Sexual drive is governed by the sex hormones: testosterone in males and oestrogen/progesterone in females. Testosterone has an added aspect of aggression. Both men and women have levels of all three major sex hormones, and, as always in nature, it is about balance.
It is rare for a physician to come into contact with patients who complain of too high a sex drive. Nymphomania, which is defined as an excessive sexual desire on the part of a woman (it is interesting that there is no male counterpart!) is more often a psychological problem rather than a chemical one. Excessive sexual desire on the part of a male is hard to define because men do not have an oestrus cycle and are, therefore, ‘on heat’ all the time. Women are primarily, from an evolutionary point of view, geared towards procreation and therefore reach sexual peaks under the influence of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which are produced around the time of ovulation when the woman is at her most fertile. The definition of a sexually aggressive male is generally used inaccurately. Sexual abuse and rape are very little to do with sex and mostly to do with sociopathic aggressive behaviour.
Most complaints about libido are to do with a low sex drive and the most common causes are linked with stress. Evolution made it very clear as to whether adrenaline (the fear chemical) or the sexual hormones should be more dominant. A couple copulating and faced with a sabre-toothed tiger needed to feel fear above sexual excitement to stand a chance of surviving. Those of our ancestors who found sex more titillating than fear would attempt to finish the act and were in all probability be killed. Natural selection did the rest. Whilst we are rarely confronted by wild animals, we do have to put up with other stressful situations. Adrenaline is produced in response to these with the same suppressing effect on our sex drive.
Longer-standing and deeper-seated anxieties stemming from our childhood, relationship with parents and siblings and our early sexual encounters are all relevant to the amount of adrenaline and other stress chemicals that we produce and can therefore have a detrimental effect on our sexuality.
I find it interesting that the Eastern philosophies consider sexuality to be a source of energy. On reflection, it is understandable that because life is created from intercourse, sex is really the fountain of vital force. Indeed, the more tired we are, the less sexually active we feel. The yogics believe in kundalini, which can be thought of as a coiled snake lying in the pelvis. Sexual arousal is the same as the uncoiling of the snake and an orgasm can be thought of as the rapid strike of the cobra. The serpent launches itself up the spinal column and spreads its cheeks to embrace the brain. A strikingly accurate analysis, considering that 5,000 years ago the understanding of neuroanatomy and physiology was non-existent. The Chinese and Tibetans, whilst using a different language, reflect sexuality in much the same way. A weakened libido is therefore a combined physical and psychological problem stemming from present and past conditions and needs to be reviewed holistically by considering physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
The use of stimulants is only of temporary benefit and will inevitably lead to a longer lasting and more difficult problem to deal with. Alcohol, cocaine and marijuana all act by lowering inhibitions and heightening the senses. At the time this is not a problem and on occasion is fine and should be considered a treat. The difficulty arises when the mind and soul lose contact and the memory of the pleasures of sex for sex’s sake. A French fry with a sprinkling of salt may not be a healthy enjoyment but a pleasure all the same. Once that chip has been dipped in ketchup many people find it hard to go back to having their minor sin without the red sauce embellishing the product. Sex under the influence’ can very rapidly lead to a dependency upon a drug without which the act is no longer enjoyable.
It is also important to remember that a decrease or lack of libido may simply be an ageing process. As we age, we move away from the more material needs and our spiritual and mental requirements become more important. Nature does not particularly want us to sire or mare offspring at an older age when we are less likely to be able to protect them. The universe prefers that as we age we use our experience to teach the younger generation and our usefulness becomes more cerebral and spiritual. It is not illness to be lacking or to enjoy a level of sexuality at any age but one must be careful not to try to conform to what society expects but instead to look inside and ensure that we perform at a level that is satisfactory to ourselves.
Remove any stressful stimuli such as alcohol, caffeine and other drugs of abuse. Smoking is a notorious neurological depressant and often overlooked in weakened sexuality.
Remove stress chemicals such as adrenaline by increasing physical exercise and reducing levels of anxiety.
Meditation minimally, through counselling and then to active spiritual practices such as Tantric yoga (a branch of yoga using specific sexual positions and practices), should be considered, learned or studied.
Homeopathic and herbal treatments, especially Chinese, Ayurvedic and Tibetan, can be utilized to increase both masculine and feminine energies.
Time spent toning the body will release the body’s natural opiates (which are natural aphrodisiacs), reduce adrenaline and simply make us look better and therefore feel more attractive, and is a simple process of raising the libido.
Ensure that you are getting enough sleep. Introduce variety into the sexual act. Monotony is a notorious damper of libido.