Libido and Stress

Estimated reading time: 23 minute(s)

From worrying about deadlines to paying rent and utility bills, everyone has hundreds of stressors in their daily life. While these stressors are primarily manageable, they can sometimes exert significant stress on a person’s mind and body, further complicating a low sex drive or poor libido. [1] While low libido may seem like a harmless issue, it can destroy relationships and lower overall quality of life within weeks. Hence, understanding how can stress decrease libido and what to do about it becomes imperative.

How Does Stress Cause Low Libido? The Mechanism Explained

When people encounter stress, their bodies undergo different changes to prepare them to fight or run away. This mechanism, also known as the fight-or-flight response, can lead to elevated blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate while shutting down non-essential functions, including sex drive and libido.

Physiological Effects

The fight-or-flight response triggers the release of various hormones, such as epinephrine and cortisol, which may decrease sex drive as their levels increase. [2] When stress becomes long-term, the body may start using sex hormones to meet the rising cortisol demand, further decreasing libido.

Psychological Effects

In addition to the physiological effects of stress, a person may develop its psychological impact. This may include a distracted, frazzled, or busy mind that strays far away from wanting intimacy. The psychological effects of stress can also affect mood, leading to anxiety and depression, consequently diminishing libido.

Lifestyle Choices

In many cases, uncontrolled stress may lead to the development of unhealthy habits, such as drinking, smoking, and overeating, along with a lack of exercise and self-care. This greatly influences how a person think about themselves and can interfere with their healthy sex life by lowering libido.

Coping With Stress and Low Libido at Home

Despite having high stress levels, achieving and maintaining good libido is possible, especially for people willing to put in effort and time. Following are some strategies to consider in this regard:

Practice Stress Management

Consider improving stress management techniques if you suspect that high stress levels dampen your libido. Following are some proven therapies to relax the mind and body so that stress cannot interfere with hormones and negatively impact sex life:

  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Aromatherapy
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Journaling
  • Breathing exercises

Talking with a therapist specializing in stress management can help people learn more about the best coping techniques according to their circumstances.

Take a Closer Look at Your Relationship

If you are struggling with low libido, consider looking at the health of your relationship. According to research, relationship conflicts and stress can play an essential role in causing lower libido than other stressors, which applies to both genders. For this reason, it is imperative to work through all relationship difficulties.

Read Also About Depression And Erectile Dysfunction

As the first step, ensure that you are using adequate communication techniques that are supportive and fair. View your problems as challenges you will face with your partner instead of seeing each other as enemies. Moreover, consider finding strategies that work for both partners and support their needs. People who cannot find any plans on their own can consider seeking help from a therapist or marriage counselor.

Make Time for Exercise Together

Exercise is one of the best ways to keep stress away and boost self-esteem, consequently boosting libido. If you feel like you need to spend more time with your partner, consider exercising together. Taking an evening walk together or a quick jog can make couples feel more connected, boosting endorphins to elevate mood. Yoga can be another option to introduce new energy to the bedroom if both partners agree to try it. This can be done by joining an in-person yoga center or taking online classes.

Practice Self-Care

It can be difficult to feel optimistic about having sex for someone who does not feel positive about themselves. For such people, practicing self-care becomes crucial. Self-care may include simple activities, such as exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and practicing stress management or anything to pamper yourself.

While adopting healthy self-care activities, try ditching harmful habits, such as excessive drinking and smoking, which may compromise health and decrease libido. Self-care, conversely, can help build confidence while making a person feel energetic and worthy of their partner’s attention and love.

Take Out Time for Each Other

The current era has made everyone much busier than they ever thought was possible. Being consistently active means that most people have little to no downtime, which may drain their energy, making sex unappealing. Moreover, a busy schedule can make the mind active, and having too much on the mind can make it challenging to get in the mood for any kind of intimacy. Lastly, having a packed schedule can also make it impossible for a person to find time for sex, reducing their libido.

If you feel your busy schedule is the reason behind your poor libido and stress levels, consider spending time with your partner. Try different things to make this time as high-quality as possible, such as using aromatherapy, lighting scented candles, or adding music to the background.

Anxiety and Libido: When to Consider Therapy?

Communication remains an essential part of a healthy sex life. If a couple is having difficulty discussing issues associated with stress and libido, therapy is the way forward. Following are some types of therapy that can help couples counteract the effects of stress on libido.

Individual Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy or cognitive therapy is an example of individual therapy that relies on the concept that it’s not only certain events but how a person thinks about these events that determine their stress levels. As a part of this therapy, patients work one-on-one with professionals to find out the cause behind their ongoing stress and define their goals for better stress management so that it does not interfere with their sex life.

Couples Therapy

In couples therapy or marriage counseling, partners work with a therapist in joint sessions. This joint therapy aims to boost better and open communication, recognize and resolve conflicts, strengthen relationships, and develop a better understanding of each other.

Sex Therapy

This specialized form of talk therapy mainly focuses on sexual issues. With sex therapy, couples can participate in individual and joint sessions to express their concerns more clearly while better understanding each other’s sexual needs.


Can stress cause low libido?

Stress originating from different sources, such as family, work, studies, or life in general, can interfere with sex drive by taking a person’s mind away from sexual desire. When this stress becomes chronic, it also messes up the hormone levels, which, in turn, causes lower libido.

What should I consider while getting therapy for stress and low libido?

If you cannot manage your ongoing stress and its effects on libido, seeking therapy can be a good option. Ensure to choose a therapist you are comfortable with who specializes in the type of therapy you desire. For instance, a cognitive therapist can help people journal and record emotions before, during, and after an intimate moment to track stress levels. They may also help pinpoint what may and may not relax a person.

Can there be any other cause of my low libido other than stress?

For people still struggling with low libido, even after applying lifestyle modifications and working with a therapist for stress management, it may be worth considering alternative causes. Following are some examples of medical issues that may affect sex drive:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Vaginismus
  • Chronic pain
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Peri-menopause and menopause
  • Sleep disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disease

Can anxiety affect libido?

It is expected to have trouble maintaining libido on a background of anxiety disorder. The sex drive is directly affected by how a person feels, and anxiety may make it harder for them to find a partner attractive or consider getting intimate with them.  


1 Hamilton LD, Julian AM. The relationship between daily hassles and sexual function in men and women. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2014 Sep 3;40(5):379-95.

2 Hamilton LD, Meston CM. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. The journal of sexual medicine. 2013 Oct;10(10):2443-54.

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