How to treat low libido

How to treat low libido
There are lots of reasons why your sex drive might go down, especially as you get older. Monica Karpinski explores your options for overcoming low libido
Right, let’s get this out of the way first—there’s no “quick fix” for low libido.
That’s because there are a million and one things that can influence whether we want sex. Maybe your partner is getting on your last nerve, for example, or perhaps your mental health hasn’t been great lately?
Unfortunately, there’s no pill we can take to magically clear all of that up. 
"There are a million and one things that can influence whether we want sex"
But the good news is that if your libido is upsetting you, there are evidence-based treatments that can help. An effective treatment will address the root cause of your troubles, which a doctor or sex therapist can help you get to the bottom of. 
The bad news is that these can get lost in the sea of off-the-shelf products that promise the world but essentially don’t work. There’s no good evidence that herbs or supplements can help with sex drive, for example. 
We called in the experts, consultant gynaecologist and psychosexual therapist, Dr Leila Frodsham and psychosexual therapist, Tracey Cooke, to shed light on which libido treatments can be trusted. 

Sex therapy 

If your drop in libido is down to psychological rather than physical reasons, then sex therapy is generally the recommended route. 
It’s based on a dual model of counselling plus behavioural exercises and aims to help you work through the issues affecting your sex drive. 
“That’s looking at relationship issues but also a person’s family background,” says Cooke. “What were their models of a healthy sexual relationship or how did they learn about sex?”
There may also be a mismatch in desire between partners or attitudes towards sex that could be holding someone back, she adds. 
Sex therapy has been around since the 1950s and, per the NHS, can help with a range of sexual problems—from a lack of desire to difficulty reaching climax
You can find qualified sex therapists on the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT) register. 
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Sensual touching 

Sensual touching, without the expectation of sex, can help restore intimacy between you and your partner
One technique that Cooke often works with is sensate focus, which is a structured programme of gradually increasing the amount of sensual touching between partners. 
This can help to “reset the balance” between couples who don’t feel they’re on the same page sexually, she says. “We would look at everyone coming forward a little bit more, trusting the other person and feeling a bit more secure in the relationship.” 
The idea is that you focus on the feeling of touch in that moment, so that you can “reset” your attitudes and re-learn how to enjoy intimacy together. 
“There is really clear physiological evidence that if you are involved in touch then it releases oxytocin that drives your libido,” says Dr Frodsham. Sometimes called “the love hormone”, oxytocin drives that warm, fuzzy feeling we get from being kissed or cuddled. 
Dr Frodsham often suggests that her patients schedule in some time for just touching every week. “It really enables couples to start talking again,” she says.

Hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) 

For folks going through menopause, hormone replacement therapy might be able to help with libido. 
It works by replenishing low hormone levels, which can have a knock-on effect on our sex drive. Oestrogen can make sex more appealing by boosting mood and treating vaginal dryness, while testosterone can increase sensitivity to touch and arousal. 
"Oestrogen can make sex more appealing by boosting mood and treating vaginal dryness"
Dr Frodsham suggests transdermal body identical HRT, which is the lowest-risk form of HRT, and topical vaginal oestrogen. 
“If you give women topical vaginal oestrogens, then you improve sensitivity, blood flow, and the experience of orgasm,” she says. 
HRT isn’t safe for everyone to take, so do check whether it’s suitable with your doctor.

Sex toys 

Using toys in the bedroom can help boost desire by calming any nerves around sex, says Dr Frodsham. “I suggest that people use a small vibrator or a bullet vibrator. There is really good evidence that if you use a bullet vibrator, it reduces [anxiety around sex].” 
Plus, placing the vibrator around the opening of the vagina can be a gentle way to stimulate the area and trigger arousal, she adds. Toys can also be a way to bring fun and variety into the bedroom, which may well make you more excited about sex. 
But there’s a caveat—toys can sometimes create distance between partners, so it’s important to check in with each other if you’re using them together. “We don’t want to create a barrier,” says Cooke. “But [sex toys] can be a part of their couple sex life, definitely.” 

There are no “bad” libidos 

What counts as a low libido is subjective and only becomes a problem if you are unhappy with how often you feel that you want sex
Libido is a deeply individual thing. That’s why treatments can be so varied and don’t always work for everyone.
A vibrator might make you feel better about sex, for example, but it won’t fix a communication issue with your partner. 
"Something is only a problem if it’s bothering us"
But what’s most important to remember is that how a “good” libido, or even a “good” sex life, looks is totally unique to us. Something is only a problem if it’s bothering us. 
There’s no right or wrong. It’s what works for you,” says Cooke. “You can write your own rules, and you can think about sex however you want.” 
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