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The 10 Biggest Threats to your Sex Life

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Photo Credit: iStock

How satisfied are you with your sex life?  

According to the most recent American Sex Survey, about half of you are unsatisfied with it, and for a wide variety of reasons that not only encompass sexual dysfunction, but also stress, issues with your partner, and self-esteem, among others.  How you judge your level of satisfaction is not a fixed thing.  It varies along with expectation, circumstance, and age.  The crazy can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other sex you had with your partner when you were first together might actually be less satisfying to you now than the more connected but less frequent sex you are currently having.  

The big issue is that even though Americans are pretty unhappy with things in the bedroom, they are terribly uncomfortable talking about it.  It may hard to talk about, but it can hugely impact your life. A study of more than 16,000 people concluded that the amount of increased happiness people got from increasing the frequency of sex from once/month to once/week was equivalent to making $50,000 more per year!  That means that your happiness is intimately (pun intended) tied to your sexual satisfaction.

It is even more difficult for people to talk about any sexual dysfunction.  Dr. Serena McKenzie, sexual medicine expert and sex counselor, mentioned during an interview that 44% of the population has some form of sexual dysfunction.  This dysfunction can include pain during sex, disinterest in sex, loss of function — a myriad of issues that can all add up to a dissatisfying sex life.  

These dysfunctions are not only a potential threat to relationships, but as Dr. McKenzie stated “sexual function is a window into your overall health and vitality.”  Because so many people feel that their sexual issues are embarrassing, they do not even bother mentioning it to their health care provider, and likewise, many health care providers don’t ask.  It is truly important for you to get over that, because both your happiness and your health could be on the line.  For instance, men diagnosed with severe erectile dysfunction (ED) but with no diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) are 93% more likely to have a fatal cardiovascular episode than men who are not diagnosed with ED.  

Whatever the current state of your sex life — whether you have sexual dysfunction, you want to have more sex, or if you just want to preserve your sex life — here are the top 10 threats to a satisfying sex life, and how you can resolve them:  

1. Problem: Having Kids

Kids can completely put a couple’s sex life on ice.  Just finding alone time to actually have sex can be tough, but this is compounded by sleep deprivation and the little annoyances and resentments that tend to build up between couples.

There is no one answer for getting back your sex life once kids enter the equation, but paramount is alone time, so go on a date.  A date without the kids, during which you do not talk about the kids.  Set your phone timer and give yourself the first 10 minutes to talk about all the kid and household related tasks you have in your brain, then stop.  For the remainder of your date talk about yourselves, remember the things you used to talk about before you had children — the things that brought you together in the first place.  Once you reestablish your connection (and like each other again), you’ll be much more likely to want to have sex with each other.

2. Problem: Lack of Sleep

Given a choice between sleep and sex at the end of the day, 61% of Americans would rather sleep. Not getting enough sleep can at the very least breed a disinterest in sex, but it can also affect hormone levels.  A small study done on healthy young men showed that getting 5 hours or less of sleep resulted in a 10-15% drop in testosterone after just 2-3 days.  

Ask yourself if you really want to give up sex because you are too tired.  If you’re fine without sex, then that is another issue and you can read on for more tips.  If you want to have more sex, work on getting more sleep, and if sleep is a problem in itself, read my article on sleep in order to find a solution.

3. Problem: Lack of Sex

Men tend to have sex on the brain frequently regardless of the amount of actual sex they are having.  Women tend to need to have their brains focused on sex in order to want it.  

The cliche Use It or Lose It applies here.  If you truly and completely lack a sex drive, then talk to your doctor because  there is probably an underlying condition.  But if your lack of desire is due to a long hiatus, drop hints (or be blatant about it) — tell your partner that you want to have sex tonight and then do it!  Send a provocative text to get your brain in the mood before you even get home.  That way you won’t be as likely to back out.  Once you realize that it’s actually fun (!) you might want to do it even more.

4. Problem: Erectile Dysfunction

The overall prevalence of ED is 18.4% in men aged 20 and older.  Among men with cardiovascular disease, the incidence is much higher, and among men with diabetes, the incidence is as high as 51.3%.

