Low Libido in Men: Causes & Treatment

Low Libido in Men: Causes & Treatment
By Stacey Feintuch

It’s natural to sometimes lose interest in sex, but long-term low libido may have an underlying cause. It may stem from low testosterone, lack of sleep, depression or stress, substance use, and more. If changes in your sex drive concern you, a physician can offer more guidance.

Low libido describes a decreased interest in sexual activity. It’s common to lose interest in sex from time to time, and libido levels vary through life. It’s also normal for your interest not to match your partner’s at times.

However, low libido for a long period of time may cause concern
for some people. It can sometimes be an indicator of an underlying health condition.

Here are some potential causes of low libido in men:

1.Low testosterone
Testosterone is an important male hormone. In men, it’s mostly produced in the testicles. Testosterone is responsible for building muscles and bone mass, and for stimulating sperm production. Your testosterone levels also factor into your sex drive.

Normal testosterone levels will vary. However, adult men are considered to have low testosterone, or low T, when their levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), according to guidelines from the American Urological Association (AUA).

When your testosterone levels decrease, your desire for sex also decreases. Decreasing testosterone is a normal part of aging. However, a drastic drop in testosterone can lead to decreased libido.

Talk to your doctor if you think this might be an issue for you. You may be able to take supplements or gels to increase your testosterone levels.

Taking certain medications can lower testosterone levels, which in turn may lead to low libido. For example, blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers may prevent ejaculation and erections.

Other medications that can lower testosterone levels include:
• an antifungal medication called ketoconazole
• anabolic steroids, which may be used by athletes to increase muscle mass
• certain antidepressants
• chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer
• cimetidine (Tagamet), which is used for heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• corticosteroids
• hormones used to treat prostate cancer

If you’re experiencing the effects of low testosterone, talk to your doctor. They may advise you to switch medications.

3.Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. A study found that men with RLS are at higher risk for developing erectile dysfunction (ED) than those without RLS. ED occurs when a man can’t have or maintain an erection.

In the study, researchers discovered that men who had RLS occurrences at least five times per month were about 50 percent more likely to develop ED than men without RLS. Also, men who had RLS episodes more frequently were even more likely to become impotent.

Depression changes all parts of a person’s life. People with depression experience a reduced or complete lack of interest in activities they once found pleasurable, including sex.

Low libido is also a side effect of some antidepressants, including:
• serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as duloxetine (Cymbalta)
• selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft)

Talk to your doctor if you’re taking antidepressants and you have a low libido. They might address your side effects by adjusting your dose or having you switch to another medication.

5.Chronic illness
When you’re not feeling well due to the effects of a chronic health condition, such as chronic pain, sex is likely low on your list of priorities.

Certain illnesses, such as cancer, can reduce your sperm production
counts as well.

If you’re experiencing a chronic illness, talk with your partner about ways to be intimate during this time. You may also consider seeing a marriage counselor or sex therapist about your issues.

6.Sleep problems
A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that nonobese men with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experience lower testosterone levels. In turn, this leads to decreased sexual activity and libido.

In the study, researchers found that nearly one-third of the men who had severe sleep apnea also had reduced levels of testosterone.

Testosterone levels, which are linked to libido, are at their highest when men are in their late teens.

In your older years, it may take longer to have orgasms, ejaculate, and become aroused. Your erections may not be as hard, and it may take longer for your penis to become erect. However, medications are available that can help treat these issues.

If you’re distracted by situations or periods of high pressure, sexual desire may decrease. This is because stress can disrupt your hormone levels. Your arteries can narrow in times of stress. This narrowing restricts blood flow and potentially causes ED.

Stress is hard to avoid. Relationship problems, divorce, facing the death of a loved one, financial worries, a new baby, or a busy work environment are just some of the life events that can greatly affect the desire for sex.

Stress management techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, and talking to a therapist, may help.

9.Low self-esteem
Self-esteem is defined as the general opinion a person has about their own self. Low self-esteem, low confidence, and poor body image can take a toll on your emotional health and well-being.

If you feel that you’re unattractive, or undesirable, it’ll likely put a damper on sexual encounters. Not liking what you see in the mirror can even make you want to avoid having sex altogether.

Low self-esteem may also cause anxiety about sexual performance, which can lead to issues with ED and reduced sexual desire. Over time, self-esteem issues can result in larger mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and drug or alcohol abuse — all of which have been linked to low libido.

10.Too much (or too little) exercise
Too much or too little exercise can also be responsible for low sex drive in men.

Getting regular exercise may reduce your risk for chronic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, all of which are associated with low libido. Moderate exercise is known to lower cortisol levels at night and reduce stress, which can help increase sex drive.

On the other hand, over-exercising has also been shown to affect sexual health. In one study, higher levels of chronic intense and lengthy endurance training on a regular basis were strongly associated with decreased libido scores in men.

Heavy alcohol drinking, or more than 14 mixed drinks in a week, has also been linked to a decrease in testosterone production. Over a long period of time, excessive amounts of alcohol can reduce your sex drive.

12.Drug use
In addition to alcohol, the use of tobacco, marijuana, and illicit drugs such as opiates has also been connected to a decrease in testosterone production. This can result in a lack of sexual desire.

Smoking has also been found to reduce sperm production and sperm

Physical and emotional side effects of low libido
A decreased sex drive can be very unsettling for men. Low libido can lead to a vicious cycle of physical and emotional side effects, including ED — the inability to maintain an erection long enough to have satisfactory sex.

ED may cause a man to experience anxiety around sex. This can lead to tension and conflicts between him and his partner, which may in turn lead to fewer sexual encounters and more relationship issues.

Treating low libido often depends on treating the underlying issue. If low libido is caused by an underlying health condition, you may need to switch medications. If your low libido has psychological causes, you may need to visit a therapist for relationship counseling.

source: healthline.com

Download the full issue of the September-October 2023 Healthy Options News Digest here.

Back to blog