Low libido in young women – 7 common causes + What you can do
A low libido in young women – is that really possible?
I was asked this question recently being interviewed for an American podcast. My answer to this question certainly surprised the interviewer.
Yes, young women can definitely have a low libido. I’ll even go as far as saying that a low libido in young women is a lot more common than what most people tend to believe. Unfortunately, I don’t have any actual numbers to share; I simply haven’t been able to find any statistics made in the last 20-50 years, showing the development of young women’s libido.
I do receive more and more enquiries from young women experiencing a low libido – a lot of these are sent to me by mail/social media. Also, I do see an increasingly large number of young participants in my big online workshop “Get your libido back and keep it for life”.
Does this sound like you?
Then please read on…
If you’re experiencing a low libido (or one that’s completely gone), you need to know that you’re not alone. As I said, this is way more normal than most people tend to think. It’s just not exactly something we talk about that much. My impression is also that there’s this expectation that young people (should) always have a high libido.
Yep, ‘round the clock pretty much.
Just like there’s this expectation of your libido going through the roof when you’re in love. Or if you’re a guy, you think about sex x amount of times every minute of every day. These are the types of “false facts” that make things really difficult and makes you feel like you’re all wrong and different to everyone else, whenever you go through a period of time with your libido being lower than usual.
You need to know one thing:
There is ALWAYS – and yes, I mean ALWAYS – very logical explanations to why your libido has gone M.I.A., is low (or high, for that matter), regardless of your age. Whether your libido is high, low or completely gone depends on a whole range of factors.
Basically, you could say that your libido is symptom of “something else” in your life. So whether it’s high or low is determined by certain factors. You can even think about your libido as you think about your experience of feeling tired.
Fatigue is a symptom of whether you:
- Sleep for a sufficient number of hours
- Get good quality sleep when you actually are sleeping
- Are really busy at work and is feeling under pressure or stressed even, for a period of time
- Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels throughout the day to ensure your energy levels are stable and don’t plummet
- Illness will also affect your energy level
- And so many other factors
Do you see the logic behind this?
So – just like you can suss it out in regards to fatigue, you can do the same thing with your libido. Doing this is such an important thing for you to do; as soon as you’ve identified what are causing problems, you can start to solve it.
I’ve listed 7 of the most common reasons to why young women (18-30 years of age) experience a lacking libido below. I’ve also spoken to several experts to get their weigh-in on this and their best advice on what you can do.
This isn’t a QuickFix guide or a guide you can just skim through. This is a long, very in-depth guide. I’ve made it this way because I want to help you and the best way to do this is to be thorough.
You’re more than welcome to leave a comment (you can choose to be anonymous) below and share your own experiences.
Maj Wismann – Clinical sexologist and couple’s therapist with own clinic since 2006.
Low libido in young women – 7 common causes
1) Are you tired?
Sleep – or the lack of sleep really – is such a libido killer. One of the big ones too! You might be shaking your head, thinking: “Maj Wismann, you’re crazy saying things like that!” but just hear me out.
When you sleep, your body rejuvenates.
It’s when you sleep that your body recharges, clears toxins, rejuvenates and regenerates.
“You can sleep when you’re old” is phrase I’m sure you’ve heard a million times before but don’t listen to it. What you need to listen to is your own body.
Let me explain.
You body is very wise and the more you listen AND respect your body, its needs and what it’s trying tell you as well, the more cooperation it’ll show and – ultimately – give you what you want.
It’s okay for you to have a few days of feeling tired and not getting enough sleep, what’s important is that you get back into your old (good!) habits.
Studies show that about 25% of the 18-29 year-olds don’t sleep enough. 19% also confirmed that they sleep an average of 6 hours a night – 5% sleep only 0-5 hours a day!
Studies continue to show that there is a correlation between a lack of sleep and serious diseases. Also, it’s significantly more likely that you’ll feel depressed if you aren’t getting a sufficient amount of sleep. This happens because a lack of sleep makes it difficult to think clearly and keep any negative thoughts at bay.
Anna Bogdanova – Danish specialist in physical process of change & also the woman behind two bestselling danish books says:
“A lack of sleep/general sleep deprivation over a longer period of time can cause a messy relationship between your resource hormone DHEA and the stress hormone Cortisol.
