often a way for individuals suffering from anxiety or low self-esteem to self-medicate.
Hypersexual disorder, where individuals have 'intense, excessive thoughts or behaviours' that intrude on the rest of their life, can quickly spiral out of control. We're not saying there's anything wrong with fantasising about the cute girl or guy in the office (we all do it), but if that turns into watching porn on your lunchbreak, it's far from healthy.
Skip the caffeine
There could be other factors at play affecting your libido too – for example, drug use can send your sex drive rocketing, and we're not just talking about illegal drugs such as cocaine. Even caffeine can have an impact on your desire; after all, it is a stimulant.
Managing low libido
If you're suffering from low libido, take a look at other areas of your life which could be responsible. Illness, stress or psychological issues such as depression and anxiety could all diminish your desire to snuggle up under the sheets. In fact, sexual dysfunction is often seen amongst people who suffer from depression (1), regardless of whether or not they're taking medication. Certain medications, such as SSRIs, can lower sexual arousal, and it's not just antidepressants that can affect your sex drive - many women report a lower libido whilst taking hormonal birth control such as the pill.
Stress can play a major part in desire, as can tiredness, which explains why many new mums (and dads) are just not in the mood! Common issues reported by people suffering from low libido include stress, depression, tiredness and post-baby blues.
Is your relationship to blame?
Your relationship could be responsible for your plummeting sex drive - anything that affects you negatively as a couple could knock your libido on the head, from communication problems to boredom. A lack of trust - for example, after your partner has cheated on you - could also lead to reduced desire to have sex.
We like to blame our hormones for all kinds of things, from PMS to giving us an excuse to eat chocolate, but they really could impact how often you feel like knocking boots with your other half. Low androgen levels in women have been linked to a reduced libido (2), whilst men suffering from low testosterone levels are likely to also notice a decrease in sexual desire (3).
Of course, you could just be tired, stressed, overworked or all of the above. When you've only had a couple of hours of sleep and you're worried about your work presentation, sex isn't likely to be top of your list of priorities, and that's ok!
Getting back on the level
If your libido is significantly different from your baseline and it's impacting your life, happiness or your relationship, it's probably time to take action.
See your GP
Talking to your GP is a great idea if you have concerns about your libido - we guarantee, they've heard it all before! If you think a medical or psychological condition could be to blame, or if you think your birth control or other medication you're taking is affecting your sex drive, make an appointment today. If you need help with addiction or compulsive sexual behaviour, they will be able to offer advice and refer you to a specialist.
Fix the problem
There are steps you can take yourself to address the underlying issues. With Valentine's Day just over a week away, it's the perfect time to focus more on your partner, which could help banish your low libido. Treat them to a massage, spend some extra time with them (maybe share a few cheeky fantasies?) and make sure you focus on their pleasure, not just your own!
Outside the bedroom, lifestyle changes can help too. Getting plenty of exercise can help to get your libido back on track - it will also help to relieve stress, boost your energy levels and improve your confidence, giving you glowing skin and a healthy body; you could even workout together! Or why not try something new with your partner - do something spontaneous such as taking a day trip or buying tickets to a show you've been dying to see.
Libido is incredibly personal, and what's 'normal' for someone else may not be so for you, so you shouldn't necessarily take the advice of others when it comes to your sex drive. If it's having a negative impact on your life, it's worth thinking about what could be causing it, and seeing your GP for help.
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