By Arielle Tschinkel, INSIDER
When you're not enjoying sex, you might be wondering why, but the truth is that our sex drives are impacted by so many things. Both your physical and mental health can be the cause of a low libido. Stress, certain medications, and a feeling of shame could all be reasons you may not be enjoying sex.
Your sex drive is determined by so many factors and it can constantly change depending on what's going on in your life, as well as your physical and mental health. Whether you're dealing with short-term or long-term sexual dissatisfaction, it's normal to wonder why you're not enjoying sex.
According to experts, here are some reasons you may not be enjoying sex.
Editor's note: This post contains some information that may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault or trauma.
You're engaging in sexual activities before you're adequately aroused.
Preparing your mind and body for sex can be crucial to actually enjoying it and taking time to get aroused may help prepare your body for sex.
"Foreplay gets the 'blood flowing' to the genitals and helps with lubrication and the ability to climax during sexual activity," Michael Ingber, MD, Board-certified in Urology and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery at the Center for Specialized Women's Health, division of Garden State Urology/Atlantic Medical Group told INSIDER.
"Many people get caught up in the idea that sex is equivalent to intercourse," added Melissa Coats, psychotherapist and owner at Coats Counseling, LLC. "Foreplay is sex and by taking the pressure off of the thought that there must be one outcome in a sexual experience, you can free yourself up to enjoy foreplay and focus on your own pleasure rather than the worry."
You're not mentally or emotionally ready to have sex.
As important as it is for your body to be ready for sex, your mind also needs to be ready, too. "Context is everything," said Coats. "For example, If you come home from a long day of work feeling anxious, upset, and overwhelmed and your partner tries to make sexual contact, you will most likely not be able to access your [feelings of] desire and pleasure easily."
She said context includes a variety of things including your environment, level of stressors, or even the state of your relationship with a sexual partner.
You're dealing with anxiety about your body or appearance.
Sex can be an extremely vulnerable situation, so if you're not feeling comfortable in your own skin, you may find it more difficult to enjoy sex.
"Anxiety is the enemy of desire and pleasure," Coats told INSIDER. "In order to experience sexual pleasure, we need to be present in the moment and with our bodies. If you are experiencing negative self-talk about your body, your mind is not on how much you are enjoying your body and what it is experiencing."
You're uncomfortable about past sexual experiences.
Whether you're dealing with a past sexual trauma or worrying that your experience level is different from your partner's, these feelings can understandably creep up before, during, or after sex, making it tough for you to find enjoyment in a sexual experience.
Coats said that communicating with your partner can help you to feel more comfortable during sex.
You're not comfortable around your partner.
Since sex oftentimes involves so many layers of intimacy, if you're not fully comfortable with your partner, you'll likely have a difficult time fully enjoying your experience.
"By expressing these aspects of your sexuality with someone, you are trusting them with that vulnerability," said Coats. " If you are not comfortable with your partner, feeling vulnerable will not seem appealing and may even feel physically or emotionally unsafe."
Read More: 10 times you shouldn't have sex
You feel shame or stigma about your sexual needs or wants.
Sexuality exists on such a wide spectrum and everyone has different wants, needs, and desires. Opening up about what you like and don't like can feel intimidating, even if you're with a long-term partner. And, feeling like you cannot express your wants or needs can be making sex less pleasurable for you.
"Shame and stigma are attacks on identity," Coats told INSIDER. "Whether the shame is related to a sexual identity, fantasy, kink, (or something similar,) feeling attacked either by your own thoughts or someone else's thoughts or actions, you may automatically feel unsafe and want to retreat."
You've been given false or sex-negative messages about sex or sexuality.
Similarly, it can be easy to believe things you've heard about sex, from how much you should be having to stereotypes about the kinds of sex people have, and these can seep through to your own sexual experiences, likely without you even realizing it.
"There is an abundance of misguided, harmful, and plainly false messages about sex that people take at face value as fact. If something doesn't feel right, allow yourself to question that message, whether it is from yourself or someone else," said Coats. In these cases, she suggested exploring sex-positive resources to help you to feel more comfortable with sex.
Read More: 5 inaccurate things you were probably taught in sex ed
You're on a medication that impacts your libido or physical sensations during sex.
You might not link your medications to your sex drive, but plenty of over-the-counter and prescription medications can impact your sex drive, including birth control, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, blood pressure medications, and even allergy meds and antihistamines.
"Several medications can affect not only libido, but also the sexual experience in men and women," said Dr. Ingber. "Antidepressants are notorious for this, causing a decrease in sexual desire and often interfering with the ability to orgasm."
If you think a new or existing medication is causing a dip in your libido or ability to orgasm, check with your doctor.
You're dealing with a medical condition that makes sex painful.
