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What Does Libido Mean?

author image Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell
Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.
What Does Libido Mean?
Couple almost kissing. Photo Credit: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Libido is a Freudian term for sexual urge or desire. Men and women alike can have high libidos, low libidos and libidos that fall somewhere in the middle. Libidos can cause problems in intimate relationships when one partner’s is stronger than the others. As a general rule, a lack of libido is fairly common in women, but quite rare in men.

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Depending on your point of view, or more precisely the state of your libido, either the individual with the higher or lower sex drive in a relationship is the one with the “problem” that needs to be fixed. He or she is supposed to do something to make his libido conform to the other person's. More often than not, the person with a lower libido may seek out ways to increase it.

Low Libido in Women

The psychological causes of low libido in women include depression or anxiety, a history of sexual abuse, challenging living conditions (staying with in-laws) and acute relationship problems. A diminished sex drive may also be due to physical causes.They may include anemia, diabetes, certain prescription medications such as tranquilizers and fluctuating hormones.

Low Libido in Men

According to the Mayo Clinic it’s normal for men to have a gradual waning in sexual desire as they get older. However, most males continue to show an interest in sex into their 70s. A man’s libido may rise and fall over the course of his lifetime. Factors that may affect the male sex drive include depression, stress and reduced levels of male sex hormones. Furthermore, men who develop erectile dysfunction (impotence) may simultaneously lose interest in sex.

Sexual Addiction

Sexual addiction, also known as hypersexuality or nymphomania, may appear to be a sign of an extremely high libido in both men and women. However, there may be much deeper psychological and physical factors at work. The Mayo Clinic says multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington's disease and dementia have all been linked with compulsive sexual behavior. Hypersexuality may also be due a childhood history of physical or sexual abuse. Symptoms include having multiple sexual partners or extramarital affairs, and frequently using sexually explicit Internet and phone services.


Honest and empathetic communication is the first step toward working through the problems associated with mismatched libidos in intimate relationships. In some cases, professional couples counseling may be beneficial.

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