Overactive sex drive
What It Means, Characteristics, Causes, and MoreHigh Libido: What It Means, Characteristics, Causes, and More
Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — By Scott Frothingham on February 28, 2020
Libido refers to sexual desire, or the emotion and mental energy related to sex. Another term for it is “sex drive.”
Your libido is influenced by:
- biological factors, such as testosterone and estrogen levels
- psychological factors, such as stress levels
- social factors, such as intimate relationships
High libido is difficult to define since the baseline for “normal” libido depends on the person. It’s different for everybody.
One person’s “normal” may be a desire for sex once a day, while someone else’s “normal” is having zero sex drive.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a high libido potentially becomes a problem when it results in sexual activity that feels out of control, such as sexual compulsion.
This is also known as hypersexuality or out of control sexual behavior (OCSB).
Signs of sexual compulsion often include:
- Your sexual behavior is having a negative impact on other areas of your life, such as your health, relationships, work, etc.
- You’ve repeatedly tried to limit or stop your sexual behavior but can’t.
- You’re secretive about your sexual behavior.
- You feel dependent on your sexual behavior.
- You don’t feel fulfilled when you substitute other activities for your sexual behavior.
- You use sexual behavior to escape from problems, such as anger, stress, depression, loneliness, or anxiety.
- You have difficulty establishing and maintaining stable, healthy relationships due to your sexual behavior.
The causes of compulsive sexual behavior haven’t been clearly established yet.
Potential causes include:
- Neurotransmitter imbalance. Compulsive sexual behavior may be related to high levels of chemicals in your brain known as neurotransmitters (think dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) that help regulate your mood.
- Medication. Some dopamine agonist medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease may cause compulsive sexual behavior.
- Health conditions. Parts of the brain that affect sexual behavior may be damaged by conditions such as epilepsy and dementia.
If you feel that you’ve lost control of your sexual behavior, help is available.
Sexual behavior is deeply personal, making it difficult for some people to seek help if they’re having any sexual issues.
- You’re not alone. There are many people also dealing with sexual problems.
- The right treatment can help improve the quality of your life.
- Your doctor will keep your information confidential.
Your libido isn’t quantifiable on a one-size-fits-all scale.
Everybody has their own standard libido. If your sex drive drops from that standard, you’re experiencing low libido. If your sex drive increases from that standard, you’re experiencing high libido.
If your sex drive starts interfering with your quality of life, speak to a doctor or other healthcare provider.
You can also speak to a mental health therapist who specializes in human sexuality. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) has a nationwide directory of certified sex therapists.
Last medically reviewed on February 28, 2020
How we reviewed this article:
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
- Derbyshire K, et al. (2015). Compulsive sexual behavior: A review of the literature. DOI:
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Compulsive sexual behavior.
- Sexual dysfunction & disorders. (2015).
- Yes, you can have better sex in midlife and in the years beyond. (2017).
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
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Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — By Scott Frothingham on February 28, 2020
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Why Is My Sex Drive So High Lately? 20 Causes, Changes Over Time, More
Yes, that says FUN not “concerning.”
“It’s completely normal for your libido to fluctuate and for there to be points of time — days, weeks, months, years — where your sex drive is higher than usual,” says Dr. Jill McDevitt, resident sexologist at CalExotics.
Usually, a higher sex drive is absolutely nothing to be worried about.
As Dr. Jess O’Reilly, PhD, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast says, “Desiring sex more often does not suddenly make you a pervert.”
It makes you human.
There is no metric for measuring libido, says Searah Deysach, longtime sex educator and owner of Early to Bed. So there’s really no universal baseline for what counts as a normal, she says.
Now, can you have your own personal “normal”? Yes, says Deysach.
“But even that’s a range, because there are so many actors that can cause your personal libido norm to shift a little — or a lot — to the left or right. ”
- relationship status or interactions
- sleep, diet, and exercise
- mood and mental health
- hormones, medication, and physical health
You can’t — not really.
Do you feel friskier than you did this time last year? Have you been craving sex more than your personal normal? Is your sex drive higher than your partner’s? Then you might say your libido is high.
But there’s no diagnostic test or doctor-approved online quiz you can take to find out if your libido is high.
Feeling sexually insatiable? There are a few common culprits for the climb.
