Not Tonight, Dear: Low Libido and Aging
If your partner has lost interest in sex, it may not be about you at all. Learn more about the possible causes and treatments.

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Picture of woman sleeping Not Tonight, Dear: Low Libido and Aging

A reduced sex drive, also known as low libido, is a common sexual complaint, especially as people age. Couples who have been together for years may become bored with the sameness of their relationship. Physical changes related to aging may factor in as well. But uneven sexual desire is normal and is bound to happen sometimes in older couples.If your mate shows less interest than before, don't assume something is wrong with you.

Keep in mind, too, that a lack of sexual desire is a problem only if it bothers you or your partner. There are many other ways to be intimate with each other besides sexual activities.

What's love got to do with it?
Love often has little to do with low libido. Don't blame yourself if your mate has lost interest. Age is seldom the sole cause of waning sexual interest.

Hormonal changes related to menopause can make intercourse less enjoyable when the vagina loses its moisture and stretchiness. Aging men may become less interested in sex as their bodies produce less testosterone. Men may also have more trouble getting or maintaining an erection.

Other factors that can diminish sex drive are:

  • Poor health. It's normal to lose interest in sex when you're ill. You may be tired, in pain, or just not feeling well. You may also have too many medical worries on your mind. Once you are feeling better, sexual interest may return.
  • Emotional issues. A loss of desire can be a sign of depression or anxiety. Financial stress, physical problems, or the deaths of people close to you can affect your mood.
  • Performance anxiety. You or your mate may avoid sex because of performance problems related to age. Impotence can cause embarrassment. Vaginal dryness can cause pain.
  • Hormones. A woman's testosterone level affects sex drive. At age 50, the level of this hormone is half what it was at age 25. Shifting hormone levels affect men, too, but at a later age.
  • Body image. Wrinkles, gray hair, extra pounds, and other signs of aging can make you feel less attractive. If you don't view yourself as desirable, your sexual interest may start to decline.
  • Biological causes. Diseases of the adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid glands can affect sex drive. Chronic kidney failure, Parkinson's disease, head injury, hepatitis, and stroke can lower your sex drive. So can drugs for treating cancer, heartburn, depression, and anxiety.

Some like it hot: getting help
Either partner can feel pressured by the other's greater sexual needs. Talk about the problem together. Don't try to mind-read. For instance, don't just assume that your mate finds you unattractive.

A doctor or counselor can help you resolve many causes of low libido. He or she may try:

  • Changing a medication or its dosage
  • Treating sexual problems, such as impotence or vaginal dryness
  • Treating a disease that affects your sex drive
  • Individual counseling for depression or anxiety
  • Couples counseling for relationship issues
  • Sex therapy to improve communication or teach you new techniques to please each other

You're never too old to rekindle passion and closeness with someone you love.

By Eve Glicksman, Staff Writer
Created on 07/02/2007
Updated on 05/13/2011
Sources:
  • American Psychological Association. Sexual issues and aging within the context of work with older adult patients.
  • Ludovic Phanjoo A. Sexual dysfunction in old age. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2000;6:270-277.
  • American Psychological Association. Treatment for sexual problems.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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