Can't stop thinking about sex? If your sexual urges are all you think about, it might be quite distracting. From Tinder to Love Island, it can sometimes feel like we live in a society that focuses entirely on sex, so it's normal to question your libido and wonder if your sex drive is above average, especially if your needs are not being met.
Psychosexual and relationship therapist Sarah Berry looks at when you should be concerned about your libido and offers her expert tips on lowering sex drive:
What is a ‘normal’ sex drive?
Every year scientists, PR reps and journalists concoct numerous surveys purporting to reveal what the average person thinks, feels and does during sex. The medical profession is rightly reluctant to link numbers to the human libidinal range.
In lieu of concrete determiners, we often gauge our personal sex drives by comparing ourselves to those of the people we sleep with, discuss sex with or choose to read about. But sexual desire is on a spectrum, which means there is no 'normal' when it comes to your sex drive and how often you might want to have sex.
When is a high sex drive a problem?
A high sex drive usually isn’t a problem if you do not feel ruled by your sexual urges or thoughts. If you have a high sex drive and are having all the satisfying sex you crave, then you might actually be rather pleased with it!
But you may struggle with your high sex drive if you experience any of the following:
✔️ You are not able to achieve satisfaction, no matter how much sex or masturbation you have.
✔️ You are not able to get the amount or type of sex you desire.
✔️ You are troubled or shamed by persistent fantasises.
✔️ You regularly sacrifice work, social or sleep time for your sexual exploits.
✔️ You have sore genitals from excessive sex or masturbation.
✔️ You habitually seek out unsatisfactory or risky sexual exploits.
✔️ You feel bad that your pursuit of sexual satisfaction prevents you from having a relationship.
An out of control sexuality can also be hard for those around you. You may think you are fine, but your boss, your partner or your mates might fear that you are spending too much time in the pursuit or sex. Either these people don’t understand you, or you are in denial about your problematic relationship with sex.
What causes a high sex drive?
While increased sexual desire is perfectly normal for young people experiencing hormonal surges, if you are older, a number of other factors can impact your sex drive. A high sex drive can be a symptom of something medical – either a condition or the medication you take. This can include the results of Parkinson’s medication, some brain injuries, mania, hormonal imbalances and an overactive thyroid. If you do experience an unexplained change in your libido, it’s wise to get checked out by your doctor.
Other possible psychological and social causes can include:
- Stress, anxiety and depression.
- Unresolved trauma – sexual or otherwise.
- Shame surrounding one’s sexual preferences, experiences or body image.
- A lack of fulfilment and/or control over one’s life.
- Distorted beliefs around love, sex and intimacy.
- A lack of self-esteem and/or social anxiety.
- An all or nothing approach to life which can make downtime or boredom hard to cope with.
- An inability to properly process one’s emotions.
- Feeling stuck in relationship with someone who wants to have less sex.
How can I lower my high sex drive?
If you are concerned that you have an overly high sex drive, try the following tips:
1. Talk about it
Whatever the cause, if you are not happy with your sex life, talking therapy can help you offload, explore thoughts, feelings, experiences and desires around sex, love, relationships and beyond. Establishing what you want from your life in general and then working out realistic ways to get it can help you feel more in control and less at the mercy of your urges.
2. Interrupt your urges
When I ask sexually compulsive clients if they have ever not acted on a sexual urge – whether it’s masturbating in the office loos or booking an appointment with a sex worker — they often say no. Understanding that sexual urges - much like cravings for cigarettes or cake - do pass if un-fuelled by yearning thoughts or actions, can be a revelation.
If you become aroused and you want to not act on your urges, here are a few things you can do:
✔️ Try mental gymnastics, for example practice your 26 times table.
✔️ Focus on something else; search your surroundings for squares or anything blue.
✔️ Refer to a list you’ve made about how great your partner is, or what you will gain from not acting out.
✔️ Download a CBT help sheet like this and work out what may have exacerbated your urge. Are you bored? Hungover? Hungry? Tired? Stressed? Had a row with someone? This can help you to see patterns and then gain control.
3. Channel your energy
Some people derive great relief, pleasure and pride from channelling their sexual energy into other things. This could mean doing something creative, physical, thrilling or spiritual. Popular pursuits include long distance running, dancing, learning the guitar, abseiling, DIY, cooking, yoga and Tantra.
4. Work on finding satisfying sex
High sex drives can be particularly tormenting for those who struggle to find sexual partners. I help such clients explore ways to build confidence, improve how they relate to others (including being open, curious and complimentary without seeming creepy), discover ways to meet possible sexual partners — for example online, on courses, or at MeetUp events — and learn ways to have sex with someone they might care about, which usually involves embracing the wonderful realities of non-pornified human nature.
Hook up sites, sex parties or sex professionals can help some people satisfy their urges but they aren’t always sustainable solutions for people with high sex drives. They don’t always guarantee sex – let alone satisfying sex. They may also go against the person’s moral compass, lead to overspending or preclude intimacy.
5. Work through relationship issues
Some high sex drive people in monogamous relationships frequently beg their partner for sex. This is very bad form. It’s not sexy and, whether or not they give in, can kill off whatever sexual feelings their partner has for them, as even tender affection is viewed as a hopeful route to sex.
When couples with mismatched libidos come to me, I ask them both what they wish their sex life would look like. Sometimes it’s helpful to schedule times to connect and be intimate. During these times they could choose to do things like go on a date, have a top half only make out session, be naked without worrying about being aroused (maybe holding each other or having a bath), or having sex.
I’ve heard clients with higher libidos argue that they be allowed to have sex outside the relationship. While open relationships can work, it’s best when it’s seen as an exciting thing that both partners can participate in.
6. Take something to lower your sexual urges
If your sexual urges are occupying your every waking thought and becoming problematic, there are a few things you can take to decrease your sex drive:
Anaphrodisiacs: Just as aphrodisiacs such as oysters or chocolate are said to enhance the libido, anaphrodisiacs are said to dull it. There are a number of food ingredients, herbs and supplements that fall into this category including soy, liquorice, chasteberry, hops and wild lettuce.
Antidepressants: much has been much written about antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, dulling the libido. Antipsychotics can also have this side affect. While they are not specifically designed to lower the sex drive, some doctors do prescribe them for this reason.
Reversible chemical castration: hormone drug therapy can often be seen as a last resort. While women can have problematic sex drives, at present these drugs are only being prescribed to men. Cyproterone and Triptorelin both lower the production of testosterone. This treatment is basically a reversible chemical castration.
Change your medication: if your medication is causing you to feel more aroused than usual, it may be possible to change your medication or lower the dosage - enough to take the edge of the urges but still to help what whatever it is you are taking it for. Always seek medical advice before changing your medication.
Help and support
If you need further advice or support about anything related to sexuality, try one of the following resources:
- Association of the treatment of Sexual Compulsivity and Addiction: find resources and therapists UK-wide.
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex And Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA): support groups based on the 12 steps approaches:
- StopSo: a charity helping to stop sex offending, with resources and a UK-wide therapist directory.
- Lucy Faithful: victims and sex offenders can call the Stop It Now helpline on 0808 1000 900 or visit lucyfaithfull.org.uk, a charity devoted to stopping child abuse.
- Paula Hall: Sex Addiction therapist Paula Hall has written the seminal books Understanding & Treating Sex Addiction and Sex Addiction: The Partner's Perspective.
Last updated: 13-11-19