Your stress levels are lower
This is a big one. “If you’re going through a time of low-stress, your libido will likely increase,” says McDevitt.
She says that’s why “vacation sex” is such a Thing.
Your mental health is better than ever
According to clinical sex counselor Eric M. Garrison, author of “Mastering Multiple Position Sex,” being raised in a sexually-repressive household or religion can train folks to “turn off” — or at the very least disconnect from — their libido.
For these folks, going to a sex therapist or mental health professional to work through this shame can result in reconnecting with their sexual urges.
He says this can make folks feel like their sex drive is higher.
You’re having good sex
Thanks to your hormones, the more you have (good) sex, the more your body craves it.
So if you recently started sleeping with someone (or a new sex toy!) that rocks your world, it’s natural to want sex more often, says Dr. McDevitt.
You’ve been exercising more
“Some people find that they want sex more often when they exercise regularly,” says Dr. O’Reilly.
This could be credited to a number of things:
- boosted confidence
- reduced stress
- improved sleep
You swapped or stopped certain meds
Certain medications like antidepressants, SSRIs, birth control, and beta-blockers (to name a few) are known to squash libido.
Finally adjusting to these medications can also result in a higher libido, says Garrison.
And so can going off these medications. Friendly reminder: *don’t* go off any medication without talking to your healthcare provider first!
You’re at your “horny” spot in your menstrual cycle
Most menstruating humans have a “horny” part of their cycle — usually right before, during, or right after ovulation.
So if you or your partner is ravenous a few days a month, it’s the hormones talking!
“Your high libido is a problem if either you think it’s a problem, or if your high libido is leading you to act in a way that interferes with the rest of your life,” says Garrison.
If, for instance, you’re skipping work, cheating on your partner, blowing your savings on sex gadgets to meet your sexual impulses, or otherwise engaging in ~risky behavior~ as a result of your libido, that’s a problem.
In these instances, working with a mental healthcare professional is a M-U-S-T. They’ll help you come up with a game plan to regain control.
A few things!
Dr. McDevitt recommends doing some self-reflection: Is your libido actually interfering with your life? Are you actually bothered by this libido spike?
Or is your partner or sex-negative upbringing making you feel gross, bad, or guilty about these urges?
“If your high desire for sex is related to the fact that you find sex stress-relieving, finding other ways to relieve this stress such as breathing, visualization, and non-sexual touch exercises might help,” says Dr. O’Reilly.
Don’t pressure your partner… but talk to them
If your libido has increased and your partner’s hasn’t, it’s possible that either A) your partner feels guilty that they aren’t as interested in having sex or B) you’re feeling resentful that your partner doesn’t want to smash.
That’s why Garrison recommends talking to your partner about it. You might say:
- “I’ve been really in the mood to connect with you sexually recently. Would you be open to letting me massage your back and seeing where it goes?”
- “Recently, I’ve been so horny for you. Would you be open to scheduling a date night sometime soon?”
- “I know that I’ve been suggesting we have sex more than usual, lately. I’d love to talk about ways we connect physically and intimately that make us both feel good.”
Your sex drive isn’t strictly tied to a timeline. But there are some natural health and hormonal shifts that typically occur within each decade that can affect your libido.
“Generally speaking, the late teens is when most people’s libidos are the highest,” says Dr. McDevitt. Largely, due to hormones.
But (!), Garrison says, “That doesn’t mean that’s when people are having their most fulfilling, pleasurable sex lives.”
For cisgender women in particular, adolescence can be one of the least sexually gratifying times due to things like shame and lack of information.
Hormonally speaking, this is a time when most folks want to get after it.
But Dr. O’Reilly says due to body image, communication, and relationship issues, for folks not in long-term, loving relationships, this decade may not be one of super-satisfying (or orgasmic!) romps.
Stress is a libido killer. And for many, due to kids, work, household responsibilities, and aging parents, their 30s are a high-stress time.
Oh, and speaking of kids… the 30s are the prime decade for baby-making.
For those who get pregnant, the hormonal fluctuations during and after pregnancy can result in less interest in sex for the time being, says Dr. O’Reilly.
For folks of all genders and sexualities, testosterone levels dip this decade, which can lead to less frisky business.
For vulva-owners this is due to perimenopause, and for penis-havers this is due to the natural aging process.
