What Is Human Libido?
Sexual drive or libido is a common topic nowadays. If you search for the word “libido” on Google, you’ll get about 134,000,000 results, but not all sources of information on this topic are accurate.
Despite the popularity of the topic, there is still a lot we don’t know about libido or what to do to improve it for better sex life.
This post aims to change that by providing a detailed insight into your sex drive. Keep scrolling to find out more about libido, factors that influence it, and how to improve it.
Table of Contents [Show]
- What Is Human Libido?
- Myths and facts about your libido
- How male and female libido compare?
- Causes of low libido
- Libido-boosting foods
- Other libido boosting foods
- Tips to boost libido
You hear/read the word libido all the time, but did you ever wonder what it really represents or how does science explain it? Colloquially known as sex drive, libido is a term used by psychoanalytic theory to describe the energy created by the survival and sexual instincts.
The word libido is of Latin origin and translates to desire and lust.
The very first usage of the term libido is traced to Sigmund Freud’s early work in 1894.
Freud defined libido as the “energy, regarded as a quantitative magnitude of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word love”.
To Freud, libido is the instinct energy or force called id, the strictly unconscious structure of the psyche.
According to Freud, libido is associated with a series of developmental phases wherein it is fixated on different erogenous zones:
- Oral stage
- Anal stage
- Phallic stage
- Latency stage
- Genital stage
Although Freud’s theories are widely used today, not everyone was a fan. For example, a Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung theorized that libido is a psychic, not sexual energy.
Myths And Facts About Your Libido
While having a multitude of sources that provide information about libido is a good thing, it is important to bear in mind that not all of them are reliable.
In fact, inaccurate info is the primary reason why myths about sex drive are circulating.
When you believe in false information, you fail to understand your sex drive properly. Therefore, it becomes difficult to work on improving your libido.
The first step we are going to take toward strong and healthy libido is mentioning common myths that you should stop believing.
There Is A Specific Value To What Is Considered Healthy Libido.
Wrong! Sexual drive varies from one person to another. We always tend to use the word “normal” whenever we are describing something related to our health and well-being, but it is such an elastic word.
What is normal for you may not be enough for some other person and vice versa. Scientists explain that your definition of normal libido depends on the baseline i.e. what you consider strong or weak libido.
That is why it is a huge mistake to compare your sex drive to someone else’s. Since we are different people, the strength of our libido varies as well.
Only Old Men And Women Have Low Sex Drive.
Low sex drive depression-and-sad-mood- that’s for old people, right? Not really! While libido does diminish as you age, it doesn’t mean you will have no libido when you get older.
In fact, your sex drive fluctuates throughout your life because it is influenced by many factors. You can be young and still experience poor libido.
Not Feeling Like Having Sex Means A Person Has Low Libido.
This is yet another misconception about your sex drive. Just because you do not really want to have sex with your significant other, it doesn’t mean you have a weak libido.
A relationship between the two people and your dynamic as a couple also shape up your desire to have sex.
For example, when you are mad at your partner and refuse to have sex, it doesn’t necessarily imply something is wrong with your sex drive. It just means you are not in the mood to have intercourse due to the argument.
My Lifestyle Has Nothing To Do With Sex Drive.
False! We are inclined to believe that our sex drive is a part of who we are and external factors do not affect it. Your lifestyle plays a major role in the strength of your libido. Find out more about this topic further in the post.
Once Your Libido Plummets, There Is Nothing You Can Do About It.
How many times have you thought “there’s nothing I can do” about something health-related? You’re not the only one; most of us tend to think that way. As soon as we are experiencing some issue, including sexuality problems, we panic and assume the demise is inevitable.
You will be happy to know that loss of libido is entirely manageable and you can repair it. In fact, options for higher sex drive are numerous; you just have to be proactive and willing to give them a chance.
How Male And Female Libido Compare?
Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, they think, talk, and do some things differently. But, what about our sex drive? Are we different or those claims about men having a higher libido than women are just another myth?
A paper whose findings were published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review showed that across multiple previous studies and measures, men have been shown to have higher and more intense sexual desires than women. Compared to ladies, men score higher in:
- Spontaneous thoughts about sex
- Frequency and variety of sexual fantasies
- Desired frequency of intercourse
- Desired number of partners
- Liking for various sexual practices
- Willingness to forego sex
- Initiating versus refusing sex
- Making sacrifices for sex
According to Edward O. Laumann Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of a major survey of sexual practices The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, male and female libidos are entirely different.
