Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor. Libido – or sex drive -- reaches a peak in males during their adolescence and 20s. Women reach their sexual peak during the mid-30s, just as the men are beginning to wane in their sexual interest. While adolescent males fight pressure from their raging testosterone to be fruitful and multiply, adolescent females are still in the early phases of the development of their libido. Low libido in adolescents has varied causes and dynamics, which likely differ somewhat for males and females.
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Some may question how low libido in teenagers is a problem. Teens shouldn’t have sex, anyway, the reasoning goes, so if they don’t feel like having sex that just takes a pressure off of everyone. The problem with this reasoning is that libido is a normal, healthy response. Low libido can indicate any of a number of problems. The underlying problem that disrupts libido should be identified and addressed.
Most of the time, loss of libido has a psychogenic basis—its causes are rooted in psychology, not biology. Both male and female teens can lose interest in sex when they suffer from emotional distress, depression or anxiety. Some teens respond to anxiety with increased libido. To the dismay of their parents, these teens may choose to soothe their anxieties through the endorphin rush that accompanies sexual activity. Other teens respond to stress, anxiety and depression with a loss of libido.
Teens who suffer from depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress should seek emotional help and support. Often, teens feel more comfortable talking about personal issues with non-family members. School counselors, psychologists, friends and even parents can provide comfort and solace during difficult times. As emotional healing proceeds, hopefully libido will improve.
Sexuality and Relationship Issues
Some teens struggle with developmental, relationship and moral issues regarding their sexuality. Teens who are sorting through complex issues of gender identity, the rights and wrong of sexual behavior, residuals of past sexual abuse or their often ambivalent feelings toward their boy- or girl-friend, may put their sexual libido on ice. Again, it can be helpful to get some outside help when sifting through the many layers of adolescent sexuality.
Some teens suffer from poor body image or low esteem. They may feel they are inadequate and unappealing, and these feelings sabotage their sexual drive. These teens need help in identifying their strengths and bolstering their self-perceptions. They need to feel good about themselves before they can share themselves with others.
Although psychological issues usually account for most cases of low libido, medical problems can contribute to low libido. Medical issues such as nutritional deficiencies, kidney problems, epilepsy, diabetes and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis can inhibit sex drive and disrupt the ability to have and maintain an erection. Testosterone contributes to libido in males and females. Loss of libido can indicate hormone problems. Teens with libido issues should obtain a full evaluation to rule out possible medical problems.
Certain medications can decrease sex drive. Antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, as well as certain anti-anxiety and neuroleptics decrease libido.