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Low Sex Drive

Men are supposed to want sex all the time, right?  That’s what a lot of men believe.  The idea starts at puberty with talking about sex in high school locker rooms.  It continues later in life when we come out and start exploring gay culture, which looks like a big sex party to a lot of men.  Gay, bi or straight, men are all about sex, all the time.  As one authority on male sexuality has put it, the myth is that men are supposed to be “two feet long, hard as steel and able to go all night.”

Does that describe you?  Maybe not.  What if you enjoy sex…but not as much as everyone else around you seems to enjoy it?  If your sex drive is lower than average, you may wonder what is wrong with you.

There is probably nothing wrong with you.  “I’m a hell of a lot more interested in quality than quantity when it comes to sex,” says Jim, a 30-year-old professional guy in Atlanta.  “I’d rather have hot sex with the right guy once every week or two than have lots of crummy sex several times a week.”

How much sex is enough?  You’re going to have to find that answer yourself, guy.  Some men find it perfectly normal to be jacking off every day and still having sex several times a week.  Other men don’t have that much sex in a month.  It’s an individual thing.

Some men find they just don’t have much erotic interest regardless of whether Mr. Right is around or not.  They don’t think much about sex.  Or they think about it, but don’t care about it enough to actually act on the urge.  Or they find that when they get it on, they have trouble getting it up.

The clinical term for this situation is inhibited sexual desire. People experiencing it may find that they have little interest in sex with their primary partner. Other guys find that they have little interest in sex with anyone. Some men with inhibited desire rarely initiate sex, although they respond if their partner makes an advance. Other men lose interest in sex all together. In its most extreme form, individuals with inhibited sexual desire may find sex repellent or distasteful.

The hormone testosterone controls sex drive in both men and women (yes, women have it too).  What’s a normal testosterone level?  Levels for healthy men vary between 200 and 1200 nanograms of testosterone per deciliter (ng/dl) of blood.  Normal levels for teenagers and young adults are highest – 800-1200 ng/dl.

Some men still have 800 ng/dl levels at 70, but that’s unusual.  There is usually a decrease of about one percent per year.

Testosterone levels are influenced by many factors.  Replacement hormone therapy is available, but somewhat controversial due to unknown long-term effects.  Your physician is the best source of information about all this.

It’s normal to have more interest in sex on some days than others.  Sometimes we’re distracted by other stuff and sex isn’t quite as important.  A sudden drop could mean a health problem; talk it over with your doctor.

If you are concerned that your libido is low enough that it may be a problem, consider the major causes: Stress and fatigue.  If you’ve been working too hard, pushing yourself too much or preoccupied with financial worries, your interest in sex may be lower than usual.  Think of the loss of interest like you would the warning light on your car’s dashboard:  it’s there to get your attention.  Maybe you need to cut back on your commitments or work fewer hours.  Maybe you need to take better care of yourself.

Depression.  If you’ve ever experienced depression, you probably remember it as a time when nothing gave you much pleasure.  That’s one of the things that makes depression so painful.  People who are depressed often find they have little energy, decreased appetite for food, sleep problems and little interest in sex.

Ironically, some antidepressants work fine at alleviating these problems, but have what those television ads euphemistically call “sexual side effects.”  Translated into English, that means difficulty in getting an erection or taking longer than usual to cum.  If you’ve started an antidepressant and those problems sound familiar, talk to your doc.  Another medication may treat the depression without making your sex life something else to be depressed about.

Relationship problems.  If your relationship is in trouble because the two of you are fighting all the time or going through a period when you really don’t want to be together, it’s crazy to expect to be attracted to your partner.  You may not even want to be around one another.

Sex can be a problem when your relationship has hit the skids.  It’s hard to be all that attracted to a guy at the same time you’re experiencing pain or anger with him.  You’re going to need to deal with those issues before sex has much appeal.

What if you feel pretty good about the amount of sex you’re having – but all of your friends seem to be having lots more?  Remember that sex is your choice, an individual thing.  And remember that some of the guys who made up stories about their erotic conquests back in high school are still lying years later.

If you think that you (or your partner) may have inhibited sexual desire, counseling or medical attention may be in order. Some of us have grown up with very negative or restrictive views about sex. This has sometimes been called the “Madonna/whore complex,” dividing partners (in this case, women) into two classes: those who are good and those who are sexy. It can take work to reconnect the two. Negative traumatic sexual experiences like rape or assault are also associated with inhibited desire.

If the lack of interest in sex is part of a broader range of symptoms, it is possible that you are experiencing depression or exhaustion. A hormone deficiency is also a possibility. For these reasons and a host of others, being able to talk about sexual matters with your health care providers is important for your well-being.

Healthy sexuality is an important part of most intimate relationships. You are entitled to enjoy sex. Don’t allow yourself to settle into complacency about problems with your erotic life.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.