It is natural for our sex drive to change over time and we might find ourselves not feeling like it, not wanting it.
And for some people that's not a problem.
Whereas for others they might miss it.
It can impact on relationships and it can impact on our overall health and wellbeing.
So today I'm here with Dr. Lizzie Rogers GP and Bupa's associate clinical director to chat about this topic, which is often taboo, isn't it?
So firstly, how common is it to see this change in sexual desire?
So really common Zoe.
So it's really natural for our desire to have sex to change over time and that's 'cause it's affected by so many different things really.
So from your lifestyle through to relationships, your mental health and in some people even hormones can play a part as well.
And as you've rightly pointed out earlier it's also really important to identify that it's different from person to person.
So what feels okay for one person might not be okay for another person and vice versa.
Yeah, and is there sometimes a bit of a mismatch?
Is that when the issues come in if there's a mismatch between you and your partner?
Yeah, so that absolutely can play a part and that's why it's really important to have open conversations with your partner.
So you kind of both know where you are at and also it can sometimes help you identify other problems.
So it may be that there are other relationship issues that need addressing and certainly there's lots of sort of kind of relationship therapists out there that can help support you with those conversations, if you haven't got the confidence to kind of open them up yourselves.
And there are also a range of causes that can reduce libido.
What are some of these?
Yeah, so there are lots of different causes.
So common ones are often relationship issues. So how you are connecting to your partner stress and tiredness.
I'm sure lots of us just know how exhausted you feel after a stressful day at work.
So you've not only not got the energy levels, but also you've got a distraction from kind of wanting to have sex, right?
If you've got something on your mind.
Certain medications can affect libido as well.
And often we tend to see that these are ones that people might be on for high blood pressure, or they might be on them for mental health disorders and actually some certain cancer treatments as well.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
And there can be some sort of specific sexual sort of diagnoses or problems.
So erectile dysfunction in men, which is where they either struggle to get or maintain an erection and in some women they may have a condition called vaginismus and that's where they get an involuntary contraction in the muscles of the vagina.
So it can make sex really painful and really difficult to kind of allow penetration.
Pregnancy in the postpartum period as well.
A common one. And that can be because of changes to your body, it can be to pain and discomfort and it can also be 'cause you're absolutely exhausted and you know you've got other priorities at that point in your life and in some cases hormonal deficiencies as well.
They can come into play.
So testosterone deficiency in men can be one cause and also in women actually, so in the peri, and kind of postmenopausal period women can see a drop in their testosterone, which I think some women aren't really aware of.
Okay, that's really interesting. I think one that I'd love to elaborate on a little bit more is you mentioned stress.
And we know that you know, stress is something that is impacting so many of us.
So how does stress affect your sex drive?
Yeah, so stress tends to adversely affect your sex drive.
So typically you would see that if people are finding it affects their libido it's that they just don't want to have sex as much.
And that can be for lots of reasons.
It could be that you are really tired from what's going on.
Stress can often affect our sleep, so we may not be sleeping as well.
And it also tends to create kind of a distraction from sexual desire.
If your mind is another place, you're not really thinking about wanting to kind of get it on with your partner.
I think as well it also reminds me of, if you're stressed in that fight or flight mode and you know, if we think of that analogy of running away from a tiger, actually if there's a tiger, sex is not your priority right then and there is it?
So it makes sense that if you're stressed, you know you're not necessarily gonna be thinking about or feeling aroused.
How much of it do you think is down to confidence and how we feel about ourselves?
Yeah, I think, for a lot of people that does play play a big role and I think for two reasons I suppose is that if you're not feeling particularly confident or good about yourself, you probably don't necessarily feel really amorous.
You don't necessarily have a huge desire to have sex, but of course then that can kind of go full swing and if don't feel like you've got much sexual desire, you might not feel very confident. So it can become a bit of a vicious circle actually.
And I think that's what's really important about talking about it as well, 'cause if it is causing you difficulties, there's lots that can be done by the talking to your partner or talking to a healthcare professional.
I've heard about sexual self pleasure, sexual self pleasure of being a really good way of trying to break into that vicious cycle as well.
Sort of reengaging with your own body and developing confidence through how you feel when you're, you're having sex with yourself can be a bit of a segueway into kind of fixing it.
Not for everybody, but you know, something else to think about.
Do you think it's different for men and women?
I think it's really important to be aware that it does affect both men and women. It's not sort of isolated to one or the other, but the causes can be different due to our anatomical makeup.
So Lizzie, what would your advice be to somebody who is worried about their libido?
Yeah, so managing stress is a good place to start.
So ways you can do that are, kind of addressing any stresses in your life, but taking regular exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, getting a good amount of sleep if you can.
Mindfulness activities as well can be really helpful.
If you're struggling with your mental health, so if you're suffering from anxiety, depression, seeking support and help and and and stuff with that.
Talking to your partner about how you're feeling actually is really important.
Open up those conversations.
Think as we've said before, if you haven't got the confidence you don't feel quite able to, you can get support to help you both have those conversations.
If you're on medications, it's probably worth having a chat with your GP or going and seeing your pharmacist, 'cause it might be that some of those could be contributing and also talking your to your GP if it's a persistent problem, because there is actually lots that can be done.
They might want to arrange some further tests and they might have some recommendations of treatments that could help you.
Well I think that's really, really valuable advice there and the key message being that you know, if you are noticing a change in your sex drive and it's affecting you, don't suffer in silences.
There are things that can be done, lots of advice around lifestyle there, but also getting it checked out by your GP if it's not getting better