But, rest assured, Dr. O’Reilly says things that often accompany this decade can lead to a higher interest in sex and more fulfilling sex.
- kids leaving the house
- improved feelings about oneself and one’s body
- increased comfort with a partner
- reduced financial stress
The average age penis-having folks go on Viagra is 53, which suggests many struggle to maintain an erection this decade.
And the average age vulva-owners hit menopause is 51, which can lead to less interest in sex and vaginal dryness.
But Dr. O’Reilly says things like vaginal moisturizers, lube, more creative understandings of sex (oral! anal! humping! kissing!) can make this an incredibly pleasurable and orgasm-rich decade.
60s and beyond
Sure, your libido may be a less high than it was 40 years ago.
But there’s no rule that says your sex life is worse in your 60s than it was in your 20s, says Dr. McDevitt.
“Some people get divorced in their 60s and get swept off their feet by an exciting new love and find that their sex drive rockets,” she says.
Others discover new ways of having sex with their long-term partner that are even more pleasurable.
A sex drive spike can be a great excuse to get down with yourself or your hunny and have some fun (read: orgasms)!
Can a high libido get to a point where it’s interfering with your life? Yes.
But so long as you’re not ditching work or other responsibilities to get off, go ahead and enjoy it — no matter your age.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.
Sexual activity - female libido
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In simple terms, libido is sexual desire, the desire to be sexually active.
Until quite recently, this concept was used only in a "male" context - men want sex more often and more strongly! But the time of these prejudices has passed: the media constantly raises the topics of sexuality, people have become more open and liberated. nine0011
So why not use this term for women?
Next question: what is considered normal libido and what is abnormal?
For some, the libido wakes up once a month, for others every day. What is the reason? What affects sex drive?
It is important to note here that, despite the popularity of the topic on television and in print media and the promotion of an active sexual position, there is no norm in this matter. That is, there is your individual norm. nine0011
Accordingly, if you rarely think about sex or don't think about it at all, you are not its initiator, this does not mean that you have any (physiological or psychological) health problems.
The most important thing to understand is that there is no normal frequency of intercourse. If everything suits your couple, then everything is fine.
Otherwise, if your libido has decreased, and you feel that this affects the quality of life, you are stressed, then it's time to look for a solution! nine0011
First, it is important to note that libido is influenced by such factors as the rhythm of life, upbringing, interests of a person and, most importantly, his sexual constitution.
You may have guessed, but let's all note that male and female libidos are different!
Male sexual desire is simpler than female in nature, but stronger.
Most often, men resort to medicines to solve problems with libido, which solves the problem rather quickly.
Women's sexual desire depends largely on the emotional component - this is the basis of libido. We will focus our attention on it. nine0011
If there are problems in the matter of libido in women, then this is almost 100% a combination of mental and physical factors that cannot be cured by drinking a magic pill.
What to do?
Let's start with psychological reasons, among them the most common are:
- Self-doubt and dissatisfaction with their appearance: a woman may consider herself too fat or thin, ugly breasts, big belly and so on. Many of these factors build up after pregnancy and childbirth
Feelings of insecurity and lack of well-being: everyday problems can be emotionally exhausting, and there will be no thoughts about sex.
- Stress. Here it should be said that a modern woman is more socially active. And if earlier there was no such excitement to prove to everyone and everything that you can (you can work and achieve success in the professional field, lead a life, raise children, actively play sports, etc., etc.), today the weaker sex actively occupies a strong position and , of course, this can affect the psychological state. nine0004
- The last block, but no less important, includes religion, upbringing, family traditions and values. As they say, everything from childhood. In childhood, parents form our attitude towards sex, and we form it in our children, which certainly affects the future.
There are also medical reasons for the lack of sexual desire:
- Hormonal changes in the postpartum period. The level of the female hormone estrogen decreases plus breastfeeding, child care and physical changes (difficult birth trauma, etc.). Naturally, sexual desire disappears, but over time, libido should be restored. nine0004
- Removal of the ovaries.
- Pain during intercourse due to infections, fibroids, scars, etc., which lead to the refusal of sex.
Testosterone plays a key medical role in both male and female sexual desire. Yes! This also applies to women. That is, the higher the level of the hormone, the stronger the desire.
