Feel like your sex drive isn’t quite as strong as it should be? You’re not alone. Data from a 2008 representative study indicates that as many as 26.7 percent of premenopausal women and 52.4 percent of menopausal women may have a low level of sexual desire.
While there’s no “ideal” level of sexual desire for everyone — we’re all different, after all — if you feel like you’re not as interested in sex as you should be, it’s often worth taking action.
From lifestyle changes to medications, there are a variety of steps that you can take to increase your level of interested in sex. We’ve listed these below, along with the science behind each of the most popular options.
Read just about any news article about sex and it’s easy to feel like you’re either having way too much sex or way too little.
According to Goop, 72 percent of women feel like they should have sex more. Balance takes a slightly different approach, simplifying sex drive to a series of multiple choice questions that correspond to a “strong” of “flat-lining” libido.
As for The Sun, they quote a study that gives age-based brackets, with 112 times a year (about twice a week) a good target for 18-29 year olds and approximately 86 times a year the average for people in their 30s.
There are several problems with these articles, as well as the perception they create. The first is that they largely rely on self-reported data from informal surveys, which are usually not a reliable source of information.
The second is that they create a false perception that there’s such thing as a “normal” sex drive for every woman — an idea that doesn’t really match up with the science.
The reality is that your sex drive naturally fluctuates in response to a variety of events, from the status of your sexual relationships to your overall health. It’s totally normal to not always feel “in the mood,” even if your partner might feel like having sex.
In short, there’s no exact number that makes your sex drive low, high or normal. However, if you persistently feel disinterested in sex and it’s starting to make you feel distressed, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).
HSDD is a relatively condition believed to affect about one in every 10 women.
Clinically, it’s defined as “the absence of sexual fantasies and thoughts, and/or desire for or receptivity to, sexual activity that causes the personal distress or difficulties” in a woman’s relationship.
We’ve covered the basics of it in more detail here, as well as the treatment options that are currently available.
If you don’t think that you have HSDD but want to increase your sex drive, there are a variety of changes that you can make to your life. We’ve listed these below, along with the scientific data behind each one.
Stress is one of the causes of a reduced sex drive, affecting you both physically and psychologically.
In a study from 2006, researchers from the Institute for Family Research and Counseling at the University of Fribourg found that internal daily stress is often associated with sexual problems in women, including sexual aversion and hypoactive sexual desire.
A separate study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine noted that high levels of chronic stress are associated with lower levels of genital sexual arousal.
In short, stress isn’t good for your sex life. It’s also alarmingly common. According to the 2017 Stress in America survey, three in every four American adults have experienced at least one stress symptom in the last month.
Luckily, there are several steps that you can take to lower your levels of stress. One is to give yourself an outlet to reduce stress, such as yoga, which may lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Another good option is exercise, which produces endorphins that can improve your mood and lower the severity of some stress-related symptoms.
Since sources of stress can vary between people, it’s important to identify the key factors that make you feel stressed and take action to treat them specifically. The Centers for Disease Control has a list of tactics that you can employ to deal with common sources of stress.
Unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking excessively can harm your sex drive, causing you to feel less interested in sex than normal.
Although many people anecdotally report feeling a stronger desire for sex after drinking alcohol, a 1995 study found that heavy consumption of alcohol is associated with a higher risk of sexual dysfunction in women.
Another study from 2016 found that people’s sexual experiences were generally less positive on drinking than sober occasions.
Likewise, smoking may reduce feelings of arousal by affecting blood flow and increasing feelings of anxiety and tension.
While there’s no need to completely avoid things like alcohol, taking steps to either drop or limit certain unhealthy habits may help to improve both your sex drive and your general quality of life and health.
If you’re in a relationship and don’t feel as interested in sex as you’d like to, it could stem from poor communication with your partner.
While it’s okay to keep some aspects of your sexual desires private from your partner, clear and open communication can make sex far more enjoyable, strengthening your connection with your partner and potentially increasing your level of interest in sex.
Talking openly with your partner may also help to get rid of stress and anxiety about your sexual relationship.
The American Sexual Health Association lists several things to discuss with your partner for an open and honest sexual connection:
While having this conversation with your partner can feel awkward at first, being open with each other about your sexual desires and expectations can help you forge a stronger connection and enjoy a better sex life.
It’s normal for your sex drive to ebb and flow throughout your relationship, especially if you and your partner have been together for a long time.
If you’ve noticed your interest in sex declining, try taking steps to improve your relationship with your partner.
This could be as simple as spending more time together throughout the day, or just letting your partner know how much you care about them. It could mean setting aside more time for nights out together, or simply being closer and more open with each other when at home.
Research shows that relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction are closely linked. If you find your sex drive lagging behind your partner at the same time as your relationship, there’s a real possibility that solving one problem could also help with the other.
Talking with a sex therapist can also help you overcome issues that may be affecting your level of interest in sex.
If you’re in a relationship, meeting with a sex therapist or counselor with your partner may help you overcome issues that are holding back your ability to enjoy sex together, or causing you to feel less interested in sex than normal.