Having erectile dysfunction is not a marker of your manliness.  Dr. McKenzie states that the prevalence is likely higher than statistics show because men are so embarrassed to talk about it.  As already referenced above, telling your doctor about function issues could actually save your life, so don’t hold back.  If your physical health seems to be having an impact on your sexual function, make some changes.  Eat better, exercise.  It is well worth the effort.

5. Problem: Depression

If your physical health is not an issue, it is possible that your mental health is getting in the way of your sex drive.  According to Frederick K. Goodwin, MD “sexual arousal starts with the ability to anticipate pleasure, which is lost with depression.”

Talk to a health provider.  They may make lifestyle suggestions for mild to moderate depression, such as increased Vitamin D, more exercise, or counseling.  If they prescribe antidepressants, make sure to request an medication with a low-risk of sexual side effects.

6. Problem: Work Stress

If at the end of your day you spend your time at home complaining about work, responding to work emails and work phone calls this could be a cause of your low sex drive.  

Unless you are engaged in a tv version of a torrid office affair, It is tough to flip the switch in your brain from work to sex, so you need to end your work day.  Pick a time each day at which you stop answering work calls and checking emails, and stick to it.  Leave the rest of your night for relaxation and intimacy.  After all, what fun is getting a promotion if you can’t celebrate with a night of great sex?

7. Problem: Poor communication

This could also be labeled “relationship stress.”  This can go hand-in-hand with other problems, but deserves its own category because it is so prevalent.  If you are having a hard time feeling connected to your partner and you haven’t been on the same page, it is highly likely that you are not having a lot of great sex.

The solution to this issue depends on how long the communication breakdown has been happening and how serious it has gotten.  You may need to bring in a 3rd party in the guise of a couples therapist to find your way back to each other.  You may need to schedule a few dates so that you aren’t bogged down by life’s checklists and schedules.  You may just need to have sex.  If it’s been a while since you’ve had sex, that alone can disrupt good communication.       

8. Problem: Hormonal imbalance

This is an issue seen more commonly in women, and the most prevalent times for it to arise are in the postpartum period (which can last up to a year - or longer if she is nursing, guys) and around menopause.  Men also can suffer from low testosterone, which leads to a drop in sex drive.

Providers from numerous fields can offer help in this area, so visit your favorite acupuncturist/herbalist, naturopath, MD, OB or other provider — just make sure that they are well-versed in hormonal balancing, as this will likely be more beneficial than seeing a generalist.  It would also do you well to keep open the lines of communication and to try to be understanding about the change that is going on in your partner’s life.  

9. Problem: Self-esteem issues  

Poor self-esteem can arise at any point during a relationship, not just when you are with a new partner.  If you are feeling less than desirable, you are certainly going to steer away from sex.

Research shows that women who have poor self esteem have higher incidences of sexual dysfunction and less sexual desire.  Conversely, women with sexual dysfunction have lower self esteem.  Men are not immune to this problem, and for both sexes it is often tied up with weight and body image.  Find a good therapist and work out your esteem issues so that you can have sex with the lights on.

10. Problem: Medication

Antidepressants have become the number one prescribed class of medications in this country, and one published study concluded that 37% of people taking antidepressants experienced sexual side effects as a result of the medication.  Other studies claim that anywhere from 30-70% of users have negative sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, lack of interest, and difficulty climaxing.  

Depression alone can kill your sex drive, so the last thing you want is to take antidepressants that will compound this.  It is no wonder so many people cite sexual side effects as a reason for early discontinuation of their medication.  This does not have to be the case.  Talk to your prescribing doctor about the possibility of trying other medications with fewer risks of sexual side effects.  Research also suggests that acupuncture is an effective means of treating the sexual side effects antidepressants, so find a qualified acupuncturist to help you get your groove back.

Erin Brockmeyer, LAc, is owner and acupuncturist at Solstice Natural Health in downtown Portland.  She creates custom health plans for patients to help them tackle their most complicated health concerns, including infertility, prenatal care, fibromyalgia, thyroid conditions and chronic and acute pain conditions. Visit her website for more information and to download her free e-book 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health Today.


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