- What causes loss of libido in men?
- How to help a low sex drive?
We all know our sex drive can ebb and flow from time to time, but what really causes loss of libido in men and what ways can you boost your libido when it’s low?
Following up from our guest post on how hormones, menstruation and birth control affect the female sex drive, we wanted to uncover the male side of things. And though we are discussing the “male libido”, this applies to anyone who technically experiences more male hormones than female hormones. That includes cis men, trans women, trans men, non-binary and intersex folk and anyone undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
Maybe you or your partner is freaking out at this point – but don’t sign off your sex life just yet! We’ve spoken to sex experts, relationship therapists, nutritionists and scientists to help you out.
When there’s a will, there’s a way. Take that initial step into making your sexual wellbeing a priority right here, right now. Let’s figure out what’s causing a loss of libido in you and what ways we can boost your sexual motivation.
Just remember, everyone’s sex drives are different. Rachel Wright of Wright Wellness Center reassures that “there is no objective “normal” libido, but rather what is typical for you.”
What causes loss of libido in men?
You guessed it. The primary culprit for the male libido is that cheeky sex hormone, testosterone. This is the battery juice for your sexually charged energy. It’s mostly produced in the testicles, with the rest in adrenal glands above the kidneys.
Oestrogen is the sex hormone typically responsible for high female arousal during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle (ladies, you know what we mean). But did you know it is also important in smaller quantities for regulating the male libido too – however, a little too much can cause loss of libido in men.
Testosterone is (unsurprisingly) found to be at its highest in teenage boys. Though, sports medicine exercise physiologist, Dr. Fiona Gilbert explains that:
“After the age of 35, most men notice a decline in libido. This is mainly because the function of testosterone regulation transfers more to the adrenals rather than the testis and with our modern life, our adrenals are already under a lot of stress.”
While that may be the case, sexual psychotherapist, Nicole Praus’ research at Liberos has found that:
“Testosterone levels in men are not completely related to their sexual desire. The major exception is if the man has a disease that causes him to be hypogonadal, not producing enough testosterone for basic physical processes.”
This deficiency in testosterone can affect everything from muscle mass to sexual abilities. But what if you don’t suffer from this condition. What else could be messing with your sex drive?
Health plays a huge part in a man’s sex drive. If you aren’t suffering from testosterone deficiency, it may be an endocrine disorder, diabetes, sleep apnea or high blood pressure, all of which you should see your GP about.
However, there might be simpler reasons for the loss of libido in men, such as alcohol, poor diet, lack of sleep or not enough exercise.
First thing Gilbert tells clients is to stop drinking beer. That’s right, you may find a couple of pints can help the juices flowing on your date, but as it is oestrogenic, drinking too much can cause a loss of libido in men.
Nutritionist, Justin Nault from Clovis Nutrition states these three things negatively impact your hormones and sex drive:
- Sugar – Both fructose and glucose (the most common forms of sugar in the diet) are natural enemies of testosterone!
- Grains – I’m talking all grains. Notice how I didn’t just say, “gluten.” It’s grains that are messing with your hormones. You can thank the Lectins, mostly. Ditch them, and you will be a better man for it!
- Lack of Sleep – Your body creates testosterone from cholesterol while you sleep. Studies have shown that you can double your morning testosterone levels simply by getting more sleep!
Ok, so, the less sleep, the less testosterone, the less libido. You better go catch your forty winks for your sexual wellbeing, and this directly ties into your mental wellbeing too…
Lack of sleep impacts your stress levels which can have one of the the worst impacts on your libido. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, putting you in fight, flight or freeze mode – not great for when you are trying to get aroused. Wright agrees that “being worried about something (like money, time, or other responsibilities)” can totally kill the mood.
Taking antidepressants increase your levels of the “happy” hormone serotonin but cause a drop in the “lust” hormone dopamine. Many people suffering from anxiety or depression have to weigh up the costs of these sexual side effects and their mental health. If you are, here’s some tips on how to boost your sex drive while taking them.
