Have You Stopped Having Sex?

What are the possible reasons for losing interest in sex and what to do to help

Have you gone off sex?

Many people go off sex for a while - especially during times of stress or after childbirth. But what if you don't regain your desire? Psychosexual therapist Paula Hall looks at the causes and solutions.

Losing interest

If you're single, or have made a conscious decision to be celibate, you may be quite happy without having sex for a while. But if you're in a relationship and you've just gone off it, not only are you missing out on the fun and intimacy sex can provide, but so is your partner. This can lead to powerful feelings of rejection and loss that can soon turn to resentment. Both partners can begin to doubt their sexuality and attractiveness.

Going off sex can be particularly disturbing for men. It's a common myth that men are always dying for it, so if you're not, both you and your partner maybe feeling left confused.

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Common causes

Low sexual desire is rapidly becoming the most common issue treated in psychosexual therapy. There are a number of reasons why someone may initially go off sex, but often what happens is that even when the original cause has long gone, couples may find it very difficult to restart their sexual relationship.

In some cases, going off sex may start as a symptom of another sexual problem. For example: difficulty reaching orgasm, impotence or painful intercourse. If this maybe the cause, read the information on those conditions too.

For a few, the problem may be physical. But in the majority of cases it's the result of negative thoughts or feelings. The most common ones are:

  • Poor self-esteem. If you don't feel good about yourself you'll find it difficult to see yourself as a sexual person. Your partner will be seeing a very private side of you and that takes confidence.
  • Relationship issues. If you're feeling angry, upset or in any way insecure about your relationship, you need to address these issues before you can expect to feel sexual towards your partner. Try talking things through with them or going for couple counseling. Some couples struggle to feel desire for their partner because they say they feel too close. The relationship feels too much like brother and sister and sex may feel inappropriate. Sex therapy can help these couples see each other in a new light.
  • Partner problems. It's a sensitive subject, but a common cause of going off sex is a partner who turns you off. It might be a physical or hygiene issue, perhaps they have a habit that makes you switch off or they're not a very skilled lover. Honesty is the only way to get round this. (See I'd like you to... for some tips.)
  • Bad experiences. An inhibited childhood or a particular traumatic experience might have left you with negative feelings about sex.
  • Fears. There may be powerful fears of pregnancy or getting an infection. Talking through these things with your partner or a counselor may help.

Other possible reasons

Any illness, disability or change in your lifestyle that leaves you tired, in pain or feeling low about yourself will have an indirect affect on your sex drive. The following have a direct effect:

  • depression
  • childbirth
  • alcohol and drug abuse
  • illness or damage to testes or ovaries, which can affect hormone production
  • illnesses such as some pituitary conditions, hypothyroidism, cirrhosis or stress certain prescription drugs

You may find it useful to see your GP if any of the above apply.

Tips for increasing desire

  • Relax. This is the most important thing you can do. Have a bath, use deep-breathing techniques or buy a relaxation tape.
  • Check your environment. Be sure there are no distractions to you becoming aroused and that the atmosphere suits your mood.
  • Exercise your pelvic floor. This will increase the blood flow to your genital area and make you more conscious of any sensations of physical arousal.
  • Try using fantasy. Get yourself in the mood by slipping into a favorite fantasy.
  • Enjoy being sensual before you're sexual. Take your time and allow your body focus on the pleasurable sensations of touch.
  • Change your view. Get sex into the forefront of your mind by reading or watching something more raunchy than you'd normally choose.
  • Focus on positives. If there's something about your partner or yourself you don't like, don't think about it. Force yourself to look at and think about the positives, instead.
  • Stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. Exercise, watch a scary movie, go on a roller coaster - anything that will speed up your heart rate. Research suggests that 15 to 30 minutes later your body is more sexually responsive.

See the practical exercises section for more information.

Further help

If none of the self-help techniques work for you, you might want to ask your GP for advice. Alternatively, the support and guidance of a psychosexual therapist may help.


The Sex Starved Marriage, Michele Weiner Davis (Simon and Schuster UK)

Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages

Rekindling Desire: A Step by Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages Barry McCarthy, Emily McCarthy (Brunner Routledge)

Related Information:

next: Difficulty Reaching Orgasm

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 11). Have You Stopped Having Sex?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Last Updated: August 22, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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