Laumman explains that female libido is extremely sensitive to the environment and context.
On the other hand, men’s sex drives are not only stronger than women’s but more straightforward.
Causes Of Low Libido
As shown above, your libido fluctuates; sometimes it is strong, and your sexual desire is enhanced while in other instances it is not.
In most cases, it is impossible to pinpoint one specific cause of low sex drive.
A combination of different factors plays a role. The most common libido busters are discussed below.
Regardless of the gender, sex drive is deeply associated with hormones in your body. A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that male participants who reported low libido also exhibited low testosterone.
In men, testosterone levels decline as they age, but their lifestyle habits, inflammation, injuries, or even tumors can contribute as well. Other causes of hormonal imbalance in gentlemen include liver cirrhosis or pituitary diseases.
Your liver has the purpose of breaking down estrogen. When it fails to do so, estrogen levels increase while sex drive diminishes. Also, pituitary diseases lower testosterone levels in your body.
Women aren’t the exception from hormone’s influence on sex drive. The Hormones and Behavior featured a study which debunked previous claims that testosterone plays a role in female libido.
And yes, women also have testosterone but in lower amounts than men. Researchers discovered that estrogen is vital for women’s sex drive and could be the key to boosting libido in postmenopausal women.
Estrogen levels fluctuate during pregnancy or menopause and periods in a woman’s life when she is going through major changes. These changes can also lead to weak libido. For example, low estrogen in menopause coupled with frustrating symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes and paired with vaginal dryness and painful intercourse are bound to have an impact on sex drive.
Stress is a major libido buster for both men and women. Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormone cortisol. One study which included women found that participants with higher cortisol levels had lower scores in sexual arousal, desire, and satisfaction. Stress is usually overlooked as people assume it will go away on its own.
When left unresolved, stress levels increase and affect your health and well-being, including sexual health. Chronic stress can interfere with your body’s hormone levels and lead to a weak sex drive.
In men, arteries narrow down and restrict blood flow in response to stress and make you prone to erectile dysfunction. Additionally, stress hinders sex drive by distracting you and taking your mind off sexual desire and sex in general.
The Journal of Family Psychology published a study which found that higher self-reported stress in daily life was connected to lower levels of sexual activity and satisfaction and a decline in relationship satisfaction.
Prescription medications can also lead to lower sex drive, and some of them include:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (Prozac, Zoloft) – While they are prescribed to patients who are struggling with depression to enhance their mood, they can also squash their sex drive
- Tricyclic Antidepressants (Elavil) – They aren’t frequently used with the introduction of SSRIs to the market, but some doctors still prescribe them because they also treat nerve pain associated with shingles
- Birth Control Pills – they cause low sex drive by affecting your hormones
- Proscar – This medication is formulated to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate. The active ingredient of Proscar is finasteride which prevents testosterone from converting into its active form
- Propecia – Just like Proscar, this medication also contains finasteride
- Antihistamines – While most medications on this list are given with prescription, these are in over-the-counter forms. Drugs like Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton can temporarily affect your love life
- Medical Marijuana – Although medical marijuana can help people overcome some diseases and health conditions, it also has a significant negative impact on your libido and ability to perform
- Anti-Seizure Drugs (Tegretol) – Tegretol and other similar medications function by preventing impulses from traveling along the nerve cells, but the problem is that orgasm is similar to a seizure. How? It features a sensory input that triggers a body response. Drugs that are created to decrease nerve impulses can also dampen pleasurable sensations
- Opioids (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet) – They reduce testosterone levels and, thus, affect your libido
- Beta Blockers – While they benefit your heart, they may induce lower sex drive
- Benzodiazepines (Xanax) – These medications are used for anxiety, so it’s not just that they cause low sex drive, patients with severe anxiety also aren’t interested in having sex
Depression is a common problem that affects millions of people in the US and around the globe. Patients who struggle with depression lose interest in everyday activities they used to enjoy, and sex is one of them. It is natural for a depressed person to experience a decline in libido.
