Sex may not be the first thing you bring up at your doctor’s visit, but it is an important part of your overall physical and psychological health. Low sex drive can also identify underlying disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and depression as well as side effects of common medications such as beta blockers, antidepressants, antihistamines, statins and anti-anxiety meds.
Stress effects women in many ways. Symptoms can vary from insomnia, feeling anxious, to being short tempered, or reaching for the nearest box of chocolates. But for some women, it can put a damper on their sex life. In large scale surveys of women conducted around the world, about 30% of women (even those in their teens and twenties) report a lack of sex drive.
Yes…its true. Stress is a real sex-drive downer. When we are stressed, we release Cortisol which competes heavily with our friend Testosterone. What you may not have known is that Cortisol also inhibits the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters (hormones) such as oxytocin. This hormone makes us feel relaxed and connected to others. Oxytocin is a huge player in sexuality for women.
Other hormones also play a role in sex drive for women such as Estrogen, Testosterone and DHEA. But none as significant as oxytocin. Women who are anxious have lower levels of oxytocin. Women with healthy levels of oxytocin have less worry and fear and accept their partners more for who they are and feel a sense of romantic attachment. In other words…it makes you want to get closer to your partner, and thats when the clothes start coming off!
There are natural ways to release oxytocin. Some examples are hugging, cuddling, soft touch, massage, music, singing, physical exercise, and positive social contacts.
Factors that lower oxytocin include negative stress, fear, anger, drug abuse, drinking excess water, loneliness, and lack of social support.
Once this positive feedback loop starts working between the body and mind, then dopamine gets released which lights up the reward centers of the brain and helps us think of sex as something that we want again.
Some studies have compared brain activity of women with low and high libido. MRI’s of these participants showed that while low libido women tended to judge their emotions, those with healthy libido’s simply experienced their emotions. The problem is that we need to get out of our heads. We need to stop over-thinking and become more mindful and not judge the present moment…just experience it.
Sex not only connects us with our partner and reduces anxiety, but it has been shown to also reduce other symptoms such as headaches, hot flushes, backaches, menstrual cramps, and depression because it releases endorphins that help manage pain.
For some types of extreme anxiety and low libido the solution may be oxytocin supplementation. Not everyone needs oxytocin treatment, but as we age the greater the likelihood is to have oxytocin deficiency. The most commonly used supplementation is in oral or sublingual form. Doses can vary from 2.5-20 international units (IU) daily. This hormone can be prescribed by your doctor and formulated by a compounding pharmacy.
If you are suffering from low libido and want to get your mojo back, its best to work with a functional medical practitioner to get some answers and possible treatment.
Reference: Hertoghe, T. “Passion Sex and Long Life: The Incredible Oxytocin Adventure.” International Medical Books. Jan 2010.
Hanley, K. “Lost Your Appetite For Sex.” WholeLiving.com. May 2010, p. 78-80.