DHEA is the pre-stage of all of our sex hormones, however, a lack of sleep and being overworked can cause you to produce stress-hormones instead.
Which obviously affect your libido.”
What to do next:
Are you one of the many people out there who don’t get enough sleep? Then there’s really only one thing to do: start going to bed a bit earlier. That’s all there is to it really. After the first week you’ll feel a boost of surplus energy and after only a couple of week you’ll see that your libido starts to come back.
2) Are you feeling stressed?
As a natural consequence of a lack of sleep, we’ll now talk about stress. When I was doing my Basis Year of my Clinical Sexologist Course I wrote my final paper on stress and sexuality. I was VERY surprised with what I found!
If you’re experiencing stress symptoms a bit too often – or if you’ve considered yourself to feel stressed within the last 24 hours – you might want to hear this.
A new report on “children and young people’s mental health” showed – terrifyingly – that the number of young men and women suffering from anxiety, depression and stress has never been higher. This study also showed that the number of young women (16-24 years of age) feeling stressed ‘often’ has doubled (!!) since the 2005-2013 period.
If you’re a bit busy for a short period of time this will rarely turn into a problem.
However, if you start to experience actual stress – or symptoms of stress – over a longer period of time, you need to be aware that this can cause a funk in your libido.
This is due to a number of things, just as Anna Bogdanova mentions.
Also, the male sex hormone testosterone plays an important part in a woman’s libido, despite the fact that women compared to men – on average – have only 1/10 of this hormone.
Basically, when we’re actually stressed and we know that we really ought to call in sick, our body is in full swing producing cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone we produce when we go from being busy to being stressed.
Cortisol and testosterone is made from the same building blocks and the body actually determines that cortisol is more important. This is one of the reasons that men and women might sometimes find that their libido goes away completely if they’re going through a particularly busy period of time.
Another reason that your libido might be affected during a stress time is that stress happens in your brain on thought level, and these thoughts are what make your body go into high gear. Your very wise body is – really – just cooperating with you and give you a response to these thoughts, you more or less consciously have.
When you body goes into high gear and the engine is super hot, it can be really difficult to “cool off” just by going to bed.
This basically means that your body is still in “fight mode” when you go to bed and in this state, it’s near on impossible for most people to feel their libido. It just doesn’t make any logical sense for your body to procreate or go into “pleasure-kissing-cuddling-mode” when it worries that it’s about to fight danger or solve an important task.
What to do next:
If you’re feeling stressed and is missing your libido, you then need to find a way to bring your stress levels down. There are a lot of ways for you to do this. Some people enjoy meditating; others prefer yoga and some go see a psychologist or a therapist to help “control their thoughts”; some go on sick-leave from work and really wind things down for a longer period of time; others change jobs or do part-time instead; some go to bed an hour earlier than they normally would in order to cope with the days a bit better.
One thing is certain: make a plan and stick to it. Figure out what stresses you and start dealing with these issues, while at the same time you allow your body time to rejuvenate. If you do these things, you’ll be back to your happy self in no time.
3) How are you – really?
The study mentioned in section 2 showed us that a lot of young women aren’t actually feeling very well.
Also, a large number of young women battle a low self-esteem and a low self-confidence; they constantly worry that they’re not good enough or they can’t do “this thing” well enough. These thoughts of insecurity can drive anyone to the point of madness!
It’s quite tricky to change anything, if there’s a constant voice in your head focusing on whether you’re good enough or not.
This is regardless of whether you’re hanging out with your girlfriends, going for a horseback ride; go shopping or is having sex with your boyfriend.
If your mind is overworked and you have this fundamental feeling of not feeling good enough, this will affect your lust for wanting to sleep with your partner.
If you’re in there anyway, feeling insecure and don’t feel hot enough or attractive enough or sexy enough or ‘fill-in-the-blank-enough’ and you know you’ll end up not having a very nice time because you’re not really relaxing and well…
Why bother? Why even have sex?
Your body will actually begin to say: “No thank you. Why would I want to put myself through another horrible experience that only makes me feel worse about myself?”
I spoke to danish Bente Brandstrup about her experiences with this phenomenon. Bente works with young girls and women; both 1:1 but also in her very popular group course.
