Low Libido: What causes low sex drive in men?

We all know our sex drive can ebb and flow from time to time, but what can cause low libido in men? And, how can you boost your sex drive when it’s low?

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Nov 08 2018 7 min read
Swirling lights getting further in distance to symbolise lowering of libido

Last Reviewed: 8th September 2020

We all know our sex drive can ebb and flow from time to time, but what can cause low libido in men? And, how can you boost your sex drive when it’s low? Well, you’re in luck as we’ve spoken to sex experts, relationship therapists, nutritionists, and scientists to identify what’s causing your low libido, how to boost your sexual motivation, and generally improve your sex life!

It should be noted that referring to the “male libido”, applies to anyone who technically experiences more male hormones. That includes cis men, trans women, trans men, non-binary, intersex folk, and anyone undergoing hormone replacement therapy.

What causes low libido in men?

Before starting to find ways in which to improve your libido it is important to highlight the potential cause of the reduced sex drive.

Daniel Sher from Between Us Clinic explains;

“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.”

Hormones

Testosterone is an important male hormone responsible for boosting your sex drive. It’s mostly produced in the testicles, with the rest produced in adrenal glands above the kidneys. Studies have shown when testosterone levels suddenly decrease, so does your desire for sex, these low levels can affect everything from libido to muscle mass.

In most men, testosterone levels are at the highest around puberty and begin to decline around the age of 40. Sports medicine exercise physiologist, Dr. Fiona Gilbert explains:

“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.”

Yet, testosterone isn’t the only factor to affect sex drive and performance- so don’t worry if this isn’t the answer to your low libido. 

Lifestyle

Health plays a huge part in a man’s sex drive. If you aren’t suffering from testosterone deficiency, it may be a medical condition such as endocrine disorder, diabetes, sleep apnea, or high blood pressure, all of which you should talk to your doctor about.

However, there might be simpler reasons for lower libido in men, such as alcohol, poor diet, lack of sleep, or not enough exercise.

Nutritionist, Justin Nault from Clovis Nutrition states these three things negatively impact your hormones and sex drive:

  1. Sugar – Both fructose and glucose (the most common forms of sugar in the diet) are natural enemies of testosterone!
  2. Grains – This does not just include “gluten.” You can thank the Lectins, mostly. Cut them out your diet and see the effects in no time!
  3. 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! You better go catch your forty winks for your sexual wellbeing.
Man sleeping clutching his pillow

Mental Health 

Chronic stress can lead to the production of too much cortisol, this in turn can lower your libido. Not to mention, the brain is often referred to as the biggest sex organ. Preoccupying it with worries of money, time, and responsibilities can make it harder for you to feel sexual, be aroused, and climax.

Meditation and mindfulness sex can help improve your low libido. It is easier said than done to relax your mind, and ‘de-stress’ yourself but by making a little time for yourself to unwind and focus on your mental wellness you can dramatically improve your sex drive. Mindfulness has been found to improve low desire and other sexual dysfunctions, which is why apps such as Headspace can be an important part of your journey to not only reduce stress but also increase your libido. 

Cartoon image of a sad man with blue brain

Many people suffering from anxiety or depression have to weigh up the costs of these sexual side effects and their mental health. Taking antidepressants increases your levels of the “happy” hormone serotonin but can cause a drop in the “lust” hormone dopamine. If you are taking antidepressants, here are some tips on how to boost your sex drive.

Social Stigma

In society, men are under a lot of pressure to be perceived as masculine and 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 like that can cause a negative feedback loop of low libido. Particularly if someone has experiences of erectile dysfunction (ed), which could lead to a lack of sexual motivation and decreased libido.

Some trans experiences of sexual shame and trauma feed into the 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 is low. 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.

How to increase sex drive in men with low libido?

Drugs & Supplements

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 work. The tricky part is finding the right one.

Backe says one of the most widely-studied testosterone boosters is D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA) which 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.

Viagra 

The instinct when dealing with a low libido may be to buy over the counter phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. Yet these are not a long term solution and will often do more damage, as your 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, not improve that sex drive.

Cucumber next to a tape measure

Dr. Roisin McHugh, 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.”

Focus on Pleasure

If drugs aren’t the answer, your lifestyle is pretty healthy and happy, but your libido still isn’t as high as you’d like, why not just take it slow? It is common for men and women to lose interest in sex from time to time, and important not to expect your sex drive to match anyone else’s.

Dr. Praus further explains that if you have a lower libido, longer periods of stimulation can help - foreplay isn’t just for women. That includes non-demanding levels of sexual interaction to build him up to that point. By introducing a male vibrator, such as Tenuto into the bedroom, you may be able to excite and motivate your sexual libido. By slowing things down, and exploring your body alone or with a partner.

Remember: Treating a low libido can take many different forms and is not a one size fits all. Take time to focus on your sexual wellness by evaluating your lifestyle and mental health, for steps you can take at home. However, should you have any further concerns regarding underlying health conditions or a sudden change in hormone levels it is important to see a health professional.

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