What is low sex drive?
Decreases in your sex drive are normal when you’re feeling unwell or stressed, but a low sex drive for a long time without any obvious reason, or a lack of interest in sex that affects your relationship, can be concerning.
Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder is diagnosed when there is a persistent lack of sex drive, sexual or erotic thoughts or fantasies, or desire for sexual activity that either causes you some level of distress or is impacting your sexual and romantic relationship.
It’s important to remember that there’s no clinically or scientifically accepted definition of ‘normal’ when it comes to libido, and male sexual function is not as straightforward as pornography and Hollywood movies would have us believe2.
Between 1 in 4 to 1 in 7 men under the age of 60 experience a decrease in their desire for, or interest in, sex3 at some stage in their life. After 60 years of age, many men experience a decrease in their sex drive2.
Symptoms of low sex drive
If you have low libido, you might notice you think about sex less often, don’t get turned on as easily as you used to, or feel like you just can’t be bothered.
Causes of low sex drive
Low libido can be caused by many things4, including:
- Relationship problems
- Medical conditions including hypothyroidism and low levels of testosterone
- Mental health issues such as depression and stress
- Some medications, including many used to treat depression and anxiety
- The use of recreational drugs and alcohol.
Diagnosis of low sex drive
When you see your doctor, it’s important that you’re open with them about what you’re going through.
Your doctor will ask questions about your sexual history and current stress factors in your life, such as your relationships and work. They will also ask you about your physical and mental health. All these questions are so your doctor can help you work out possible reasons why your sex drive might be lower than usual.
For example, depression is a common cause of low libido, so your doctor will want to know how you’re feeling.
Treatment of low sex drive
If your doctor thinks your libido is being affected by other health conditions, treating those will be the first step.
Counselling, either individually or with your partner, might be suggested if psychological or relationship factors might be causing your low sex drive.
Testosterone treatment can be effective for treating low libido in men whose testosterone levels are low, but there is no evidence that testosterone treatment can increase libido in men whose testosterone levels are normal5.
There are no medications that specifically treat low libido3.
Health effects of low sex drive
Having a low sex drive might be a sign of physical or mental health issues, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing, and your physical and mental health history. This may include discussing any history of trauma.
What to do about low sex drive
Talking to your doctor can help you understand the reasons for your low sex drive and find ways to deal with it. Your sexual relationship with your partner might be affected if you have low sex drive, so seeking help might be good for them as well as you.
Questions to ask your doctor about low sex drive
- Could my low sex drive be due to any of the medications I’m taking?
- Is there something about my health that might be causing my low sex drive?
- Do you think it might be helpful for me to talk to someone?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make that might increase my libido?
 Meixel et al., 2015. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder: inventing a disease to sell low libido. Journal of Medical Ethics
 Basson, 2001. Human Sex-Response Cycles. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy
 McCabe et al., 2016. Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Dysfunction in Women and Men: A Consensus Statement from the Fourth International Consultation on Sexual Medicine 2015. The Journal of Sexual Medicine
 Diaz & Close, 2010. Male Sexual Dysfunction. Primary Care
 Corona et al., 2020. Testosterone Therapy: What We Have Learned From Trials. The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Low sex drive fact sheet