Which Providers Should You Consult for Low Libido?

Low sex drive is often a treatable condition—here's where to turn for help.

All areas of health, including sexual health, need attention to keep your body in balance. Sex drive issues are normal and common, and they deserve the same kind of attention as anything else that goes wrong with your body.

Often people wait a long time before seeking medical care for a sexual problem—either because they are embarrassed or because they are not taking it seriously—and that can compound the issue, especially when it stems from a physical problem that has a straightforward, physical solution.

However, there are professionals who can help you figure out why your sex drive has changed so the problem doesn't worsen and you can find treatment that gets you feeling like yourself again. Here's who to see concerning problems with libido.

Primary Care Physicians

Your first stop with any sexual health concern should be your ob-gyn or primary care physician (PCP), Irwin Goldstein, MD, urologist and director of San Diego Sexual Medicine. In addition to the basics, such as doing a pelvic exam, listening to your heart, and checking your blood pressure, your healthcare provider should be on the lookout for other conditions.

Your primary care doctor should review your medications to see if you are taking a drug that could affect your sex drive. A review of your overall health and your health history should come next. They'll also want to determine whether you have pain associated with other health conditions, even arthritis, as this can lower your desire for sex.

Other ways to rule out a physical reason for low sex drive include testing your blood for anemia, high cholesterol, and hormonal imbalances. They'll ask you lifestyle questions about sleep deprivation (which can have a profound effect on sex drive) as well as if you use alcohol or recreational drugs. Your ob-gyn or PCP should also ask about your relationships and sex life.

Make sure you tell your healthcare provider about any sex-related pain, such as pain in the vulva or vagina that's caused or exacerbated by penetration. Physical pain can morph into psychological avoidance, Marjorie Green, MD, director of the Mount Auburn Female Sexual Medicine Center in Cambridge, Mass., and a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, told Health.

Sexual Medicine Physicians

Sexual medicine focuses on improvements of sexual health, which is comprised of several different areas. Those areas, per a December 2021 International Journal of Impotence Research article, include preventing, diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating health concerns with:

  • Experiences and behaviors of a sexual or partnership nature
  • Sexual function and dysfunction
  • Social expectations, identities, orientations, and attractions related to gender
  • Sexual attitudes, feelings, and beliefs

Thus, a sexual medicine physician is a healthcare provider "who is knowledgeable and skilled in all areas of sexual care," per the authors of the International Journal of Impotence Research article.

These professionals will try determine what might be causing libido issues, much like a PCP, and their focus will be mostly rooted in how the low libido is connected to sexual health. For example, what at first may appear to be low sex drive may turn out to be related to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or vaginal infection after they review your case.

Sex or Relationship Therapists

Your PCP or sexual medicine physician might also refer you to a therapist or another mental health professional to explore emotions, thoughts, or actions that could be the source of your low sex drive. Relationship issues can cause libido problems, as can a whole host of personal or cultural factors (e.g., a busy lifestyle, previous relationship troubles, or depression). Therefore, a referral to a sex therapist or couples therapist can often solve the issue.

Sex therapists, according to a July 2020 Australian Journal of General Practice article, are healthcare providers whose treatment is centered on human sexuality and any related problems. A sex therapist's goals are founded on assisting their patients with their sexual difficulties.

Per the Australian Journal of General Practice article, treatment can involve talk therapy as well as cognitive behavioral, mindfulness, and systems or couples therapy interventions. Further, a sex therapist can educate you about low libido or other sex-related issues relevant to your situation and provide you with at-home exercises that may be able to help you and your partner.

If having a low sex drive is causing issues for your relationship, couples therapy—according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM)—is designed to help couples deal with relationship conflicts or issues together instead of separately. Per a chapter from Couple Therapy, published in January 2016, there are several different couples therapy approaches, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral couple therapy
  • Integrative behavioral couple therapy
  • Emotion focused therapy
  • Systemic couple therapy
  • Gottman-method couple therapy

Of note, emotion focused therapy seems to be effective for dealing with sexual issues arising from relationships. "About 70 percent of distressed couples show a reduction in relationship distress following emotionally focused couple therapy. This type of therapy also leads to improved sexual satisfaction," per a 2018 Journal of Family Therapy study. However, your therapist might opt for a multidisciplinary approach, where they use techniques from various approaches to assist you in resolving any relationship problems related to low libido or other circumstances.

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