When talking to her about a low libido in young women, she shared some very interesting observations:
“If you walk around feeling insecure and unsure about whether you’re good enough, beautiful enough, hot enough… it can be difficult to feel what it is you actually want to do.
This happens because you’re constantly focusing on your thoughts and not paying any attention to the signals your body is sending you – these are being oppressed by your busy mind.
One of the things I help young women do is to control their thoughts and hereby get their self-esteem back on track. This ultimately aids in being able to feel the signals your body is sending you – and reacting on them of course.”
What to do next:
If you’re battling a low self-esteem and you often find yourself with negative thoughts about yourself, I’ll recommend you to spend the next 12 months focusing on drastically changing this destructive behavior. Yes, drastic changes need to take place.
The things you can do are plentiful. If you begin this work today, I’m sure that in 12 months time you’ll be strutting around feeling confident, full of self-worth and yes, your sex drive will most likely begin to show itself again in the most natural way as you feel better and better about yourself. You do need to commit to this work though and take the first step.
4) Are you affecting your hormones? (unintentionally)
Our hormones definitely affect our spontaneous libido; how quickly we feel turned on, horny and “ready” but also how quickly we’re “ready” to want sex again after our last sexual experience.
Hormonal contraceptives, that is…
In recent years, more and more studies show a very unanimous result (something that both doctors and gynecologists have known for years): that when they start taking the pill or other forms of hormonal contraceptives, some women actually lose their libido.
According to doctor Marilyn Glenville, the pill reduces the level of testosterone and yes, this sends up back to the same trouble we had with stress and sleep deprivation.
The University Hospital of Tübingen in Germany conducted a study on women’s lust for sex (1,000 women participated). Generally, the women who were on the pill had a lower libido than the women who weren’t on the pill.
At the Sexological Clinic, Psychiatric Center Copenhagen they’ve also looked into this. Their first findings have already been published in “The Journal of Sexual Medicine”. These results basically show a connection between the level of testosterone in your blood and your libido.
What to do next:
If you suspect that your birth control might be the cause of your sex drive having gone M.I.A., I’ll recommend that you try changing your contraceptive methods, just for a certain period of time, to see whether this has an effect. You might be so lucky that this is where the trouble was for you. If this doesn’t work, however, you can always go back to the contraceptive you were on if you liked it.
5) Do you take any anti-depressants?
There can be a lot of reasons to why you’d take anti-depressant medication.
You might be suffering from anxiety or maybe you’re battling depressive thoughts?
For some people this medication actually do help them and is a necessary tool for them to have a functioning everyday life.
For others, this medication is an extra helping hand for a temporary period of time while they see a psychologist. I’ve even heard several people talk about how they wouldn’t even be capable of being in therapy weren’t they on this medication. And, of course, studies show that for some people this medication don’t even work.
Whether you should take this medication or not is up to you – in close dialogue with your doctor of course – and this is not something I’ll get involved in. Nevertheless, it’s quite important to be aware that this medication can affect your sexuality; I’ve spoken to quite a few people who state that their doctor didn’t inform them about this particular side effect.
Consider for a second what it can mean to these people’s lives (your life?) that these doctors “forget” to inform their patients about this!
The medication can affect your ability to ejaculate and orgasm, and it can even affect your ability to feel turned on and horny; your ability to lubricate (getting wet), and it can also affect your ability to actually feel your libido.
There are a lot of alternatives to help both anxiety and depression. One of the newest – and most effective alternatives in UK & also Denmark – is MetaCognitiv Therapy. At the moment, only 3 Danish psychologists have taken this certification and they’ve had to go to England to accomplish it. It is one of the most effective ways to work with anxiety, depression and stress, so I would recommend you to find someone who is educated in that or the old school Cognitive Therapy.
What to do next:
If you suspect that your medication might be what’s affecting your libido, then go see you doctor and see if there’s a possibility for you to try out a different brand or if you’re OK to reduce your intake for a certain amount of time to see if this has a positive effect. You might also want to consider whether there are other ways for you to deal with your anxiety or depression, that doesn’t involve this medication.
6) Are you having problems in your relationship?
Some of the young women I’ve met, who’ve experienced a low libido, is also dealing with something else: a relationship in troubled waters.
