Loss of Libido

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Dear Hoopers,
My boyfriend & I have been dating for two years. He regularly has bouts of depression that he has suffered from since childhood. Although initially he used to hump my brains out, for the last year or more he has little to no interest in penetrating me. He’s in his 40’s & has had more than his fair share of debauchery. I am in my early 30’s (the peak of my sexuality!) and I need/want a regular bang. We’ve talked about it & he knows how I feel, that my needs aren’t being met. He blames his disinterest in sex on the depression… Sex is an affectionate, loving, & bonding experience. I crave being close to him in that way. Is there any hope for our sex life? Or am I doomed to live a sexless existence, destined to shrivel up like a prude??? P.S. He masturbates regularly, more than once per week. But I’m lucky if we have sex even once per week, it’s definitely no more than 4 times per month.
-Loss of Libido

Dear Loss of Libido,
Sex is such a vital part of a relationship. When physical intimacy suffers for one reason or another, other aspects of intimacy often suffer too. This tends to be much more understandable when the ailment affecting sex is a visible one. Since depression is harder to see, it can be harder to understand. It seems like you are trying to be understanding about his disconnection, but you also aren’t quite sure how to get your needs met.

Although you described your relationship as sexless, I don’t think that’s quite fair. Once a week is below the average for a couple in your age range but you two are still active. The challenge for you and your boyfriend will be to figure out what’s getting in the way and how to bring you back together.

It definitely makes sense that depression could impact sex. Reduced sex drive is one of the nine DSM-5 symptoms of a Major Depressive Disorder. However, we typically see a reduction in overall sexual drive, not just sex with a partner. Therefore, his engagement in other forms of other sexual activity without you is probably a little confusing. If his sex drive isn’t the primary culprit, perhaps his depression has resulted in a disconnection from intimacy.

When depression is the primary contributor, it is important to know that treatment will be vital. Depression might improve with time, but it also might not. Treatment can ensure that he is receiving adequate attention and assistance for his symptoms. Psychotherapy and medication are both effective options for treatment.


Reduced sex drive is one of the nine DSM-5 symptoms of a Major Depressive Disorder.

-Dr. Ryan

It is also true that sex drive can change with age and fluctuate with time. In addition, aspects of emotional and physical intimacy can ebb and flow with time. While it sounds like you are doing an adequate job of trying to communicate with your partner, it will be important for you to continue to talk.

If the above mentioned options aren’t effective, you may also want to consider a sex therapist. They specialize in working with couples to understand their sexual dynamics including how to reconnect and rekindle sexual life.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Loss of Libido,
Sexual frustration can certainly lead to relationship turmoil and it sounds like you are feeling the turbulence. For many people sex is a bonding experience and a vital part of feeling connected in a relationship. When that intimacy is lacking it can steer us inward to question if there is something wrong.

Thankfully you aren’t going to shrivel up due to lack of sexual intimacy. However because your partner’s sexual appetite has changed significantly it is bothersome. Have you talked with him about how you are suffering from his abstinence?


Sex is one form of intimacy, so talk to him about different forms of pleasuring you.

-Kate

It may be hard to digest, but if your partner is suffering from depressive bouts, the loss of libido isn’t about you. Depression is mentally and physically exhausting.  Your boyfriend doesn’t sound like he is paralyzed from his depression if he is finding time to masturbate, but it’s still important to consider. Try to help him in his mental health journey and let him know that you are here for him.

But don’t shy away from continuing to share your needs for physical attention. Sex is one form of intimacy, so talk to him about different forms of pleasuring you. Like you said, sex is an affectionate, loving & bonding experience. Get creative. And let him know how you are feeling.
-Kate