What is low sex drive?

Sexual desire is different for everyone and fluctuates naturally over the course of your life. A level of desire that’s natural for one person isn’t necessarily the same for another. There are also normal dips during times of stress or triumph and a decline as you age — just a couple of the many reasons your partner might not feel up for it as much.

Low sex drive or low libido are the terms used to describe a lack of interest in sex. Some people aren’t concerned about having low sex drive.

However, if your partner’s libido has noticeably changed, they’ve lost interest in sex for no apparent reason, it’s causing issues in your relationship, or you’re concerned about their health, it’s worth having a conversation with them. If your partner’s sex drive has been consistent, but what you consider low, there might be a mismatch in your libidos, which might require extra consideration and communication.

It’s a misconception that men always have a high sex drive. Between 1-in-4 to 1-in-7 men under the age of 60 experience a decrease in their desire for, or interest in, sex at some stage in their life. After 60 years of age, many men experience a decrease in their sex drive.

Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder is diagnosed when there’s 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.


Learn more about low sex drive on our health topic page.


What causes low sex drive?

Sexual desire is influenced by a variety of physical, psychological, and personal factors, ranging from extra work stress to underlying health conditions.

Some of the reasons why your partner might have a low sex drive include:

  • Lifestyle factors such as high stress, poor sleep, too little or too much exercise

  • Medical conditions including hypothyroidism and low levels of testosterone

  • Certain medications including those to treat depression, seizures and hypertension

  • Mental illness such as depression

  • Relationship issues

  • Negative sexual experiences including low self-esteem and anxiety around sexual performance

  • Experiencing trauma such as sexual assault, PTSD and health-related trauma

  • Recreational drugs and alcohol.

What your partner could be feeling

Everyone’s sex drive, and how they feel about it, is different. Some people might not be concerned about their low level of sexual desire, or they may worry they’re not 'normal' and feel great distress.

Having a low sex drive might be a sign of physical or mental health issues, so it’s important your partner talks to their doctor about what they’re experiencing and discuss their physical and mental health history. Talking to a doctor can help people understand the reasons for their low sex drive and find ways to deal with it.

What you could be feeling

Your partner’s low sex drive can impact your own sexual satisfaction.

Some partners of men with low sex drive feel confused or anxious and may question their relationship or their partner’s feelings for them. Although you might take it personally, no individual is to blame for low libido. Be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling and what you can do together to manage it.

There are a few ways to make the conversation more comfortable and constructive.

  • Choose the right time to chat when you’re both relaxed and receptive; avoiding moments when you’re stressed, tired or vulnerable

  • Use 'I statements' rather than 'you statements' to communicate how you feel without coming across as accusatory or shaming towards your sexual partner.

It can also be helpful to see a relationship counsellor who can facilitate these conversations and help you work through issues together.

What to do about low sex drive

If your partner’s doctor thinks their libido is being affected by other health conditions, treating those will be the first step. Counselling, either on their own or with you, might be suggested if psychological or relationship factors might be the cause of a low sex drive.

There are no medications that specifically treat low libido. 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 normal.


Learn more about low sex drive on our health topic page.

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