There is no ‘normal’ sexual frequency that all of us have to adhere to in our lives. You should do it when you feel like it! But what if you don’t feel like it? And what if you, like, never feel like it? And what if you really want to feel like it?
We’ve all been there. But when your sex drive is in a funk, it’s worth taking a look at the reasons why.
Stress, exercise, interpersonal and health issues can all impact your sex drive, and sometimes it takes a little retooling to figure out how to turn yourself back on. For many people, there is no one cause, rather a combination of physical and psychological factors. Solving the problem usually calls for a tailored approach.
You might notice that you spend less time fantasizing about sex outside of actual sexual situations, and when you do have sex, you get less physically aroused and sensation is less intense. You might have difficulty reaching orgasm, even with your trustiest sex toy.
More recently, the medical community has recognized this constellation of symptoms as a disorder—female sexual arousal disorder, or FSAD. There is some controversy surrounding this diagnosis and forms of treatment, because arousal is so subjective, but one thing is clear: it’s very common to experience fluctuations in sexual desire.
Here are a some of the most common culprits:
Stress in its many forms.
Burning the candle at both ends never ends well. If you work a ton of hours every week or juggle multiple commitments, the other things in your life—diet, exercise, sleep, social life, and sex life—are gonna take a big hit.
If something feels off with you and your partner(s), your sex life is usually one of the first things to go. Normal life stuff like over working or sharing responsibilities, and emotions like anger or jealousy can all affect your sex life.
A common suggestion from magazines and best friends alike is to “just do it”, because then in theory, you’ll want to again. This reinforces the idea that if you don’t keep your partner sexually satisfied that you are doing something wrong. This is 100% inaccurate. So rather than grin and bear it, try opening up the lines of communication instead.
Many medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, can directly affect hormone levels and sex drive. Depression is a famous libido-killer, and unfortunately, medications used to treat it like SSRIs can also smother your sexual desire (more on that here). Same goes for hormonal birth control—ironically, it can actually lead to a lower libido and less interest in sex.
As it turns out, this is sometimes more than a number. Just as it’s normal to experience a sudden spike in sexual desire in young adulthood, it’s normal for your sex drive to change as you get older. And that’s because of…
Testosterone affects sexual drive in all people— levels are higher in your twenties and decline steadily over time, leading up to older age or menopause.
However, lower testosterone is in no way a death sentence for your sex life! Hormones aren’t the only things in the mix. Confidence and self-acceptance are some of the most powerful forces when it comes to your libido.
If you’re taking hormones and/or blockers as part of a medical gender transition, your sex drive could also be affected. The experience is intensely personal, and people report both more and less sexual desire, so rest assured that the only ‘normal’ is a broad range of feelings and experiences. If you can, talk to your doctor and peers about what you’re going through.
The good news is, if your sex life feels a little stalled, there are a few things you can do to jumpstart it:
Practice regular self-care + self-love.
We know it sounds trite, but to feel good, you need to take good care of yourself. Eat things that make you feel good, drink enough water, get enough sleep and go for a walk. Be aware that smoking can affect your circulation, and heavy drinking can deregulate your hormones.
Give yourself the time and space to masturbate without a goal. Self-exploration can get you back in touch with what feels good to you. Treat yourself to a new toy, try watching porn (find our faves here) or just get hands-on in the tub.
Give yourself some time.
Even if you used to be able to go from zero to orgasm in sixty seconds, you shouldn’t hold yourself to a single gold standard. Give yourself the benefit of time and accept that it might not happen on schedule!
Instead of trying to grind one out first thing in the morning, set aside some time to masturbate or have sex in the evening. With work and all your other obligations behind you for the day, you might find that it’s a lot easier to get in the mood.
Whether you go for a solo session or couples counselling, therapy can help you to see the bigger picture and make connections that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to make on your own. You’d be surprised how seemingly unrelated things can put a stranglehold on your sex drive!
Changes in your libido can affect your partner, too, so consider talking about it with a professional. It might sound embarrassing, but sex therapists have heard it all before and are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to open up!
See your doctor.
Sometimes all it takes is a tweak in your normal dose of medication, or an alternative therapy. If you’re on hormonal birth control, for example, your doctor might recommend another option, such as a diaphragm or a copper IUD. While you’re there, it wouldn’t hurt to get a regular check-up and make sure there’s nothing more serious going on—it’s thought that at least a third of people who experience low sexual desire can trace the cause to an actual physical problem.
Make sure you’re comfortable.
Being comfortable, both mentally and physically is hugely important for feeling relaxed enough to be aroused. That can mean everything from ensuring that you are at ease with your sexual partner (always) to literally being warm enough. For many people, their body and mind need to feel completely comfortable with their physical environment in order for their sex drive to kick in. So bust out your fleecy sheets and get cozy.
Try new things.
Because sexual desire can be so emotionally motivated, we sometimes take a more emotional, and not rational, approach to problems in our sex lives. Our expectations play a huge role in our experiences, so go out on a limb—you might find that massages, nice smells, change in locations, changes in diet or new social activities have a cumulative positive affect that improves your sex life, too.