Problems and challenges are perfectly normal; we can’t go through a whole life – or a long-term relationship for that matter – without running into problems or challenges. These are simply things we need to uncover and solve.
When you put two people very closely together, something happens. And it’s not all sunshine and butterflies. You simply CAN’T avoid going through tough times.
And this is part of the deal, isn’t it really?
That we are faced with problems, solve them together as a team (I know this is so hard to do sometimes) and get through it.
You might find yourself having a difficult time with whatever it might be or your partner is; or maybe it’s something the two of you just can’t agree on. It might be a third thing even, slowly wearing you guys down.
Sometimes one person just display some inconsiderate behavior; maybe they won’t take responsibility for the fact that they hurt the other person etc.
Or maybe your partner won’t take part in solving the problems you’re experiencing. Maybe your partner won’t listen to you when you tell them that there’s something you’re missing, or they don’t seem interested in fulfilling your needs.
Maybe your partner prefers to sit in front of the computer for 5 hours every night, rather than just – once in a while – watching a movie with you or having a nice dinner with you; having a deep talk, go for a walk or go to bed early or whatever “you-time” you guys like to spend together.
Please just think about these things for a moment…
There are so many very logical reasons to why you don’t just lose your libido but as to why you lose your lust for your partner. A low libido in young women is often the result of a bad relationship – a relationship that isn’t really headed in the right direction, as much as you’d like it to and as much as you try to get you guys to a better place.
If your partner is making you feel unsafe or insecure in any way or if you doubt whether the two of you should stay together because of how things are, then being intimate with him might just be too difficult; lying there with him on the bed, naked, exposed, vulnerable can very well be too much for anyone to handle – let alone want to.
Studies actually show that women’s libido is more affected by psychosocial factors (for instance, whether you feel good in your relationship) than men’s libido is. And this is certainly worth considering when experiencing a low libido.
What to do next:
Ask yourself this: “Have I lost my lust for sex in general or have I just lost the lust for sex with my partner?” Now consider whether there’s ‘something’ going on in your relationship which needs some adjustment; something that bothers you. Something you miss; something you want more of (or less of).
Once you work out what this is, you need to insist that you do something about it – as a team. You might be able to work it all out yourselves or perhaps you need to schedule an appointment with a couple’s therapist. What’s important is that you take responsibility for your relationship and raise it to the next level. What might help speed things along is if you explain to your partner how your libido is closely connected to the state of your relationship.
7) The “I’ve said A now I have to say B syndrome”
Are you allowed to say no?
What happens if I wanted to at first but then not so much anymore? Or if I just change my mind?
Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience. Sex has never ever been something you “just do” because you “should” or feel like you “ought to”.
Turn it around: would you really want to have sex with your boyfriend, if you knew that he actually didn’t want to have sex with you?
You wouldn’t, would you?
It is true that if you just give it a chance, you might just feel like it. This requires you to know your own body, what triggers your excitement and that you want to be intimate with your partner. But… sometime you just don’t feel like it and that’s OKAY!
A lot of young women are (somehow) convinced that if you say A, you must also say B…
If you’re nodding along now, you have probably had a lot of sex that you didn’t actually want to have; sex which may have been outright uncomfortable for you and something you just wanted to get over and done with.
I promise you one thing: if this is your go-to strategy, as time goes on, you won’t have a very high libido…
What to do next:
If you’re one of the many (many!) young women who time and time again, have sex without actually wanting to, then you need to practice saying “thanks, but no thanks!”. If this is really difficult for you to do, then I’ll recommend you to seek some professional help. Please remember: sex is meant to be really nice. That’s all there is to it. The nicer it is, the easier it’ll be to say “yes please” when it’s initiated again. It’s also easier to feel whether you want to take the initiative next time.
Please remember that there is ALWAYS a logical explanation to why you’re experiencing a low libido (or to why it’s completely gone).
If you want to share your experiences, thoughts and questions about low libido in young women, then you are more then welcome to drop it in the comments below.
* Please remember to keep a nice tone. ALL negative comments will be deleted immediately as I wish to create a positive and supporting space where we can help one another. Because of this, I do have a zero tolerance policy to rudeness, condescension and other negative inputs.