There is no absolute right level of sexual desire to have. Dr Joe Kosterich talks about libido (which is the interest or desire in sex), problems with libido in intimate relationships, and things that affect libido.

Sex is an interesting topic because, not surprisingly, everybody has an opinion and there’s no absolute right or wrong about it. In other words, there is no absolute right level of sexual desire to have. Some people may want to have sex three times a day; others may be more comfortable at three times a year. If it works for the individual couple, then that’s fine. Where there can be an issue is if one partner does want it three times a day and the other feels more like three times a year – doesn’t make one person right or wrong but it creates a mismatch.

When we are talking about problems with libido, we are generally talking about relationship-type issues. So what constitutes a low libido, or a problem with a libido, will be very much determined by two people and will be necessarily quite different. In general terms, there are some factors that affect libido and the biggest one is stress. If we take things back historically and look at nature, the purpose of sex is reproduction. In times of stress – when there may not be enough food or other problems – it’s not necessarily the time that the herd wants to introduce new mouths to feed. The same applies to humans. Today, most of us are not necessarily threatened by predators but the body still reacts to stress in the same way, so when we are under stress, our interest and desire for sex is going to be reduced. If your mind is preoccupied with bills, work, problems with the kids or other members of the family, it is going to lower your desire and that should not come as a surprise.

If you, women in particular, are tired, by the time you go to bed guess what you’re going to want to do: you’re going to want to sleep. Maybe you have been up since 6 o’clock in the morning, running around at work, doing things for the family, on the computer at night-time, going to bed at 11 o’clock and if you’ve been doing that for a while, you’re going to be tired. The last thing you’re probably going to feel like doing is having sex. This doesn’t constitute a disease – it’s a response to what’s going on around you.

The other elephant in the room is that sometimes if there are issues in the relationship they will also play out in the bedroom. There is an old adage that says problems in the bedroom generally have their genesis outside of the bedroom and that often that is very much the case.

One thing that is very important is that low libido is not in itself a disease. At the moment there is a search going on for a tablet to try and do for female libido what various medications have done for erection issues in males. However the two are not comparable, because the tablets for males do not actually affect libido or desire; if somebody wants to have sex it may enable them to do it but it doesn’t make them feel like they want to. Libido is actually the wanting to have sex rather than the capacity or capability to do so – two completely different things.

So what can we do to improve libido? Obvious things like dealing with stress. It’s maybe simpler said than done, but it doesn’t take it away from probably being the number one issue. Number two, making sure that you are getting enough sleep. This is really basic but important. Weight can be a factor and if you are overweight, that can also impact on libido as can general fitness. People who exercise and are fairly active may often have a more active sex life as well.

So concentrate on the basics. There are some simple things that can help like mood enhancers, and there are a variety of these from candle-lit dinners, through to light, nice music. Also there is a whole industry that has sprung up around various forms of stimulants and things that you can do to try and improve desire for sex – these sorts of things can be played around with according to what works for you and what you’re comfortable doing.

To sum up, at the end of the day – sex is a normal part of life. How often, or not often, individual people may feel like doing it is going to be as different as there are numbers of different people. Where there can be a problem is when there is a mismatch within a relationship and that’s where it’s very important to look first and foremost at what’s going on in the relationship and, if need be, work through that. Also focus on the things we spoke about above which are sleep, good eating patterns, regular exercise and managing stress. After all of that, there is a little bit of playing around at the edges which you can do with forms of enhancers and that’s going to be appropriate to what you feel works for you. So don’t add to your stress by stressing about your libido. Just look at what you need to do and if you do feel that you want to change it then there are some simple things that you can do.

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