- Menopause. The hormonal background changes: the level of estrogen and testosterone decreases, dryness in the vagina, sweating, hot flashes and other unpleasant factors appear. There are discomfort and even pain during intercourse. nine0004
- Other diseases: diabetes mellitus, arthritis or arthrosis, obesity, etc.
- Certain medications may also affect libido. Usually these are antidepressants, contraceptives and hormonal drugs.
The fact is that if one of the couple feels a decrease in libido, then both can suffer from this. Emotional problems, conflicts, isolation begin, which gives rise to even more problems. Partners cannot openly talk about preferences, share experiences. nine0011
Another point is that a partner's sexual dysfunction can affect a decrease in the partner's libido, which is quite logical. After all, if they don’t want us, then the first thought is “the problem is in me.”
Therefore, it is important to take a responsible approach to this issue and not be afraid to look for a solution.
next are photos of a couple in love taken with a thermal imager.Different colors correspond to different temperatures.The warmest areas are shown in white, then red, yellow, green, blue, indigo and finally the coldest - black
From the point of view of evolution, any living being is just a set of genes that copy themselves. Genes can grow into cells, grow organisms, interact with each other, but in the end, only those who manage to save their copies will leave a mark on history.
Physiology: A Dose of Passion
Albert Einstein College of Medicine professor Lucy Brown, using magnetic resonance imaging, found that lovers who think about their partners most noticeably activate the same areas of the brain as when using cocaine. In other words, thinking about loved ones is as pleasurable as a drug. nine0011
To achieve the goal, the genes go to all sorts of tricks. Some rely on simplicity and efficiency and produce maximum copies in the shortest possible time. For example, bacteria divide in two, and hydras bud off new organisms from themselves. This is called asexual reproduction.
Other genes are smarter. They do not just copy themselves, but mix with other genes and create offspring from the resulting mixture. This is the essence of sexual reproduction, which gave living beings a choice: with whom would they “mix” in such a way as to ensure the greatest success for the offspring? Asexual reproduction is only aimed at quantity. For sex, quality is important. nine0011
The "pick and mix" strategy has proven remarkably effective. She helped genes master the entire planet - from mountain peaks to the seabed. Using sexual reproduction, the genes built fancy machines for themselves, like the human body, all in order to keep copying themselves.
But what if we, intelligent adults, are not interested in the intentions of our genes? What if we don't want to breed? Of course, the genes provided for this. To deceive man, they invented love. nine0011
American anthropologist Helen Fisher divided love into three biological components: lust, attraction and attachment. Just as in airplanes, the individual motors operate independently of each other, so in the brain, the three components of love independently control our emotions and desires. You can feel affection for one partner, attraction to another, and at the same time get excited at the sight of spicy photos of someone else.
Lust, or libido, is the desire to participate in sexual reproduction at all costs. With whom, for what and with what outcome is not so important. The process matters, not the result. nine0011
The mission of attraction and lust ends at the moment of gene transfer. Oxytocin made people choose long-term partners
The response of animals to pheromones can be considered an analogue of human lust. For example, they are isolated by sexually mature male mice. Pheromone molecules entering the nose of a female mouse bind to special receptors on the nerve endings. They transmit the signal "It's time to breed!" right into the brain, which immediately begins to command: “Prepare for ovulation, pump sex hormones into the blood, don’t lose sight of the male!” nine0011
Lust is the main engine of reproduction, and in Homo sapiens it works on sex hormones: estrogens and androgens. Being an ancient mechanism, lust is blind, and moral norms are powerless against its oppression.
If for lust all those around you look the same, then at the level of attraction there is a choice for which everything was thought. The female deer will give preference to the male who won the battle. The young lady will go on a date with the most charming boyfriend. From the point of view of neurophysiology, there is no difference between these events. nine0011
But what if we don't care about the intentions of our genes? What if we don't want to breed? Of course, the genes provided for this. In order to deceive a person, they invented love
The main substance responsible for attraction, which is also called love, is dopamine. As soon as the level of dopamine in the brain rises, euphoria sets in, a person becomes hyperactive, loses appetite and sleep, worries over trifles, and at the same time begins to think better. The same effect is caused, for example, by cocaine and amphetamines, which force the body to “squeeze out” all the dopamine from itself. nine0011
Why would genes make a person nervous, but joyful and intelligent? The answer is simple: the gene transfer machine must overcome any difficulties, but bring it to sexual reproduction with the chosen partner. And do it as quickly as possible, until there is another who wants to participate in the mixing of genes. That is why the lover is so nervous and sees only one way out of the painfully sweet state: to achieve the lady of the heart. And, of course, to deliver the genes where they should be.