In society, men are under a lot of pressure to perform masculinity, to have a high sex drive. Dr. Sarah Hunter Murray says this means that:
“Men don’t always want to admit that they have less than a high and constant interest in sex, because, unfortunately, there is still a stigma that this could make them seem less “manly.” As a result, it is difficult to know how many men are actually coming forward and discussing their low sexual desire, and whether their voices are being adequately captured in research or in therapy.”
Stigmas can cause a negative feedback loop of low libido. Particularly if someone has suffered from experiences of erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, which could lead to a lack of sexual motivation.
To add to that, fear of even talking sex in a society that sees it as taboo and shames men for low libido, clinical psychologist Daniel Sher at Between Us Clinic, says conservative social contexts are a massive influencer in prohibiting recovery from a low sex drive, but it’s good to know that:
“…there are many viable treatments – from medication and lifestyle changes to psychotherapy and sex therapy. The key is to work out what is causing the loss of libido, because this will determine the best treatment. Often, finding ways to de-stress, manage any symptoms of anxiety or depression and fostering true intimacy and conflict-resolution within your relationship will do a world of good.”
Some trans experiences of sexual shame and trauma feed into loss of libido for not feeling sexually comfortable with their bodies due to dysphoria. Many trans folk find that until they have undergone full gender reassignment surgery, their sex drive grows.
However, that is not the experience for everyone. Adult film producer and trans activist Buck Angel explains how he became comfortable having sex as a man with a vagina.
We are all about self love, body confidence, and feeling sexy, as we know this plays a huge part in your sexual appetite.
How to increase sex drive in men with low libido?
Drugs & Supplements
Some say the more you have sex the higher your libido, but what if you need that extra boost to get you motivated in the first place? What about drugs?
For those experiencing low testosterone there are testosterone boosters out there. However, Health and Wellness Expert, Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics, says to be aware of these side effects:
“Like many steroids and human growth hormones, testosterone boosters can lead to enlarged breasts, shrunken testicles, skin problems, and even sleep apnea.”
When it comes to their actual effectiveness, science says that many of these testosterone boosters actually work. The tricky part is finding the right one.
For trans men, taking testosterone boosters has been said to feel like going through a second puberty with an increased sex drive, which then can plateau after about a year.
Backe says one of the most widely-studied testosterone boosters is D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA) which the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition has proven to boost testosterone levels by nearly 50%. This natural testosterone supplement essentially acts as a trigger to produce more of the hormone. Even after just a few days, you are likely to experience increased stamina, libido, and even muscle mass.
He also suggests these for a more natural approach:
“Fenugreek, a plant related to the pea family, has been said to increase testosterone levels but the results do not seem to corroborate that claim. On the other hand, researchers at an Austrian university have found that Tuna can boost testosterone levels upwards of 80%.”
Gilbert also advises to explore herbs like ashwagandha and horny goat weed. It didn’t get that name for nothing…
It might be instinctual to buy over the counter phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, but Gilbert says in the long term, that will do more damage than good since the body will not be able to self-regulate.
Remember, Viagra does not solve low libido, it only works to get you hard and keep you hard with sexual stimulation. Even then the initial drive to have sex is usually not resolved.
Dr Roisin McHugh from Assured Pharmacy also says to be very cautious when taking Viagra, particularly if combining it with the muscle relaxant, alkyl nitrites, commonly known as poppers:
“The combination will cause a drop in blood pressure, this can be a significant drop in the blood pressure that can lead to collapse and death. By far the most common side effect is a pounding headache. The combination of poppers and viagra can also produce sickness or dizziness, or even fainting.”
Let’s slow it down…
So, if drugs aren’t the answer, your lifestyle is pretty healthy and happy, but the libido still isn’t as high as you’d like, why not just take it slow?
Dr. Praus explains that if you have a lower libido, longer periods of stimulation can help as “men need foreplay too”. That includes non-demanding levels of sexual interaction to build him up to that point.
Kissing and creative non-sexual touching which you can read more about in how to approach sex with someone suffering from mental health issues. Take the time to explore yourself and perhaps build up to some non-penetrative sex moves.
Introducing a wearable smart vibrator for men into the bedroom can excite and motivate the sexual libido. Slow things down and explore yours and your partner’s body.