Libido, or sex drive, varies from person to person, and can even vary within a person throughout their lifetime. Your interest in and desire for sexual exploration is completely unique to you.
Libido may be foundationally based on your overall health, including your physical, psychological, emotional, social, and relationship health. Oftentimes, the equation goes something like this: The better your health, the happier you are, the higher your sex drive. However, that’s not the case for everyone.
There are many libido myths to debunk in order to eliminate misinformation and unnecessary pressure to perform. Here are five common libido myths it’s time to cancel!
MYTH: If You’re Not Having or Thinking About Sex, then your libido is low
Having sex is not the same as having a desire for sex. You may be focused on growing or nurturing other aspects of your life that don’t allow you the time or space to prioritize sex. For instance, you may be working to obtain a degree, building a business, caring for a child or loved one, or simply on a journey to find true love or the right partner to share your sexual needs with. Just because you’re not prioritizing sex does not mean you’re not interested in having it.
MYTH: Your libido should always be the same
Your libido is constantly changing. And while there is no definitive metric for measuring libido level, we do know that it tends to decline with age. Exactly when that happens, though, seems to differ between males and females. The research suggests that men experience peak libido in their 20s, while females hit their peak in their 30s. Interestingly, this isn’t necessarily due to a difference in hormone levels, but likely due to a variety of factors that we will discuss later.
Also worth noting: Research has shown that men in their 50s are more satisfied with their sex lives than those in their 30s, suggesting that this age-related decline in libido doesn’t determine the quality of your sex life.
Regardless of age, stress is one of the main factors that influence sexual desire in both males and females. The main stress response leads to an increase in systemic cortisol (the “flight or fight hormone”), which affects both your mind and body. Excess stress and cortisol can leave you feeling tired and fatigued, cause mood changes such as anxiety and depression, lower immunity, and even increase your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Unsurprisingly, this state of being also impacts your desire for sex.
Other factors that may play key roles in your desire for bedroom playtime:
- Body acceptance and emotional well-being
- Relationship status
- Fear of pregnancy
- Having a busy schedule
- Hormone changes
- Sleep habits
Case in point: Your libido is far from a static thing! It ebbs and flows based on a host of these different influences.
MYTH: Your libido should match your partner’s
It is common for people in a relationship to not have the same exact level of sexual desire—and this is okay. There may be one partner with a high sexual desire and one person with a low or moderate desire for sex. Often, once this second partner engages in sexual acts, they are just as engaged and enjoy sex completely.
The first partner in that scenario may have more “spontaneous sexual desire,” which means exactly what it sounds like—they spontaneously desire sex without any form of intimacy (touching, kissing, etc.). Meanwhile, the second partner may have what’s known as “responsive sexual desire,” in which arousal or stimulation is important to desiring sex. Both are completely normal. In fact, the roles may even reverse as people go through periods of stress or significant life changes.
Partners can increase their intimacy, desire for sex, and relationship awareness with effective communication. Having an understanding and respect for each other’s physical and psychological state can help to level the playing field and keep things flowing.
MYTH: Men don’t experience low libido
Men are often portrayed as being completely obsessed with sex and desiring it all day long. While sex drive may be high for some men, this is far from an across-the-board truth. Men are equally motivated by love, achievements, and many other things—and plenty experience low sex drive and fluctuating libido levels.
Testosterone, a male’s primary sex hormone, is a key factor in their libido. When testosterone declines (it automatically does so with age), sex drive may do the same. Testosterone is also influenced by smoking, alcohol, medications, and sleep problems. As such, men may also notice a shrinking libido if they experience chronic medical problems, stress, or obesity. Making lifestyle changes, as well as discussing concerns with a doctor, can help men address any factors that impact their sex drive.
MYTH: There’s no turning back if your libido drops
If your libido is currently low but was higher at some point in your life, know that it can absolutely return to the levels that you remember. Again, there are so many factors that influence changes in your libido. If you have medical problems, are on certain medications, are pregnant or recently gave birth, or are experiencing high stress, your libido may take a hit. Some of these changes may be temporary and some may be lifelong. Getting help and talking with your healthcare providers about a plan of care and alternative treatment options may help restore your libido. Seeking guidance can go a long way!
A few lifestyle factors that can help boost your libido:
- Regular exercise
- A diet rich in whole foods
- Adequate daily water intake
- 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
- Stress management
The more you stack these cards in your favor, the better shot your libido has to shine.
The Bottom Line
Sex drive can be heavily influenced by so many different health and lifestyle factors, so know that pretty much everyone experiences fluctuations throughout their lifetime. That said, if you did not experience any significant life-changing situations or do not have medical conditions that have impacted your interest in bedroom fun, you don’t have to suffer in silence! Talk to a trusted healthcare professional about your low libido.
Dr. Perkins is a board certified OB/GYN with extensive expertise in global maternal health, female reproductive health, contraceptive care, and minimally invasive surgery. In addition to working with patients at her medical practice, she is a Major in the United States Army Reserve and an award-winning scientific researcher. Through her functional, holistic approach to health, she aspires to help women feel their best in mind, body, and spirit.