Having a low sexual drive can be caused by a number of different factors, but one that is becoming more and more common is depression. As we all well know, mental health is becoming a serious problem for men, and, when it comes to sex, increased anxiety about performance can weigh heavily on a guy’s mind.

We’re all familiar with how depression can impact your everyday activities, creeping into your brain and prohibiting you from being your best self by sending self-doubt or negativity into your thoughts. And, when it comes to how it affects your sexual drive, it can do something similar. However, because sex is supposed to be enjoyable, the way depression can impact your activity is even more interesting, as something that health experts call “anhedonia” becomes apparent, which literally means loss of interest or enjoyment in the things you used to like — like sex.

Since we think it’s important to know what this means on your sex life, we’re giving you some help to try and stop depression from creeping into your mind in order to get back to being yourself.

So, what does anhedonia mean?

As briefly mentioned above, anhedonia, in a nutshell, means losing interest in stuff you used to enjoy. When it comes to depression in guys, this (sadly) can include sex, too. That’s because, when guys are depressed, their self-esteem and their motivation are both down, meaning you don’t feel attractive a lot of times to the opposite sex in order to have sex.

Think about it, if you’re down in the dumps and having a tough time finding ways to see value in yourself, sex might be the last thing you actually want to do, because you’re comparing yourself and lacking sexual drive.

Ian Kerner, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and sex counselor, explains a little bit more in-depth, per Men’s Health:

“When you look at sex, it’s basically about things that excite and arouse you,” Kerner says. Depression, meanwhile, is a condition that inhibits excitement and arousal. So it’s no wonder depression and sex don’t mix.

In essence, when men experience anhedonia, they don’t have the urge to have sex because they view themselves negatively.

Am I losing my sexual drive because of depression?

That’s a question you might be asking yourself if you’ve found that your sexual drive isn’t what it typically is. Have you lost interest in flirting? Are you down on your appearance or feel like you’re unengaged with girls? Are your sexual tendencies decreasing and you’re not finding pleasure in sex? These might be things related to sexual drive and depression.

Depression impacts people differently, but, according to Liesel Sharabi, PhD, an assistant professor of communications at West Virginia University, one of her studies found a guy who was so depressed that he wanted to just be left alone, which isolated him from his wife and, thus, impacted his sexual drive.

The increased isolation might feel like the guy is helping himself, but, in fact, it’s giving him worse thoughts about himself, which can only make him fall deeper into depression.

“When a man feels bad about himself, he might not feel confident or worthy of a connection with his romantic partner,” adds Amy Delaney, PhD, an assistant professor at Millikin University in Illinois and author of a 2018 study on depression and sexual intimacy.

So, yes, your sexual drive can be directly related to depression of negativity about your self worth.

Are there other factors that play into sexual drive decreasing?

It’s funny how sexual drive in guys is often talked about as an all-or-nothing dilemma. In essence, it’s like guys are either horny all the time, or they have a problem. That’s a wrong way to approach the topic, of course, yet we’re all used to it being this way because of social norms and such.

Since depression can increase sexual drive, there are more factors than a guy either completely losing interest in sex altogether. And, according to the previously referenced Amy Delaney, PhD, in her studies, it comes down to “cognitive” and “interactive” challenges.

“Lots of the literature on depression focuses on decreased desire and [sexual] function,” Delaney says. “But my research with couples points to multiple layers of sexual intimacy challenges.” She says some of these challenges are “cognitive” while others are “interactive.”

“Cognitive challenges include troubles with self-esteem and feelings of isolation,” she explains. “Interactive challenges happen when couples struggle to talk about and initiate sex.” All of these roadblocks can line up in ways that disrupt “the entire system” of a romantic and sexual relationship, she says. One example is a concept known as “interference.”

“Interference focuses on the ways partners can disrupt each other’s day-to-day routines and individual goals,” she explains. “So interference could be when your partner leaves her towel on the floor, won’t join you and your friends for bowling night, or needs a ride to the doctor so you can’t make it to the gym.”

This is important to know, because it shows that, even if a guy is depressed, it doesn’t always mean that it’s of his own accord. In some cases, his depression and lack of sexual drive could be related to his relationship, which is why communication and openness about sex with your girlfriend is an important trait to have to help keep relationships strong and a healthy sex life.

How can I increase my sexual drive if depression is impacting it?

There are several ways to help increase your sexual drive when you’re feeling depressed or have depression. Unfortunately, some of the solutions take serious work, meaning simply taking or switching medications won’t always kick the problem.

According to Delaney, here are some examples of treatments depressed men can do in order to positively increase their sexual drive.

  • Professional counseling
  • Couples therapy
  • Taking a break from sex

While taking a break from sex might seem counterproductive to actually solving the problem itself, the aforementioned PhD, Ian Kerner, explains how it can actually help a man get over his depression and positively impact his sexual drive.

He explains that, if you’ve been struggling in the bedroom, taking sex off the table can help relieve some of the pressure. “Especially if you have a tremendous amount of anxiety around sex—if it’s something you’re feeling very stressed or guilty or ashamed about—taking a sex break can help.”

Instead, you and your partner could experiment with other forms of intimacy—stuff like holding hands, kissing, and “outercourse,” he says. Not feeling that one? Maybe try the exact opposite approach: Just do it, regardless of how you feel. You may quickly come around to sex once you’ve initiated it, Kerner says.

Although the solutions will be different for every man, finding the right balance in order to get back that “spark” is important. Just like a trip reboots your mind and escapes work-related stress, so, too, could some of the suggestions above in order to get your sexual drive back in gear.