Dr Ronald Bracey explains the reasons men experience loss of libido and the steps they can take to resolve the problem.
Most men don't want to admit that they've lost interest in sex and that their libido has nose dived. But it's not an uncommon scenario for all men, irrespective of age and marital status. There's a wide range of reasons why guys can feel less horny than they used to. Most of the causes are short-term, although physical factors such as lack of testosterone can have an effect.
The first thing to do is check with your GP to see if there are any medical reasons why you may be experiencing a lack of sexual drive. If there are no obvious physical barriers then looking at some of the following issues may provide some answers or shed light on the subject.
Dr Ronald Bracey believes some men are simply putting too much pressure on themselves or expecting too much out of life, often with the result that their interest in sex wanes, or in some cases mysteriously disappears off the radar. But, he says, a serious moment of self-reflection can help sort out the problem.
What is loss of libido?
Dr Bracey believes the problem of libido loss is often confused with impotence. "Erectile dysfunction is due to either psychological or physiological problems, whereas loss of libido is really a lack of interest in sexual activity. It's the same with a lack of interest in eating. No matter how fantastic a meal may be you just wouldn't be interested".
There is a big difference between loss of interest and not physically being able to manage something. "When it comes to libido taking a plunge it can happen to a man regardless of age. It's a scenario often brought about through circumstance rather than the fact that the penis is ceasing to respond".
Myths about ageing
There persists a general opinion that as men get older sexual interest and ability decreases or even expires completely. Dr Bracey isn't so convinced. "Men in their 70s can function very well sexually and produce children", he explains.
Tabloid stories about randy pensioners revisiting the sexual arena after the introduction of Viagra is a moot point and an encouraging sign that even very old men can remain horny. Dr Bracey agrees. "Loss of libido often relates to what men are actually using to stimulate themselves, rather than reaching a particular age".
Relationships and maintaining sexual interest
Tom, 38, has been with his girlfriend for over 12 years and admits that sex has sometimes felt like a chore, almost a duty to fulfil. He gradually lost the urge and often has turned to porn to arouse interest.
"It's not just me that feels like this but her as well. I'm not sure how anyone is supposed to keep up physical passion for a partner, in the same way you did when you first met. I did feel that I had to make love regularly in order to maintain the relationship. Luckily she isn't so demanding and expects sex often and that's taken off pressure. But I still feel that there's something wrong that I should be keen and doing it more often".
Dr Bracey agrees that with long term relationships there can be issues when it comes to sustaining sexual interest.
"You've got to work at it to make things happen. The problem is that people get used to familiar routines, even get bored and take things for granted. So the novelty factor, thinking of surprising things, can help a great deal. There's also the issue about keeping physically fit and well as you get older. If that isn't happening then you're going to have problems showing an interest in sex and enjoying it. Physical health is important in order to enjoy a reasonably fulfilling sex life".
We're bombarded by images of fit, good looking people in the media and so perhaps it's understandable when men begin to feel that they're a head-turning Adonis.
Dr Bracey reiterates his point about how keeping fit and healthy certainly has links with whether a man feels attractive enough to be having sex, particularly with a stranger: "A friend of mine said 'Thank God that I don't have any full length mirrors any more'. I checked out the theory and found he was right. Guys can become very self-conscious about themselves. Obsessing about the way their bodies look is bound to have an effect on confidence and the libido. In reality their partner may not be bothered at all and just simply want to make love and be close".
In other words, get over the fact that you've got love handles and no longer a washboard stomach and start enjoying sex in your older skin either that or pull on some jogging gear and get down to the gym.
Non stimulating stimulants
Despite Shakespeare's reference (in Macbeth) to the vagaries of alcohol "stimulating the drive but taking away the performance", the truth is that knocking back buckets of the amber nectar isn't the best way to maintain your sex drive.
Equally the same can be applied to a variety of recreational drugs that some men fail to realise not only interfere with performance but can also cause short-term or long-term depression, which in itself is a blow to the libido.
It's a well founded medical fact that anxiety contributes to poor sexual performance and impotence. Feeling anxious and stressed out is a major reason why men can lose interest in carnal matters. Interestingly, a well-earned break from the environment causing such problems can make a difference in the bedroom department.
"Men often find that when they're on holiday and can let go of things and have a good time, they find that their libido returns to a normal level. Once they return to work or a stressful lifestyle the same problems can crop up again. But at least they'll know what the problem really is and should work towards getting away from it all on a regular basis".
If work or home life is stressing you out and acting as a passion killer, try to book a dirty weekend now and then. A relaxing place, chilling out over a bottle of wine helps stir the romantic juices. Dr Bracey believes a romantic break, no matter how brief, is one way to jump-start the hormones and help maintain a relationship.
Change of lifestyle
Rather tellingly a loss of libido, according to Dr Bracey, may be a warning sign that your lifestyle might not be as healthy as it should. "It could be that you're neglecting yourself physically or slipping into depression or that maybe it's time to look at the kind of work you're doing that causes such a situation in the first place?"
The worst scenario is that you may even realise that the relationship isn't working. "It might be a case that you're bored with the person you're with, that things really aren't working anymore and you need to move on."
For some, such a tough decision may be too high a price to pay, even for an exciting sex life. "The warning sign is telling you that something is wrong so you need to at least reflect what is going on if not go further and get some problem solving done."
Dr Bracey first recommends a visit to your GP to check possible underlying causes such as blood pressure, testosterone and sugar levels that can all relate to sexual performance.
If it's then found to be case of issues within a relationship that is causing libido problems Dr Bracey advises talking about the situation before seeking the help of therapists who can be provided through your GP.
"If you can discuss with your partner what you can do together, what's actually behind the problem and how you can initiate changes, then that's a better route than jumping into a heavier situation with a therapist. So it's a worthwhile venture to do a bit of self-reflection about your lifestyle and the kind of work you do that may be contributing to feeling this way. Even talking to friends and work colleagues about issues at work can help".
Be happy, don't lose perspective
What is most important is to understand that sex is not a competition or a benchmark for manhood. Not everyone has a high sex drive and sexual activity in relationships differs from person to person, couple to couple. The main thing is not to get hung up about not feeling like a rampant bull 24/7.
"Statistics imply that, for long term relationships, (having sex) a couple of times a month is normal" says Dr Bracey.
"But remember the word 'normal' can't really be applied with any human activity. It's what you're happy with really that's what counts. Don't lose perspective because of what you're being told is the way to be by the media or lifestyle magazines".