Based on your needs and expectations, the sex therapist or counselor might provide exercises that you can do with your partner, counseling to help you deal with the main cause of your low sex drive, prescribe certain medications or refer you to a specialist for further assistance.
Considering sex therapy? Our guide to when to see a sex therapist goes into more detail about what happens during sex therapy, as well as when it’s worth considering as a treatment option.
We mentioned above that exercise can indirectly increase your sex drive by helping you reduce feelings of stress.
Beyond reducing your stress levels, exercise also has several other benefits that can potentially strengthen your sex drive.
First, regular exercise can improve your body image. As this Psychology Today article explains, having a negative body image can reduce your sexual self-esteem, causing you to feel anxiety about sex and actively avoid sexual activity.
Second, exercise can improve your sexual performance, potentially giving you extra confidence and interest in sex. This 2018 study found that cardiovascular endurance — a common benefit of regular exercise — is linked to increased arousal in women.
Third, certain forms of exercise are linked to improved sexual function. For example, this 2010 study found that 12 weeks of regular yoga resulted in improved sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, lubrication and satisfaction for the women who participated.
If you’re unsatisfied with your libido and don’t exercise, there’s no need to add marathon-style training to your daily routine. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate physical activity per week is a good general exercise target.
Sometimes, a low sex drive can be caused by hormonal issues, such as changes in the amount of estrogen or progestin hormones your body produces.
A lower-than-normal sex drive can also stem from fluctuations in your body’s production of the hormone testosterone (yes, women also need a certain amount of testosterone), which may be linked to your sexual desire and function.
When your levels of certain hormones fluctuate, it’s normal for your sex drive to either increase or decrease in response to these changes.
Changes in hormone production can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, simply feeling stressed can result in hormonal fluctuations. For example, psychological stress may aggravate the natural fluctuations in estrogen production that can occur throughout your menstrual cycle.
Stress is also linked to fluctuations in other hormones, including those responsible for managing your brain activity, metabolism and reproductive function.
Detecting a hormone imbalance is a simple process. If your healthcare provider believes that hormones are causing you to feel less interested in sex than normal, they may ask you to take a blood test to check your levels of certain hormones.
Based on the outcome of your test, they may recommend making changes to your lifestyle or using medication to keep your levels of certain hormones within a healthy range for a stronger sex drive and better overall health.
Sometimes, using certain prescription medications can cause you to feel less interested in sex than you normally are. For example, many SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) that are used to treat depression can weaken your sex drive.
Certain SSRI medications can also affect your sexual performance, meaning that even if you’re still interested in having sex, you might find it more difficult to feel aroused or reach orgasm. Some research has shown that around 42 percent of women taking SSRIs have issues climaxing.
If you currently use an SSRI medication and feel like your sex drive isn’t as strong as it used to be, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.. Depending on your symptoms and the type of medication you use, your healthcare provider may recommend adjusting your dose or switching to a different drug.
Other medications that can affect your sex drive include anti-anxiety drugs, including diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax). Other non-SSRI antidepressants, such as SNRIs and MAOIs, have also been linked to changes in sexual desire and function.
If you use hormonal birth control, such as the birth control pill, it may have some effects on your sex drive — though the research is mixed. We’ve covered this in more detail in our guide to the relationship between birth control and your libido.
If you’ve recently started using a medication that you think may affect your sex drive, don’t stop taking it or adjust the dosage by yourself. Instead, talk to your healthcare provider for more information about what you can do to reduce or manage any sexual side effects.
Visit your local health store or search on Amazon and you’ll find countless health supplements promising to strengthen your libido.
Many of these products are marketed using claims that they can significantly increase your sex drive, often in very little time. However, the ingredients used in most of these products generally aren’t backed up by solid science, and none of the products are regulated by the FDA.
Certain female libido supplements, such as DHEA, are associated with potential improvements in sex drive, but can also cause unpleasant side effects such as pattern hair growth, acne, oily skin and a range of drug interactions.
Additionally, while the research for DHEA is promising, there needs to be more thorough work done to figure out if the connection is legitimate. DHEA is NOT approved for use in patients with certain types of cancers.
In general, it’s best to be cautious if you’re considering female libido supplements as a way to improve your sex drive. If you spot something that looks promising, it’s best to talk about it with your healthcare provider before adding it to your routine.
Every person’s sex drive is different, meaning there’s no such thing as a “normal” sex drive for everyone. However, if you feel unhappy with your level of interest in sex, it’s often worth taking steps to increase your sex drive and enjoy a more fulfilling sex life.
If you have a persistently low level of interest in sex, this could mean talking to a healthcare provider about treatments for HSDD. If you don’t think you have HSDD but simply want to have a higher level of interest in sex, you can try some of the tactics listed above.
Finally, if your sex drive (or lack thereof) is causing issues in your relationship, read our guides to mismatched libidos for the lower desire or higher desire partner, both of which contain useful information that you can use to strengthen your sexual connection with your partner.