Attachment appeared in living beings quite recently by evolutionary standards. The superstructure over lust arose about 120-150 million years ago among mammals and the first birds. This is not surprising: if lust and attraction are based on obvious, momentary observations and direct sensations, then attachment requires a look into the future, and this is much more difficult.
Why did the genes invent such a complex mechanism? If we imagine that offspring appear immediately after fertilization and immediately begin an independent life, then attachment is even harmful: what is the point of limiting reproduction to just one set of genes? nine0011
But the more complex living creatures became in the course of evolution, the more time and energy their offspring required. It only takes twenty minutes and a pinch of sugar to make a new bacterium. To get a full-fledged new person, you need nine months of pregnancy, comfortable conditions, a special diet, painful childbirth, and a couple of decades of care and upbringing.
With the increasing complexity of animals, breeding has become a long-term project that needs to be planned in advance. It has become unprofitable to change sexual partners like gloves: if the relationship ends after fertilization, then who will be looking for food? nine0011
Neither attraction nor lust take such difficulties into account. Their mission ends when the genes are passed on to the next generation. What was needed was a way to get the breeding machines to choose a long-term mate, not just an attractive mate.
The main “attachment molecule” is the hormone oxytocin. It is released in large quantities during childbirth, helping to cope with pain and forget about it in the future. This hormone promotes the release of milk, directly affects the manifestation of tenderness to children and stimulates parental behavior. Oxytocin increases the desire to spend time with a partner, maintain social and physical contact with him. We can say that oxytocin is the hormone of plans for the future. nine0011
Theory: Chemistry of Life
The theory that it is genes and not organisms that are the object of evolution is known as the gene-centric approach.
It was brilliantly popularized in 1976 by biologist Richard Dawkins. In The Selfish Gene, he explains that once self-copying DNA sequences were chemically generated, they began to compete with each other. The fragments that reproduced themselves more efficiently than the rest received the advantage. Over time, genes began to encode enzymes that can copy DNA, and proteins that protect them from external influences. nine0011
Gradually, machines for carrying and reproducing genes became more complex, but their behavior is still determined by the needs of the genes, and not by the organisms themselves.
The gene-centric theory explains such illogical, at first glance, phenomena as altruism and intragenomic competition of genes (a phenomenon when some genes are transmitted to offspring with a greater frequency than others).
Other mammals also have systems that provide lust, attraction and attachment in humans. In studies of the role of oxytocin, for example, prairie voles are often used - these rodents are monogamous and attached to a partner. But this does not mean at all that love means the same for a vole as it does for a person. We need to look for the starting point of what we call love. nine0011
It is believed that the emergence of love in humans is associated with the early evolution of great apes. Eight million years ago, the changing climate of West Africa forced our ancestors to leave the thinning forest for the savannah. In open spaces, you had to move long distances, and already about four million years ago, Australopithecus stood on their feet, instead of climbing trees.
Having straightened up, the female could no longer carry the baby on her back, and this made it difficult to find food. But bipedalism freed the hands of males, and they began to carry their food over long distances, instead of dining on the spot. Families with a distribution of roles have gained an evolutionary advantage: females take care of children, males bring food. nine0011
In the new conditions, the ancient oxytocin system proved to be extremely useful. Having played with the settings of the brain, evolution "connected" the rapidly developing emotions and consciousness of Australopithecus to the action of the hormone - improved nutrition and new opportunities for raising cubs greatly increased its intellectual abilities. In less than three million years, the hormonal and emotional processes, invented by the genes to copy themselves as efficiently as possible, have grown into a dense shell of culture. Religions sang oxytocin, and medieval minstrels sang dopamine. nine0011
But this fact should not at all upset people who seem to be losing control over their lives: after all, who knows better than genes how to please us? So it's worth relaxing and having fun.
Time scale: breeding history
~3.5–1.2 billion years ago (exact date unknown)
Emergence of sexual reproduction. Ancient bacteria exchange genes
1.2 billion years ago
The first fossil "men" and "women": red algae Bangiomorpha