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How Stress Can Lead to Low Libido

The Link Between Stress and Low Libido

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Updated January 18, 2012

How Stress Can Lead to Low Libido

Stress can dampen your libido, but there are steps you can take to bring back a healthy sexual appetite.

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Stress in your life can lead to low libido. You may have already instinctively felt this, but studies prove that general stressors in your life can impact your sex drive. That means job stress, financial stress, the stress of being too busy, and especially relationship stress can negatively impact your libido, possibly causing stress in yet another area of your life.

Stress can affect your libido for several reasons. Here are a few:

Stress Response and Low Libido

When you react to stress, your body goes through a series of changes in order to prepare you to run away or stay and fight, called your fight or flight response. Part of this response is the release of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (or adrenaline). If your stress response isn’t reversed, it can contribute to a condition known as chronic stress, and can also interfere with the hormones involved in your sexual response. The result can be low libido.

Solution: If you suspect that life stress is putting a damper on your libido, one of the first solutions you should consider is stress management. If you reverse your stress response using effective stress relievers like breathing techniques or meditation, you won’t have as much hormonal upset from chronic stress. You should also consider specific strategies for dealing with the stress in other areas of your life, so that they aren’t having an impact on your sex drive.

Busy Lifestyles and Low Libido

Many of us find ourselves busier than we ever thought possible. Especially for women, juggling multiple responsibilities of parenting, jobs, and keeping the household afloat can lead to an absolutely packed schedule. How can lead to low libido? Being constantly busy means having little down time, which can be an energy drain and a drain on your sex drive. A busy schedule can mean a busy mind — and having a lot on your mind can make it difficult to relax and "get in the mood," especially for women. A busy schedule can even present difficulties in finding the time for sex, or make it feel like just one more thing on your mile-long "to-do list." All of these factors can contribute to a lower libido.

Solution: The obvious solution here is to try to be less busy. This can be easier said than done, however. Busy people, especially busy moms, need to make difficult decisions in cutting activities out of the schedule and getting better at saying no to some things, so they can say yes to what’s most important.

Relationship Stress and Low Libido

Relationship issues are perhaps the biggest issue to look at when dealing with low libido. Studies show that relationship stress— stress due to conflict within the relationship and other factors inside the relationship can be a stronger factor in low libido than other types of stress. This is true for both men and women. And because men and women both say that their partner’s satisfaction impacts their own libido, a lack of interest in one partner can mean a lack of interest for both partners. Low libido itself can be part of a conflicted dynamic that can lead to -- you guessed it -- more problems with low libido! Studies also show that "positive touch" by a partner can have a soothing effect on women and help a woman feel more resilient toward stress, so losing this stress buffer can be another turn in a downward spiral of stress and low libido. Because relationship conflict can cause stress, lead to more circumstances that cause stress, and deprive you of stress-buffering effects as well, relationship difficulties are important to work through for the sake of your stress life.

Solution: Working through relationship difficulties is important for many reasons, and your sex drive is a big one. The first step here should be to make sure you’re using communication techniques that are fair and supportive of your relationship (good listening skills, assertive—not aggressive—communication, etc.) Try to view problems as challenges you face together rather than seeing one another as "the enemy." Try to find strategies that support the needs of both partners. If you have difficulty doing this on your own, seeing a therapist who can help you develop more effective relationship skills and work through some deeper issues can be an excellent idea as well. A good sex therapist deals with relationship issues between the couple and can also help you check hormone levels and other physical factors that could potentially cause or contribute to problems with your sexual relationship as well.

See the resources below for more on stress and your sex life, and for information on healthy sexuality and overall stress management.

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Sources:
Bodenmann G, Ledermann T, Blattner D, Galluzzo C. Associations among everyday stress, critical life events, and sexual problems. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, July 2006.
Corona G, Petrone L, Mannucci E, Ricca V, Balercia G, Giommi R, Forti G, Maggi M. The impotent couple: low desire. International Journal of Andrology, December 2005.
Ditzen B, Neumann ID, Bodenmann G, von Dawans B, Turner RA, Ehlert U, Heinrichs M. Effects of different kinds of couple interaction on cortisol and heart rate responses to stress in women. Psychoneuroendocrinology., January 2007.
Eplov L, Giraldi A, Davidsen M, Garde K, Kamper-Jørgensen F. Sexual desire in a nationally representative Danish population. Journal of Sexual Medicine, January 2007.

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