Your physical health is a major factor in your libido.
Our physical health includes the more everyday issues, such as our desire being impacted by the changing levels of hormones during our menstrual cycle. Or it could be tied to food and nutrition, or the contraception you’re taking.
Other times, it might be something you’ve been managing longer term- like an illness, condition or trauma that physically affects how you have sex, or how you feel about yourself and your body.
There is huge overlap between our emotional, physical and sexual health and it seems that much of the advice out there relating to physical health problems are also woven in with our emotional health.
However, this can be one of the more difficult categories to address simply because our physical health is sometimes out of our control, and we might need outside medical advice or intervention to assist.
*Note: please do consult your GP or sexual health clinic if you are experiencing issues with your physical health and your sex drive. I am not a medical professional so do take any resources or advice given here with a pinch of salt. Not literally either.*
Physical factors that might influence desire:
The aim of this section isn’t to give an indefinite overview of all physical health conditions that can impact on desire. You know your body best and can decide this for yourself. However, the below may give you some insight and help you start to pinpoint what’s having a detrimental effect on your libido.
- Influence of hormones:
Although a definitive link hasn’t been established between the role of hormones and how they impact on desire, it’s commonly thought that the levels of both are closely tied. Factors that can influence our level of hormones include:
Periods: these can have a HUGE impact on how horny you feel over your cycle. Also, different physical responses to menstruation (e.g. PMT/S, PMDD) can also mean heavy, painful periods so we physically feel we can’t have sex. Or emotional rollercoasters during our cycle mean we really don’t feel like it.
Contraceptives: Contraceptives in general can play havoc with our hormones, and deserve a special category by themselves.
Breast-feeding: this could be the hormones evoked from breastfeeding, or simply just being overstimulated by touch and wanting to be left alone.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Over or under-active thyroid
Medication: many people talk about the side effects of certain medications diminishing their desire. This is commonly linked to anti-depressants, cold medicines (containing anti-histamines), blood pressure tablets, chemotherapy treatments (which often have a “dulling” effect on arousal) or anti-nausea medication.
There are tons of articles about food and libido out there- apparently eating anything from broccoli to drinking “sex coffee” can help you boost your libido. But what is the truth about the link between our diet and desire? Equally important in this category is bloating…. the LEAST sexy feeling ever!
Pain/discomfort during sex:
Any pain or discomfort experienced during penetrative sex is a no-brainer as to why it shuts down your sex drive. Because if sex isn’t pleasurable, it’s not wonder you don’t want it! You might experience pain during any kind of penetration because it’s harder to get aroused and therefore naturally lubricated. Physical changes may have taken place meaning penetrative sex is more difficult or uncomfortable. This might be because of:
- An infection, such as thrush or cystitis
- the menopause
- physical trauma, e.g. after childbirth, surgery, sexual assault, scars
- a termination or miscarriage
- conditions such as endometriosis, vulvodynia,vaginismus, which mean penetration and/or touch can be painful
- conditions such as arthritis, where the movement or activity is painful
- as a result of medications or treatments (e.g. chemotherapy)
Many of these factors also carry an emotional toll, so do check out the section on emotional health and well-being for more.
- Changes in appearance:
This is an important category, and could relate to your general appearance or a more specific area of your body. You could feel unattractive, undesirable, or just learning how to live with a different body or a “new normal”. It’s heavily tied to body confidence and self-esteem so do check out that area too if you think this is having an effect on your desire. Just some of the many changes in appearance could be down to:
STI/STDs: the appearance of symptoms could make you feel self-conscious
Weight gain or loss: this could be a sudden or more gradual change, or linked to something like pregnancy or illness
The result of surgery: for example, removal of sexual organs in a hysterectomy or mastectomy, learning to live with a colostomy bag
As a result of scarring
- As a result of fatigue:
Fatigue can be linked to both lifestyle factors (such as stress and lack of time) as well as physical issues. These might be as a side effect of medication or treatment, conditions such as chronic fatigue, or linked to depression and our mental health.