According to American Family Physician despite the fact the relationship between depression and libido is unclear, and it is difficult to evaluate the underlying mechanisms, treating one condition usually improves the other as well. It is also important to mention that depression alters the body’s biochemistry, which also has an impact on your sex drive.
All of us struggle with low self-esteem at one point or another. It is difficult to feel sexy when your confidence is low or when you have a negative body image. What you think about yourself has a massive effect on your sex drive.
For instance, men or women who think they are unattractive are less likely to want sex. The same goes for people who are scared of getting rejected, and other cases.
Lack Of Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a major problem nowadays. Just like many other people, you also spend your night’s binge-watching TV shows or Netflix or chatting on your smartphone? Lack of sleep has a negative impact on your health and sex drive.
A study whose findings were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine discovered that longer sleep duration was linked to a greater next-day sexual desire. A separate research evaluated sex drive in men and found that sleep deprivation is a major libido buster due to lower testosterone levels.
Let’s not forget that lack of good night’s rest also increases stress levels, yet another libido killer.
Other Libido Killers
Besides six major libido enemies listed above, many other factors can affect your desire to engage in sexual activity. They are:
- Unresolved Relationship Issues – As seen in myths and facts section, having an argument with someone or being mad can make you want to refuse sex, but it’s not a sign of low libido.
However, if problems in your relationship persist and you don’t manage them, they could lead to loss of interest in sex
- Chronic Illnesses – They affect your sex drive in different ways. Serious chronic illnesses have an impact on your mindset and make you lose interest in various activities including sex. Also, they are major sources of stress.
Pain associated with some conditions can also make sex the last thing on your mind, and let’s not forget that some diseases affect hormones as well
- Natural Aging Process – As we age, our libido starts to decline just like our hormones. But, it doesn’t mean you will lose your sex drive entirely or that you can’t do anything about it
- Lack Of Time – Some people assume there will be time for intercourse at the end of the day, and that’s it. They don’t work to create opportunities for intercourse and don’t even pay attention to it because of busy schedule
- Erectile Dysfunction – This is yet another common problem in men. Low libido is a common side effect of erectile dysfunction. Why? That’s because your confidence takes a major hit and you’re afraid of experiencing the unfortunate scenario again
Low sex drive can be frustrating for a person, and it can also cause problems in a relationship. Even though it is stressful to deal with weak libido, primarily because we think something is wrong with us, numerous solutions are available.
It is entirely possible to boost your libido naturally and adding certain foods to the menu is a practical and efficient strategy. Below, you can see the basic rundown of libido-boosting foods.
Oysters are probably the most popular aphrodisiac, primarily because it is popularized by movies and shows where characters do eat oysters to increase their sex drive or seduce someone.
Scientists found that oysters are abundant in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Additionally, oysters contain high levels of zinc, a mineral necessary for testosterone production and healthy semen in men.
Great news for all chocoholics! Dark chocolate increases both dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain, thus making you happy and lowering stress. These chemicals make you feel good and more open to satisfaction.
Dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium which also makes you feel relaxed. Eating chocolate with 70% or more cocoa improves your blood flow, which is important for sexual stimulation as well as your heart and other parts of the body.
Figs are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that participates in the production of sex hormones such as androgen and estrogen. They also contain amino acid which enhances the production of nitric oxide, important for dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
Due to the way they look, figs are considered a powerful aphrodisiac and female fertility booster too.
One study found that watermelon can deliver Viagra-like effects and suggests it is a great way to improve blood flow without medications that usually induce side effects.
Asparagus is a popular vegetable and healthy addition to any diet. What makes it so useful is its versatility, if you don’t have the habit of eating asparagus, you’re missing out.
Evidence shows that intake of this vegetable can enhance penile erection and improve sexual behavior in men. These effects are attributable to the testosterone-like effects of asparagus. Women can also benefit from asparagus.
In fact, it is considered female tonic due to its ability to improve sex drive and fertility, cure inflammation of sex organs, and moistens dry tissues of sexual organs.
Even though alcohol consumption is bad news for your sex drive, moderate intake of red wine proves to be beneficial for ladies. A study whose findings were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine discovered that women who reported moderate consumption of red wine scored higher in terms of sexual desire, lubrication, and overall sexual function. What makes wine so beneficial is a rich antioxidant profile that triggers production of nitric oxide in the blood.
