Have you ever been curled up with your partner on the couch, felt them playfully move their hand up your thigh, and thought “hubba hubba! yes please!”, while your body responds with “ehhh...no thanks, try again later, pal.”
Yup, same. Well, maybe not hubba hubba, that language feels dated? But you get my point.
These moments can sometimes feel awkward, frustrating or disappointing, and may leave you wondering why no stimulating activity, from mellow massages to steamy smooches, can help you get in the mood. This lack of sex drive could be due to a low libido, and may stem from an array of causes, including mental health-related issues. In fact, research cited in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry notes that approximately 40 percent of women with a sexual disorder experience depression. The American Family Physician also conducted research, studying 14,000 individuals, and found that being diagnosed with depression carries a 50-70% risk of developing sexual dysfunction. So essentially, if you’re experiencing a low libido and are already prone to depression, there is a good chance they’re linked.
Depression and a low libido can both be triggered by everyday lifestyle factors. Big life changes, positive or negative, can increase stress, along with substance abuse issues, relationship struggles, and unhealthy exercise and dietary habits. Certain antidepressants can also have negative side effects, and could subsequently cause a low libido, erectile dysfunction, or vaginal dryness.
Another thing depression and a low libido have in common? With the risk of sounding like a bad PBS special, they are not your fault (worth the risk, by the way, because this truly cannot be overstated). While experiencing a low libido can feel confusing and crummy, it’s important to remember that you’re still a vivacious, sexual being! A low libido doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy great sex-- it just means you may need to take a few extra steps to get there (and, as you can see from the statistics, you’re certainly not the only one. We’re in this together, friends).
If you think your mental health may be affecting your sex drive, fear not! There are lifestyle changes you can make that may help increase your sex drive and overall health. Seeing a therapist, participating in daily exercise, eating healthy and engaging in daily meditation are positive steps towards optimal mental and physical health. If you’re using antidepressants, talk to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing and see if they can potentially lower your dose or recommend a different type of medication. If your current medication is working well and you’re not looking for other options, you could also try having sex before taking your daily pill (who doesn’t love some dreamy morning sex before putting on their glasses?) and creating a dosage schedule that cooperates with your sex schedule. Because scheduling is sexy if it helps you get off, right?
And perhaps the most important actions of all-- communicate and be honest with your partner. While this can be an uncomfortable topic, talking about your feelings will decrease the pressure and stress around your relationship. If your partner is worthy of your time, they will be understanding, kind, and work with you so you both feel emotionally and physically satisfied. While it might not happen right away-- Rome and Earth-shattering orgasms were not built in a day, people-- feeling supported and understood will benefit your overall sex life greatly in the long run.