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Is it normal not to want sex?

Siski Green / 01 June 2015

There are times when it's natural not to want to get between the sheets with your partner. Find out why.

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Major life events and stress can affect your libido

It can feel as though everyone else is enjoying a healthy sex life while you’re struggling to garner enough desire to even kiss your partner passionately. But there are times when it’s perfectly normal not to want sex. Find out what they are and whether you should try to do something about it.

How major life events affect libido 

Sex isn’t just a physical act, it’s an emotional one and so if all your emotional energy is going elsewhere – to thinking about selling your house or moving abroad, or about your daughter or son’s divorce or new career, or even problems at work or with the neighbours – you’ll have nothing left to create sexual desire. 

But, rather than adding to the pressure you’re under, try not to worry about your lack of desire at this time. Instead, give yourself a break and get through the life milestone you’re experiencing. 

Explain what you’re going through to your partner and make sure he or she is on board. But try not to get into the habit of avoiding sex. Give yourself a timeline and make a genuine effort to relight the fire once you’re through the emotional turmoil of whatever life event you’re experiencing.

Hormonal fluctations and desire

Your hormones play a huge part in creating and negating sexual desire. If your hormones are out of whack it might not matter how hot your partner is looking or how sensuous their kisses are, you may well find yourself unable to get aroused. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’ve enjoyed a vigorous sex life beforehand. 

If you suspect this is the case, see your GP. You can have your hormones checked for imbalances and may be offered hormone replacements which could help resolve the problem. 

You can also try balancing your hormones naturally by eating soy-based products. While there isn’t conclusive evidence that soy raises oestrogen levels, early studies to suggest that it helps. 

Finally, you can try waiting it out. Many women find that once they’ve been through menopause and their hormones have settled down, sexual desire returns. 

Illness and sex

Long-term and debilitating illnesses have a marked effect on a person’s libido. But it’s not just the person with the disease that suffers from this – a partner to someone with cancer or chronic heart disease may also find that desire fades as they find themselves nursing or caring rather than simply enjoying the company of their partner. 

Some illnesses also include treatment that has such a dramatic effect on the body that energy levels impact sexual desire, such as chemotherapy for cancer, for example. 

Other illnesses such as chronic heart disease may require surgery and this can affect both partners’ feelings about sex, since they may worry about how sex might adversely affect the condition. These feelings are natural but it’s important to talk about them to your or your partner’s GP and your partner. 

More often than not, sex is absolutely fine to enjoy even after an operation or medical treatment – in fact, it can be a boost to health. So it’s important to get more information. 

If sex is off the cards for a period of time, find other ways to be close. Skin-on-skin contact through cuddling triggers the release of oxytocin, the ‘bonding’ hormone’ and also serotonin, which makes you feel good, so regardless of whether you want sex or not, it’s important to maintain or even increase the amount of physical contact you have in this way. 

Sex and libido

This is nothing to worry about and your sexual desire will mostly reappear once you’re fully rested again. 

But if your low energy levels are long-term, it’s time to see your GP. They can assess you for illnesses that can trigger low energy levels and if you’re diagnosed with something like hypothyroidism, for example, they can talk to you through possible treatments which will also help bring back energy for sex.

Medications and desire

While certain anti-depressants are well known for lowering libido in some individuals, this phenomenon isn’t confined to just one type of medication. 

Drugs that help lower blood pressure, antihistamines and beta-blockers all have lowered libido listed as a possible side effect. If you’re concerned, check the medical information that comes with your medication. 

While some types of meds, such as tricyclic anti-depressants and SSRIs, for example, are highly associated with lower libido, it’s likely that your GP can find you an alternative that has the same beneficial effect on your overall health while avoiding the lower libido side-effect.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.