Even though it's incredibly common, experiencing pain during sex can be the quickest way to put the brakes on your enjoyment in the moment. There are several medical conditions that can contribute to pain, dryness, or irritation during or after sex, as Jessa Zimmerman, a certified sex therapist and author of "Sex Without Stress," previously explained to INSIDER.
"There are some medical causes of sexual pain, including skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, pain conditions due to overgrowth of nerves, endometriosis, and vaginismus, an involuntary clenching of the vagina that develops in anticipation of pain and is painful in itself," said Zimmerman.
Other medical conditions that might cause painful sex include prostatitis, dyspareunia, and even skin allergies.
If you suspect a medical condition is causing you to feel pain during sex, check with your doctor, who can help you to find treatment options and ways to help ease your pain or discomfort.
Read More: 7 scary signs you could have endometriosis
You may be trying positions that make you feel uncomfortable or pained.
Pain or discomfort during sex isn't always due to a chronic medical issue — some positions may not be enjoyable to you.
"If you have sought medical attention with no clear answers, try using different positions, lubricant, or talking to a pelvic floor physical therapist to help figure out what your body is trying to tell you," said Coats
Dr. Ingber agreed, adding that everyone is different and what's comfortable and enjoyable for one person isn't necessarily pleasant for another.
You're not prioritizing sleep, eating well, or exercising regularly.
As Coats told INSIDER, "Physical, mental, emotional, and sexual health are all connected. When one is being neglected, it is like trying to drive a car with the emergency brakes on. It will go, but it will slow you down a lot and it's not great for your engine. Engaging with your sexuality when you feel physically un-aligned can be stressful and difficult."
Taking care of your entire body by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise will help give you the energy your body needs to not just have sex, but thoroughly enjoy it, too.
Read More: 5 ways your body is trying to tell you that you need more sleep
You're not sure what feels good for you and your body.
Sexual desire and preferences are different for every person. And, according to Coats, popular misconceptions about sex being a "task to be mastered instead of an activity to enjoy" could make it tough for someone to figure out what they like.
Taking time to explore your own body by way of masturbation or trying new things that you're comfortable with, whether with new toys, positions, or other sexual stimuli, can help you learn what feels enjoyable for you.
You're skimping on water intake.
Believe it or not, being dehydrated can lower your libido and even make sex painful. If you're not drinking enough water, you might experience headaches, fatigue, and irritability, which can definitely hinder your ability to get in the mood.
But the same way that your cells need water to remain adequately hydrated, dehydration can cause dry, irritated skin, potentially leading to pain and irritation down below.
Similarly, Healthline notes that there's a link between dehydration and erectile dysfunction, and your body needs sufficient oxygen to help maintain an erection. When you're not getting enough water, you might not get adequate blood flow throughout your body, which includes your sex organs.
Read More: Being dehydrated can lower your libido and even make sex painful — here's why
You've recently given birth.
For those who have recently given birth, Dr. Yvonne Bohn, OB/GYN at Los Angeles Obstetricians & Gynecologists told INSIDER that postpartum tearing and healing can cause intercourse to be painful.
She said doctors typically recommend abstaining from sex for six weeks or longer post-delivery, but it depends on the patient's body and their healing process. She also added that breastfeeding can decrease one's estrogen levels, causing one's vagina to be less lubricated and less elastic, thus making sex more painful.
You're afraid of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
Even if you're taking precautions for safe sex, it's natural to worry about pregnancy or STIs. "Any fear that exists while engaging in a sexual encounter is going to impact how you feel about your experience," Coats told INSIDER. "If you are afraid of getting pregnant, remember, sex does not [have to] equal intercourse. There are plenty of ways to express and experience pleasure and eroticism other than intercourse."
Read More: 11 myths about preventing pregnancy you should stop believing
You're stressed about other things.
Few things can kill the desire for sex quite like stress. From an emotional standpoint, Coats said mental energy plays an important role in enjoying sex.
"If that mental energy is being used to assess what is going on anywhere but within your own body, it is competing with your pleasure for your brain space. Creating a context where you can put other things aside and allow yourself to focus on you, also known as self-care, is crucial in sexual satisfaction."
Your mental stress could even cause sex to be more painful. "All of these issues will impact your natural ability to relax, get aroused, lubricate and prepare the [body] for sex," Dr. Bohn told INSIDER.
You're just not interested in sex, either at the moment or in the long-run.
The truth is that not everyone is interested in having sex and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
"If sex is not that interesting to you, you are not abnormal. If you would like to become more interested in sex and your sexuality, there are plenty of ways to spark curiosity," Coats told INSIDER. "But it must come from your own desire and not someone else's expectation in order to be pleasurable."
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