5 Surprising Sex Drive Killers

By

Iliades, Chris, MD

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How to Talk With Your Doctor About Sex

Many people are reluctant to talk with their doctor about sex. But an honest conversation is the first step in finding treatment for sexual issues.
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What About Sex?

Your desire for sex can be affected by many different things. A low testosterone level is one of the most common. In fact, the first clue that you have low testosterone could be a loss in sex drive. Testosterone is the main male sex hormone. One of its most important jobs is to keep you (men and women) interested in having sex. But there are other causes of low sex drive that may surprise you.

1. Common Prescription Drugs

Certain medicines can be sex drive killers for both men and women. If you are on any of the following drugs and feel that your interest in sex isn't what it used to be, talk with your health care provider. But don’t stop any medication without first checking with him or her.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Health care providers often prescribe these drugs to treat depression and various other medical conditions. A reduced sex drive is one of the sexual side effects linked to SSRIs.

  • Statins. These drugs treat high cholesterol. They can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. Both men and women taking a statin can have trouble reaching an orgasm. This may be because both male and female hormones are made from cholesterol.

  • High blood pressure drugs. These medicines can decrease sexual arousal in a variety of ways. In fact, nearly all classes of blood-pressure–lowering drugs can have sex-related side effects. But high blood pressure itself is also a risk factor for low sex drive.

2. High Blood Pressure

For sexual arousal and sexual function, you need a good supply of blood to your genital area. However, high blood pressure can decrease blood flow to the penis and the vagina, dampening your desire. In women, high blood pressure can lead to vaginal dryness, which can make sexual intercourse painful. In men, too little blood flow to the penis can cause ED. About 30% of people with high blood pressure complain of ED. ED may be an early warning of cardiovascular disease. 

3. Obesity

Being overweight can sap your energy and make you feel less attractive. Both are bad for a healthy sex life. Obesity can be especially bad for men. That's because of the link between low testosterone, ED, and obesity. The good news is that losing weight can help reverse these effects. Talk with your health care provider if you’ve been trying to lose weight and your efforts are not working.

4. Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing in short spurts many times during the night. You probably snore loudly, too. As a result, you're often tired during the day. That can kill sex drive. Sleep apnea has also been linked to ED. However, lack of sleep for any reason may cause a drop in your testosterone. A study at the University of Chicago found that limiting young, healthy men to five hours of sleep a night for just one week could drop testosterone levels by up to 15%.

5. Drug Use

The nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels. This limits blood flow to your genitals. Like high blood pressure, constricted blood vessels limits sexual arousal. Too much alcohol is a sexual downer, too. If you want a healthy sex drive, also watch out for:

  • Marijuana. With long-term use, the active ingredient in marijuana builds up in your testicles. This can reduce both testosterone and sexual desire.

  • Anabolic steroids. People sometimes use these man-made hormones to build muscle. The problem for men is that your brain thinks these steroids are testosterone. It then shuts down testosterone production in your testicles. This can lead to big muscles, along with shrunken testicles and low sexual desire.

Key Takeaways

  • Low testosterone is a common sex drive killer.

  • Several commonly prescribed drugs may also decrease your sex drive.

  • High blood pressure, obesity, and sleep apnea are all common conditions that have been linked to low testosterone and ED.

  • Be aware that substances ranging from cigarettes to anabolic steroids can interfere with your sex drive.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Mar 25, 2016

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Medical References

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  2. Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. JAMA Network. (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1029127);
  3. Erectile Dysfunction: Overview, Cleveland Clinic. (http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Erectile_Disorder_impotence/hic_Erectile_Dysfunction_Overvie...;
  4.  7 Meds That can Wreck Your Sex Life, AARP. (http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-04-2012/medications-that-can-cause-sexual-dysfunct...;
  5. How do SSRIs cause sexual dysfunction? Evidence-Based Reviews. (http://www.currentpsychiatry.com/index.php?id=22661&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=175540);
  6. High blood pressure can affects your sex life, says the Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Health Publications. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/high_blood_pressure_and_sex);
  7. Obesity takes an extra toll on men’s health and sexuality, from Harvard Men’s Health Watch, Harvard Health Publications. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/obesity-takes-an-extra-toll-on-mens-health-and-sexualit...;
  8. New insights into hypertension-associated erectile dysfunction, Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22240443);
  9. Low Testosterone, NIH. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/lowtestosterone/ur189103.pdf);
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  11. Testosterone, Society for Endocrinology. (http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/testosterone.aspx);

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