Six months ago I broke up with my long-term girlfriend. Since then I haven’t felt like having sex at all. How do I get my libido back?
When a long-term relationship ends, you lose an awful lot more than a sexual partner. You lose your emotional support, your security, your confidence, your couple identity, and even your hopes for the future.
In return you get a bucket-load of mixed emotions: Anger, sadness, rejection, anxiety, relief, vengefulness, frustration, exhaustion, loneliness, and an overwhelming fear of having to go through such a painful, humiliating experience again.
Because arousal is so intrinsically linked to your emotional state, it is not unusual to lose interest in sex after a break-up. Any form of stress can have an impact on your libido.
The endocrine system responds to stress by pumping out adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause blood vessels to constrict so that blood can be diverted towards the heart and lungs, where it is needed to aid the process of fight or flight.
It is natural to be unable to respond sexually when feeling scared or upset.
When temporary stressors subside, the body should gradually return to normal, but continuous stress is different. The gradual deterioration of a relationship before a split is often a drawn-out and painful process, and the accumulated stress takes its toll.
After the break-up, repetitive brooding and rumination serve to maintain elevated stress levels, and because there is an inverse correlation between testosterone and cortisol, your libido flatlines.
When cortisol levels are high, testosterone levels are proportionately lower, and because
testosterone regulates the male sex drive, lower levels of it serve to reduce desire and inhibit erection.
This is problematic because one of the most obvious ways to get over an ex is to find a new partner, but an anxious male can find it difficult to get, or maintain, an adequate erection.
Sexual failure can then create a negative feedback loop, where fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I suspect that your loss of libido is simply a protective mechanism that is keeping you away from sexual relationships until you feel a little stronger.
However, it would be irresponsible not to flag up the fact that notable changes in desire or sexual function can sometimes indicate underlying physical or mental health issues.
Six months is a long time for a young man to have no interest in sex, so if things don’t start to improve soon, you ought to make an appointment to see your doctor.
Your GP will be able to assess whether the issue is simply an emotional response to the break-up, or something more complex.
Your GP will want to know about your lifestyle because men have a tendency to avoid
emotional discomfort by drowning their sorrows, which definitely doesn’t improve sexual function.
In contrast, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and taking exercise (particularly strength training and lifting weights) will reduce your stress level and the amount of cortisol in your blood. Getting fitter and stronger will make you feel more confident too.
You don’t say whether you have been engaging in solo sex, but if you haven’t been bothering, you should definitely give it a try.
In the 1970s research by Ken Purvis, published in the Journal of Endocrinology, measured levels of testosterone and other hormones in a group of young men before and after masturbation.
He found that the plasma levels of all hormones, including testosterone, were significantly increased after solo sex.
Libido is an appetite, and the more you feed it, the more active and responsive it becomes.
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