May 27, 2020
You've no doubt heard people throw around terms like “high sex drive” or “low sex drive”…and have probably also seen plenty of pop cultural portrayals of the cliche of men having a higher sex drive than women. But what does having a high sex drive ~actually~ mean? Simply put, it's “a strong desire to engage in sexual activity,” says , PsyD, a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles.
As for that stereotype that men always want more sex…it's not entirely unfounded. But it definitely doesn't tell the whole story.. A 1991 sexual desire questionnaire found that men, overall, did experience sexual desire more than women . But…that was in 1991! And it was a pretty small sample size of 58 men and 86 women between 18 and 54 years old. As journalist Daniel Bergner explained in his book What Do Women Want , there's evidence that women actually get aroused just as much as men, if not more.
, a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles, spoke to Womens Health about high sex drives, what that means biologically, and how to keep a healthy sexual balance in your relationships.
What does it actually mean, from a medical perspective, that a patient has a high sex drive?
A high sex drive means a strong desire to engage in sexual activity. Libido is actually our life force energy and driven by things that bring us pleasure. It is more of a reward/motivation drive than it is a drive like hunger or thirst. It is not only sexual but can be the focus for many especially if thats the primary way one learns to use their libido. I think a high libido is an instinctual and biological drive that is influenced by our psyche and emotions.
Are there specific hormone or other chemical differences that lead to a high sex drive?
There are definitely biological and psychological factors that affect libido. Most of the research states that testosterone and dopamine play a factor in motivation towards sexual activity. I also find that people that are more active and athletic tend to have higher libidos and people dealing with health concerns can see a major impact on libido. We see this with menstruating women that will experience a higher drive around ovulation when hormone levels are changing and women that are menopausal will notice drops in libido as hormone levels decrease.
What do you generally find are people's misconceived notions about high libido?
There are gender stereotypes about men having higher libidos than women that can create shame and stigma.There are also messages around norms around libido that are not correct. There are no norms and every person is different. Our libido also changes daily, so its better to understand how to cope with the changes rather than make assumptions about the highs and lows.
I find that the stigma around high libido can be labeled as hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior. Since there are no norms, we need to be mindful of how we approach libidinal drive and not label it as problematic unless these changes start to affect daily functioning or result in negative consequences for the individual leading to distress.
What are some questions that you normally get from people who are concerned that their sex drive is too high, or whose partners might comment on this to them?
Uneven desire is the most common sexual concern I see in my practice. People want to know whats normal and how to match their partners libido. I discourage the goal of matching a partners libido and instead help a couple focus on meeting their needs with one another, despite the differences and learning to communicate effectively with one another about their sexual needs and desires.
Maybe one partner has energizer-level bunny libido, while the other doesn't need sex as much. What advice would you give a couple whose sex drives aren't always compatible?
I would encourage this couple to learn to negotiate and compromise when it comes to sexual needs. We focus on learning to communicate your needs and finding ways to experience your sexuality together that both partners are comfortable with. I would also encourage the high libido partner to assess ways in which they are utilizing libido in their life so that the pressure is not only on partnered sex for the release.
When do you know the difference between high sex drive and sex addiction or obsessiveness?
The main difference is that compulsive sexual behavior is often out of control and doesnt lead to satisfaction around sexual needs. It is often accompanied by shame, isolation, and low self-esteem. Many people have high sex drives and it is not as common to have out-of-control sexual behavior.