Low Libido: One of the Many Side Effects of Grief
Grief is a normal response to loss, whether that loss is the death of a loved one, a divorce or the end of an intimate relationship, the loss of a pet, the loss of a job or some other loss. You’d expect to feel sad when you’re grieving, but grief affects people in many other ways, as well. It affects people physically as well as emotionally. It even affects relationships. It can affect your love life and even your libido. In fact, low libido is one of the more common side effects of grief.
How Grief Affects Libido
Grief affects people in many ways, including physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. Your libido, or desire for sex, is not only a physical thing. It’s closely connected to your emotions, your mental state and your social relationships. A combination of common responses to grief often result in a lack of libido.
There are a myriad of side effects of grief. According to the Halcyon Hospice website, common emotional responses to grief and loss include depression, anxiety and feeling of emptiness or numbness. Common mental effects of grief include feelings of insecurity and difficulty concentrating. If you feel anxious, depressed, numb and/or insecure, you’re not likely to be in the mood for sex. If you’re having trouble concentrating, well, then it’s hard to concentrate on your partner. Social side effects of grief often include loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities (including sex), withdrawal from family and friends, and changes in behavior. These changes affect relationships and your love life.
Grief also affects people physically. Physical symptoms that commonly accompany grief include fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, various aches and pains, decreased appetite, trouble sleeping and even lowered immune function, meaning you might get sick more easily than usual. Loss of sex drive and problems with sexual functioning, such as impotence, are also common physical symptoms experienced in times of grief.
Regaining Interest in Intimacy
There is no time limit to grief. People grieve in their own ways, in their own times. Gradually, the pain lessens and so do the many emotional, mental, social and physical side effects of grief. Cancer.net, an online resource provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, advises giving yourself time to feel your feelings and allowing yourself so grieve.
There’s no rush to get back to normal and in fact, after some losses, you’ll have to find a new normal because things will never be the way they once were again. While it’s normal to withdraw from others when you’re grieving, try to make time to stay close to you partner. If you aren’t interested in sex or if you aren’t able to perform sexually the way you’d like, try being close in other ways. Hold hands. Cuddle. Talk. Share your feelings. Avoid turning to alcohol or drugs to comfort yourself or help you deal with the side effects of grief, as these can decrease libido and interfere with sexual functioning. Keep in mind the fact that some antidepressant medications can also decrease sex drive and interfere with sexual functioning. If your doctor has prescribed any medications like these for you, don’t stop taking them without talking to your doctor first, but do let your doctor know if you have any sexual side effects that concern you.
If your interest in intimacy doesn’t return in time, or if your lack of libido is causing significant distress, consider talking to a therapist. The UC Davis Health System website recommends seeking professional help if your symptoms are severe and last more than several weeks (this is not to suggest that you should get over your grief in a matter of weeks but that symptoms should begin to lessen over time) or if you have difficulty trusting people, including your partner, as a result of your loss and grief. Make an appointment with your physician, as well, to rule out any physical causes of your loss of sexual desire.