Its phallic shape isn’t the only reason sweet potato is considered a proper libido booster. This starchy root vegetable gets its rich orange color from beta-carotene, which delivers to your body infertility-fighting Vitamin A.
Other Libido Boosting Foods
Generally, a well-balanced diet is mandatory to support a healthy libido. Foods that enhance your sex drive are numerous, and besides the above-mentioned options, some other libido enhancers include:
- Avocado – Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats and libido-boosting Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E
- Almonds and stamina – They give your energy and stamina healthy boost
- Broccoli – No, your eyes did not deceive you. What makes broccoli good for your libido is high vitamin C content
- Ginger – Ginger improves circulation and enhances libido
- Hot Peppers – Improve blood flow
- Pumpkin Seeds – Great source of amino acid called tryptophan, which improves production of serotonin in your brain
- Bananas – Rich source of potassium, which counteracts the effects of high sodium (salty foods are bad news for your sex life)
Tips To Boost Libido
A well-balanced diet is a powerful and effective way to boost your libido, but you also have to ensure you have a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips that will help you supercharge your sex drive:
- Exercise Regularly – it is important to stay active; physical activity improves your blood flow and keeps your weight in a healthy range. It’s also important for your sex life. Make sure you don’t overtrain because too much exercise can induce opposite effects
- Get Enough Sleep – As shown above, lack of sleep is one of the most common libido killers. Strive to establish a regular sleep pattern by going to bed every night at the same time and waking up every morning at the same time as well. It would be ideal to stop watching TV in bed or avoiding using your phone, so you can improve quality of sleep.
- Boost Your Confidence – This is easier said than done but inevitable. If your libido suffers due to low self-esteem, for other tips to work you also have to work on the way you think about yourself. Don’t focus on your flaws, we all have them, but concentrate on your attributes
- Avoid Drinking Too Much Alcohol – While a glass of wine can help you have a higher sex drive, everything more than that can hinder it
- Work On Your Relationship – Instead of sweeping relationship problems under a rug and hoping they would magically disappear, be proactive and work them out with your significant other. Communication is vital for successful relationship and, in this case, libido
- Consult A Doctor – If you’re taking medications and experience low sex drive, consult your doctor about this problem. Don’t change the dosage or discontinue using medications on your own. Your physician will tell you what to do
- Manage Stress – Chronic and unresolved stress can hinder your sex drive and jeopardize your health. The ideal stress-relieving technique depends on you and your preferences. Do something that makes you feel relaxed
- Dietary Supplements – For men and women who prefer holistic approach for better sex life, dietary supplements prove to be an effective solution. These products contain natural ingredients, primarily herbs, and plants whose libido-boosting benefits have been known for centuries.
- Meditate And Do Yoga – Mindful practices allow you to connect your mind and body into a powerful unity. They are ideal for relieving stress and are known for ability to improve blood flow, both of which are important for sex drive
Supplements For Female Libido
Dietary supplements are a natural alternative to medications, and they are primarily useful for ladies who want to improve their libido without experiencing uncomfortable side effects. If you also want to try these products, make sure they contain these powerful ingredients:
Ashwagandha root is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa. It works by increasing blood flow directly to the female sexual organs, clitoris in particular.
A study whose findings were published in the BioMed Research Internationaldiscovered that oral administration of ashwagandha root improves sexual function in women.
Maca root is an adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family; it mainly grows in the Andes of central Peru at high altitudes and harsh conditions. Not only does maca root help you improve libido, but it also enhances overall sexual satisfaction, particularly in postmenopausal women.
Additionally, this is a common ingredient in male libido supplements too.
Muira Pauma originates in Brazil where it is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and nerve tonic. The plant works by improving circulation and increasing blood flow to areas of your body, including the pelvic region.
Increased blood flow can also affect your gastrointestinal tract and boost energy levels. Libido boost can lead to sustained periods of sensation and potentially multiple orgasms.
Avena sativa or wild oat is quickly becoming one of the most popular supplements. Thanks to high Vitamin Bs content, phosphorus, and calcium, Avena sativa directly influences your libido.
The plant increases vaginal stimulation and enhances both physical and emotional appetite for sex. Women can also experience benefits due to the plant’s calming effects that make them more in tune with their partner.
