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Increase your sex drive


Written by Alice Child, Somatic Sexologist


Sydney-based Somatic Sexologist and Sex & Intimacy Counsellor Alice Child explains sex drive and libido changes, and gives you tips for how to increase your sexual desire.




woman lies on her back libido changes increase sex drive

This guide contains general advice only. If you need more tailored advice, please book in a session.


 Don't just sit around and wait for your sex drive to magically increase on it's own. It won't. We need to learn how trigger it.


What is a ‘sex drive’?

Many people talk about having a high or low sex drive, or in sexology terms, our “libido”. But unlike the drive for food or water - which causes our body physical discomfort when the drive isn't being fulfilled - sex isn’t a physiological need. We won't actually die without great sex!


Instead of thinking of libido like a 'drive', think of it like a desire. And it's a desire that can either thrive and flourish - or wither and suffer - depending on the context, environment, mindset and stimulus

Everyone has different emotional, physical, and psychological needs/desires when it comes to sex. And as a result, couples often struggle with different desires or mismatched libido.


Why does sex drive change?

Having a libido that fluctuates is very normal - it is almost inevitable! There are so many factors  that impact your libido, and it is also different from person to person. 


Sex Educator Emily Negoski in her best selling book “Come As You Are explains the Duel Control Model for sex drive, explaining that libido is influenced by your personal ‘brakes’ and ‘accelerators’.


When more sexy accelerators (turn ons) are present than ‘brakes’ (turn offs), sexual desire can flourish. But when we find ourselves surrounded by our own personal sexual brakes (eg in the wrong context, mindset and with the wrong type of stimuli) it makes sense that we experience a low sex drive.


What are brakes and accelerators?

Brakes and accelerators could be anything - from things that are happening in the moment, all the way to cultural influences and your personal self believes and values.


For example, imagine trying to create a sensual environment by yourself or with a partner, in a bright, cold, messy room with construction outside your window or shouting teenagers next door distracting you. Not very sexy!


Or imagine a long period of time, where you are chronically stressed, tired, or have low self esteem or sexual anxiety. Even if the environment and partner is wonderful, it makes sense that you can't trigger your desire for sex or feel in the mood.


Now imagine how you would feel in a warm, private holiday villa, with unlimited access to food and drink, no work stress, no obligations, and feel confident in your body... That would make anyone feel more in the mood!


There is a very good reason why so many couples only have great sex on holiday!


Why do I have a low libido?

Brakes and accelerators look different for everyone, but some common reasons why libido might decrease are:

 

  • Stress - When we are stressed (inside or outside the bedroom) our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. This is a hormone that inhibits testosterone - a hormone responsible for sex drive. If we are continually stressed at work or at home, it can severely impact our sex life. 

  • Gut health - 90% of our hormones are made in the gut. If our gut health is off, our sexual health usually follows. Happy stomach, happy life. 

  • Painful sex or average sex causing low desire - If the sex you're getting is painful, boring or unsatisfying, it makes sense you stop desiring it.

  • Hormone changes - Sex hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen are responsible for sexual function and desire. Changes in hormone levels due to periods, contraception, pregnancy, menopause, childbirth etc impact our libido significantly.

  • Guilt or shame - Most of us were raised in a conservative and sex negative environment where talking about sex was taboo, leading to sexual shame and anxiety is normal for many people. When we experience sexual shame it stops us from enjoying the moment and accessing the pleasure we deserve. 

  • Busy mind - When our mind is busy and we are stuck in our head it is much harder to relax  our body and feel pleasure. We might find our mind wandering, or struggling to stay in the moment. This is why mindfulness during sex and meditation can be a key factor in sexual happiness during masturbation, or with a partner.

  • Low body confidence Low self-esteem can trigger performance anxiety. The more you worry about your looks in bed, the more stressed you become, and the less motivated you will be for sex. 

  • Performance anxiety and Erectile difficulty -pressure is never sexy. If you're worried about erectile dysfunction or performance, you may stop desiring sex.

  • Relationship issues -  If we don’t feel content or safe in a relationship, our body and nervous system is in a heightened state of alert and up-regulation. This tension and stress could lead to lower desire.

  • Mental illness and/or medication - Depression, anxiety, other mental health issues and certain medication can also contribute to lower libido. 

  • Sleep  - Sleep deprivation and tiredness may cause sexual desire to dip. Researchers have also suggested that stress and fatigue related to lack of sleep may make sexual problems worse.

  • Injury - Scar tissue in the abdomen, reduced blood flow to the vulva and vagina, UTIs and STIs, vaginismus, endometriosis etc might all lower our desire for sex.

  • Contextual brakes - Sometimes we might consciously or subconsciously repress feelings of arousal/excitement when we have too many sexual brakes present. Things like burnout, exhaustion, trauma, body confidence or sexual trauma. Over time, these factors can stop us from feeling sexual desire altogether. Maintain self-awareness, and listen to your body!

  • Sexual Trauma - If you have experienced sexual trauma in the past, overcoming the fear or hesitance for new sexual experiences can feel far away. Know that there is always help, and tools you can implement to become comfortable in your own skin, and with other people. Experiencing a positive sexual experience again is possible.


Should I be worried that my sex drive is changing?

The short answer is no – if your sex drive is fluctuating – it's not always a cause for concern!  Sexual desire is not either there or it’s not, neither black, nor white. Instead, it changes, fluctuates and evolves throughout our lives. This can be year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, or even minute by minute.


