by Andrea M. Darcy
Worried about your low libido? Sex drives change with age and hormones, fluctuate within relationships, and can be affected by several physical conditions or even the medication you are taking.
But if your low libido is a consistent problem despite good health otherwise? If it is causing you problems in your relationships or leaving you with low self-esteem? It’s time to consider psychological causes.
[Not sure if your libido is or isn’t low enough to be a problem? Read our connected piece, “Good Questions to Ask About Your Low Sex Drive“.]
Psychological causes of a low sex drive
The following psychological factors are all contributors to a loss of interest in sex.
- Do you feel uninterested in life, not just sex? But also your job, hobbies, and daily routines?
Even mild versions of depression can kill your sex drive. It comes from the mental numbness and low self-esteem, combined with physical symptoms of fatigue, heaviness, and poor sleep that depression leads to. It doesn’t leave anyone feeling attractive.
- Do you feel too exhausted and overwhelmed by a recent life change to feel sexually attractive? Or are you wound up and panicky for no apparent reason, preferring to be alone lately?
Anxiety and stress hijack your headspace, leaving little to no room for sexual interest. Or means you are so ‘in your thoughts’ that when you do engage in sex, you find it hard to perform. You might feel disconnected from your body, or very tense and unsettled.
While stress has an obvious cause, anxiety can be random, connected to repressed experiences, or even be a habit you don’t realise you have.
Repressed anger and emotions meaning a low libido
Keeping all your emotions stuffed down out of sight and controlled can mean you are also, unknowingly, repressing and controlling other things. Like passion, excitement, and, yes, your sex drive. Emotions set free, on the other hand make us available and vulnerable to others. Which of course increases intimacy and sexual attraction (which is perhaps why sex after a fight is known for being enjoyable!).
Staying in a relationship that is no longer working, and that deep down you know you will never again be happy in? Over risking the upheaval leaving might cause in your life? Is of course an option. But a low sex drive is often the side effect, followed by mild depression and decreasing self-esteem.
- Do you feel disconnected, jumpy, and unable to think straight? Or always have a feeling you are not quite ‘in your body’ but floating above it?
If you have gone through a recent difficult experience, such as a bereavement, breakup, accident, or witnessing an accident? It’s normal to feel unable to connect to yourself, including your sex-drive. But if it goes on for more than a few months, and you often feel ‘outside your body’, you might have post-traumatic shock syndrome (PTSD) which causes dissociation.
- Does sex make you feel ugly and exposed? Or are you putting off a sexual relationship until you lose weight?
Body image issues can leave you feeling disconnected or even repulsed from your physical self, meaning you shut down and lose sight of your sex drive. They can be longstanding issues, or can be recent. Such as body issues triggered by something such as weight gain, a traumatic sexual encounter, or experiencing criticism.
- Do you struggle to believe you are attractive or likeable? And avoid criticism where you can?
Low self-esteem can leave you unable to feel desirable. It can also leave you self-protective, meaning you keep a distance from others, including sexually.
Low self-esteem can be a problem that comes from childhood, but it can also be recent, triggered by something like a redundancy or breakup. So look to recent life changes you might be more upset about than you realise if your libido has taken a recent hit.
- Does letting others close leave you feeling fearful or panicky? Do you worry if others get too close to you they will just reject or abandon you?
Fear of intimacy means you have a core belief that it is safer to stay away from others. And it can see you unconsciously shut down your interest in sex to ‘protect’ yourself. It might include a fear of abandonment.
- Do you often wonder if a past experience has affected your sex drive? Even if you aren’t sure what it is exactly?
Sexual abuse and sexual trauma such as assault are leading causes of problems with sex drive, equally so if the memory has been repressed. For some, abuse can mean you are left hypersexualised and with a core belief that you have to be physically desirable to everyone. But for others, it can mean you suffer anxiety or a disconnect when it comes to any sort of sexual experience.
- Do you feel letting anyone close to you would mean they’d just let you down? Never able to be your self around others? Have anxiety when people get too close?
Lack of trust, often from a childhood where your trust was broken or you were not given the proper attachment to a caregiver a child requires, makes it hard to connect to others. This can mean sex leaves you anxious or removed.
- Do you sometimes wonder who you really are, if you took away pleasing and going along with others?
If we are raised to always be a ‘good, pleasing’ child, we can grow up into an adult with no real sense of self. Part of this can be a sense of detachment from your sexuality. Especially if at any point you were taught it was not a good thing to be interested in sex.
- Do you fail to understand why people want a relationship or sex in the first place? Or just think it’s a dangerous thing to be involved with as people are all just out to get you?
Personality disorders mean that you simply don’t see the world the way most people do, nor do you tend to behave in ways deemed ‘the norm’. Schizoid personality disorder would see you with thinking sex is ridiculous and not interesting. Avoidant personality disorder would see you afraid of the intimacy sex involves, and schizotypal personality disorder would mean that any sort of relationship just made you too anxious.
If this is you, what now?
If you suspect that it might indeed be a psychological issue that has your sex drive at bay, it’s well worth seeking support. While it can feel intimidating to talk to friends about your libido issue, there is no need to feel embarrassed or strange around an experienced counsellor or psychotherapist. They are trained to deal with such very issues, and will have already helped many other people with similar challenges.
Would you like to talk to a friendly and experienced sex therapist in London? Harley Therapy puts you in touch with hand-selected therapists who can help you understand what is causing your low libido and find ways forward.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and personal development teacher with training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She is also a popular psychology writer who loves to write about trauma and relationships. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy