In this series of blogs, we're going to explore: sexual desire (otherwise known as libido), sexual response, and orgasms. In that order. I know it's more fun to start with orgasms, but desire and response challenges are first in line!
Occasionally, I'll have female patients who identify that their libido is perfectly intact; they consistently feel sexual desire, and have sexual thoughts. They can be partnered, or single. But more often, my patients tell me that their libido has gone AWOL, and they haven't been able to locate it in awhile.
Many women are distressed by their AWOL libido, since sex and desire (or lack of them) can become a thorny issue in relationships, and having no desire can certainly put a damper in your romantic life, as well as be a source of breakdown for many women. It can be extremely upsetting to crave intimacy, but be unable to generate the interest in it.
In the journey to health, there are a number of "barometers" that can indicate how balanced the system is, and libido is a great one, since it's one of the first to go during imbalance, and is also one of the last to return.
There are TONS of reasons why a woman might have lowered desire; we're going to explore a few of them here, as well as the potential "fixes."
By far, the most common source of low libido that I see in my practice falls in the general category of fatigue. This can range from chronically not getting enough sleep, to working too many hours, to having adrenal fatigue. See, here's the problem. When you are stressed or sleep deprived, it causes your adrenal glands (part of what I'll call the holy trinity, but more on that in a future post!) to secrete cortisol. Cortisol is amazingly helpful when there's a bus bearing down on you, or a lion is about to eat you, but it's terrible for you otherwise.
Cortisol does all kinds of cool things in your body. One thing it does is cause you to crave sugar during a crisis (because it's quick energy, and your body thinks it needs to run away). Another thing it can do is inhibit ovulation. That's because, from a primitive point of view, you don't need to ovulate and get pregnant when you're in a crisis. You need to get the flock out of there! And, if your body is wired for crisis, you definitely don't need to be canoodling...and your libido goes AWOL again.
This can be a thorny issue to address, since creating a balanced life can be extremely challenging, but it's what's needed here. It's probable that you need to restructure a few commitments in order to: sleep more, "do" less, and have at least one time a day when you have your own quiet time (and no, folding the laundry does NOT count as quiet time!). I'm referring to true time OFF. It's okay if it's only 10 minutes to start, but you need to begin rewiring your brain to turn itself off.
Fatigue is an enormous subject, and we will go into it more in another post. For now, begin noticing the ways in which you push yourself beyond what is the best for you...do you wait too long to eat? Stay up too late? Get up too early? Finish those emails at the expense of exercise or meditation?
STOP! It's sabotaging your sex drive! (as well as your chemical, emotional, energetic and spiritual balances, but we're talking about sex in this post!)
The next major category that can tank your libido is relationship issues. Last year I was working with a woman who theoretically should have a great libido...we'd fixed all her health issues, she had great balance in her life... but her libido wasn't returning.
In the time between her initial visit, when I originally asked about her relationship with her husband, and this visit, when I asked again, things had become extremely strained between she and her husband, due to financial issues. You see, her husband had not been forthcoming about his financial obligations, and she felt betrayed. At the risk of stating the obvious, desire and betrayal are not usually good companions.
So she went back to the drawing board; not for her libido this time, but to work on her relationship! There are tons of resources out there including therapy, transformational work, retreats; the most important thing is to choose the right one for you and your partner.
The last category we will address in this blog is the woman who has no desire because she can't turn off her brain. I know a few women like that! Truly, I hear all the time that when 11 p.m. rolls around, they are still running around, and just NOT in the mood...they have too many other things to do!
(Please refer to my earlier blog post about Being on your own list)
Look, I know what this is like, and really, the "to-dos" never end. But it's time to stop, put your list aside, and get present. If that ticker tape in your brain is endless, set it to work thinking up something exciting for you and your partner to do, and then tell your partner about it.
Odds are good your partner will want to play along!
Obviously, this isn't a complete list, but it's a start. The best approach is to come in for a complete functional medicine consultation to get a wellness plan that is customized to your needs. Come back next week, and we'll explore sexual response.
Have another topic you'd like me to write about? Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org