Damiana is a shrub native to Texas, Southern and Central California, and Mexico. It uses a multifaceted approach to increase your libido. For instance, the plant reduces vaginal dryness, boosts your libido, and intensifies orgasms. Damiana stimulates and delivers oxygen to the genital area, and it is known for energy-boosting properties.
Besides the above-mentioned ingredients found in supplements for female libido, other plants that can help you include:
- Tongkat Ali – Supports hormonal balance to increase sexual desire and erogenous sensitivity
- L-arginine – Dilates clitoral blood vessels to allow for heightened sensations and increased blood flow to this particular area
- Rhodiola – Could support dopamine production and improve your pleasure in response to orgasm
- Ginseng – Ginseng promotes healthy capillary circulation and reduces stress while boosting libido
- Fenugreek – Fenugreek stimulates a generation of growth hormone which assists in proper sexual function and desire
- Primrose oil – Primrose oil supports hormonal balance and increases dopamine levels
Supplements For Male Libido
Just like women, men can also greatly benefit from libido-boosting supplements. Men who use these products report more energy, better libido, and greater confidence.
If you also want to give them a chance, here are the ingredients to look for.
L-arginine is an amino acid produced by the body, but it is also available in supplement form. Evidence shows that l-arginine is required for normal spermatogenesis which is why men with decreased levels of this amino acid experience lower sperm count. Additionally, l-arginine improves sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction. It converts into nitric oxide to improve your blood flow.
Women aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the maca root. A study whose findings were published in the Andrologia showed that maca root improves sexual desire in healthy adult men. The good thing is, maca is one of the most prevalent ingredients in libido boosters.
This is yet another amino acid produced by your body, but it is also found in supplement form. It is primarily used in men with diabetes and erectile dysfunction. The amino acid works by improving blood flow, thus naturally navigating your blood in the right direction. Since the primary food source of this amino acid is red meat, l-carnitine supplementation is also beneficial for vegetarians and vegans.
S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe for short is a chemical produced in your liver. It is used to treat depression and psychiatric illnesses as well as infertility and liver problems. SAMe poses as an effective strategy to manage symptoms of depression in a safe manner, without side effects. As you already know, antidepressants can hinder your sex drive.
Ginseng has been used for medicinal purposes throughout history and one of its uses is for male sexual function. Evidence shows that both Asian and American ginseng can facilitate copulatory behavior.
Panax ginseng also increases testosterone production, thus giving your libido a major boost. Plus, it is useful for stress relief, which is an important strategy for better sex drive.
Tribulus is, by far, the most popular ingredient in supplements formulated for men. It functions by waking up the androgen receptors in the brain and allowing your body to respond better to testosterone.
Other benefits of Tribulus include a reduction in symptoms associated with depression, stress, and anxiety. Men who use products with Tribulus report better sex drive and stronger erections.
Modern science still has a long way to go to keep up with a history of using plants for medicinal and sexual properties. Together with the above-mentioned ingredients in male libido boosters, ingredients listed below can be of huge help:
- Primrose oil – Produces nitric oxide
- Nettle root – Supports prostate health, dilates blood vessels to improve blood flow and supports healthy testosterone levels
- Zinc – Vital for testosterone production in men and, thereby, influences your libido as well
- Vitamin B6 – Regulates elevation of prolactin and assists in testosterone function as well as in production of dopamine and serotonin
- Vitamin A – Improves sperm count and mobility and enhances function of prostate
- Vitamin C – Vital for synthesis of hormones associated with fertility and sexuality
- Vitamin E – Improves sperm count and mobility improves testosterone levels
- Epimedium (horny goat weed) – Stimulates production of testosterone and improves sexual activity and function
- Yohimbe – Directly improves blood flow and vessel dilation
- DHEA – Regulates sexual and reproductive function, boosts energy levels
Human libido goes up and down due to numerous factors that influence it. Every person has a different libido, which is why it is a mistake to compare yourself to other people and vice versa. A healthy lifestyle is an effective and safe method for improving sex drive.
Different plants also enhance your libido, and they are, today, available in supplement form. Supplements fit into the holistic approach toward good health and wellbeing but make sure the product is made by a reputable manufacturer, and other users have pleasant experience first.
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