It is useful to track your sex drive to see if you can identify any patterns. For example:


  • Daily - due to changing hormone levels, some people have higher sex drive in the morning (when testosterone is highest), whereas other people prefer evening sex when they feel more relaxed

  • Monthly - For women, monthly hormonal changes with their menstrual cycle can have a big impact on desire for sex at different phases of the cycle, but making period sex pleasurable is achievable!

  • Yearly - seasonal changes in the weather can impact people’s mental health and desire for sex (especially if being cold is a big turn off for you!).


If your change in sex drive is causing you and/or your relationship stress, try asking yourself a few questions so you can understand what might be going on for you:


  • When did you notice this change?

  • Can you spot any patterns over time?

  • Has this happened before? 

  • How long has it lasted / does it tend to last?

  • Have you had any big changes or stressors in your life recently? E.g new medications, health changes, relationship conflict, new job, moving house, having children, new contraception, mental health issues? 


It's always worth seeing a medical professional to rule out anything physical, and book in a session with a Sexologist to help you learn how to increase your accelerators, reduce your brakes, or navigate mismatched libido.



How do I increase my sex drive?

People with a lower desire for sex often don't have a 'low sex drive' - they just have responsive desire! They therefore need to learn how to trigger their responsive desire by increasing their accelerators, and reducing their brakes.


Don't just sit around and wait for desire to happen or for your sex drive to magically increase on it's own. It won't. We need to learn how trigger it.

Desire for sex is not always spontaneous. It often takes time to build.


Learning how to trigger your desire is what is called responsive desire:


  • Spontaneous desire - interest in sex that seems to come out of thin air. Your desire for sex seemingly comes before any external stimulus for it. For example, seeing your partner walk towards the car and not in a sexual context and feeling in the mood for sex. This is more common in men and in early relationships.


  • Responsive desire - the growing interest in sex that occurs in reaction to sexual stimuli. Even if you’re initially not in the mood for sex, sometimes if you give yourself enough time, context and pleasurable stimulation (aka ‘accelerators’) you realise that you’ve changed your mind!  This stimulus could be anything; physical closeness with your partner, a make-out session on the sofa, a sensual massage, reading erotica, seeing your partner undress, a warm bath, a foot massage, a relaxing physical environment with candles and soft music… whatever works for you! This is more common in women and in long term relationships.


Responsive and spontaneous desire are both very common, normal and healthy.


What are some good ways to increase libido?

Here are some general tips, but if you need specific support please book in a session.


  1. Create a life (and bedroom!) with more accelerators than brakes - Once you have established your own turn ons and turn offs, create an environment that enhances your accelerators and reduces your breaks. If you are not sure about what these could be, download my free Sexual Bucket List to find out! For example, if a major brake is worrying about work, try leaving your work phone charging outside of the bedroom each night, and play relaxing playlist or light a candle in your bedroom space that allows your mind to settle before getting down and dirty. 

  2. Remove unhelpful goals - Remove unhelpful goals such as ‘getting hard’, ‘reaching orgasm’, or ‘getting in the mood’, these goals can be hard to achieve immediately and can add more pressure. Instead, make your goals pleasure, curiosity or just feeling sexy! 

  3. Carve out the time - If we don’t plan it, we don’t always do it. Although ‘scheduling sex’ might sound unsexy, it can actually lead to a lot of anticipation and build up. This is especially important during times of stress. pleasure takes time to build. Don’t rush yourself, and anticipation is one of the main keys to great sex. 

  4. Move your body and give your body pleasure  - exercise, moving your body and pleasure (such as massage) releases pleasure hormones, neurotransmitters, and chemicals that help break down stress hormones such as cortisol. Moving our body through things like dance, yoga and Pilates can be real libido-boosters. 

  5. Practise mindfulness - carve out moments of mental calm to help regulate your nervous system and slow the mind. Try long baths, deep breathing, or massage. 

  6. Masturbate more, and with more variation! - Even when we are not in the mood to be sexual, a daily pleasure practice (at least 15 minutes a day if you can!) helps accelerate more desire. 

  7. Try something new - if variety is the spice of life, then novelty and newness is the spice of arousal. What new sexual fantasy have you always wanted to try? How could you bring it to life?

  8. Focus on physical sensations - If you find your mind wanders during sex, try placing your attention on the physical sensations you are experiencing – what are you noticing physically in your body? How does the touch feel? What might make that touch/sensation feel even better?

  9. Educate yourself using sex-positive resources – Go out and learn as much as you can about sex, pleasure and bodies. Find the resources that work for you, whether that’s podcasts, books, online courses, workshops or booking in a session with a sexologist. 

  10. Don’t settle for okay sex - Communication is key to maintaining sexual attraction in relationships. It is also hard to expect you and your partner to be on the same libido-wavelength at all times, navigating mismatched libido also relies on communication. Be explicit and clear with your communication with each other – ask for what you want, be descriptive, and learn together.


Finally, remember that changes in sex drive is a part of life and everyone experiences it at some point. It is something that can be changed, and reading this means that you have already taken the first step!


Know that you won’t always get it right – and that’s okay! But create a safe space for experimentation, learning and play in your sex-life. Because everyone deserves great sex!


Let the journey to a flourishing libido, begin!


Best,

Alice x





Alice Child - Somatic Sexologist, Sex Therapy & Sex Counsellor - helps people achieve happier and healthier sex lives through 1:1 sex coaching, couples sex counselling, hens parties, and workshops. Book a session here.


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