unhappy senior couple sitting on sofa at home

Is there anything that can be done to restore interest in sex in a woman who has apparently lost all desire for sex?


  • Michael Castleman says:

    I’m sorry you’re having this problem. The short answer is, yes, lost libido can often be restored at least to some extent. The longer answer is that libido is complicated, many factors affect it, and it often takes extensive probing to figure out what’s going on. Your question is very brief and doesn’t describe this woman or her situation at all, so I can’t even begin to speculate on what might be causing her libido loss and on what might help her. But here are some general issues to consider:

    How healthy is she? Sexual interest generally tracks overall health. When people feel ill or have chronic medical conditions, libido often suffers. If she has cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or serious arthritis, those conditions–and often the drugs used to treat them–can impair libido. If she has a chronic condition, I’d urge her to discuss her libido loss with her physician and ask if any of her medications might be causing it (blood pressure drugs are a frequent culprit). In addition, I’d urge her to adopt as healthy a lifestyle as possible: five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day, no junk foods, and 30 to 60 minutes of daily moderate exercise–walking is great. For more on this, visit the Info Library and read the article, Six Keys to Getting in Shape for Great Sex.

    How’s her mental health? Depression is the most prevalent mental illness and it’s a real libido-killer. If she seems depressed–always blue, not smiling or laughing, lethargic, helpless, hopeless, and having sleep problems–I’d urge her to consult a physician and maybe try antidepressant medication. Unfortunately, most popular antidepressants also impair libido and cause other sex problems. The exception is Wellbutrin. If she’s prescribed an antidepressant, she might ask for that one. For more, read Wellbutrin: The Antidepressant Least Likely to Cause Sex Problems.

    How has menopause affected her? Many women notice less libido as they become menopausal, not all, but many. Among those whose libido suffers, in some women, it’s permanent, while in others, after a few years, libido returns–not to the level it was in the woman’s twenties, but it recovers to some extent. For more, read Menopause and Women’s Sexuality. In addition, menopause often brings vaginal dryness and atrophy, which can make sex uncomfortable or impossible. For minor dryness, a lubricant helps. It also helps for older couples to evolve their lovemaking away from vaginal intercourse and focus on mutual massage, oral sex, and sex toys. For more, read Great Sex Without Intercourse.

    How’s her relationship? Relationship problems can kill libido at any age. If her relationship is stressed, I’d suggest couple counseling. Actually, I’d suggest sex therapy because the presenting problem is sexual. Sex therapy is like other forms of couple counseling, except that the focus is more sexual and the therapist has more training in sexuality. For more read, An Intimate Guide to Sex Therapy.

    Finally, recent research shows that the standard model of sexuality–desire leading to sex, libido first, then sex–works for the vast majority of men, but not for many women. For many, perhaps most women, it’s the other way around–they feel sexually neutral as lovemaking begins, but if it’s good sex and they feel loved and cherished and stimulated the ways they enjoy, then after a while, they experience desire. In other words, many women don’t feel a “drive” for sex. It’s the result of having good sex. For more on this, read Women’s Many Possible Sexual Response Cycles and Desire in Women: Does it Lead to Sex? Or Result From It?

    As I mentioned at the outset, libido loss is complicated. If the articles I’ve suggested don’t turn things around, I’d urge sex therapy.

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