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The word libido is almost always used as a synonym for sex drive. This is a type of energy that develops deep in our biology and culture. The concept originated from Sigmund Freud's psychosexual theory, although currently it's used in medicine to treat sexual dysfunction.
In the following article, we take a look at what libido is (what its definition is according to the Oxford dictionary and specialized texts), as well as the main ways to increase sex drive.
According to the Oxford dictionary, libido is sexual desire, considered by some authors as an impulse and the root of mental activity. However, be careful not to mistake this word for 'livedo reticularis,' a disorder that affects the extremities causing spasms in the blood vessels.
The Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion edited by Springer (2016) offers another definition of this term. It says that 'libido' is a term initially used in psychoanalytical psychology to denote the fundamental sexual energy of the human body, manifested as sexual instinct or rather, as sexual impulse; which in the last case promotes the reproduction and continuation of the species.
As you can see, the definition of libido is closely linked to psychological theories that explain why and why people think, feel, and behave the way they do, specifically related to sexual activity.
To this effect, the fluctuation of sex drive could be related to the activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin, or even to the secretion of hormones like testosterone, but not necessarily.
Although it came from specialized language, the word 'libido' has become an essential part of the colloquial language. Generally, it refers to the interest that people develop in experiencing sexual excitation in different ways, and how this may or may not affect sexual and emotional bonds.
The term 'libido' was used for the first time in 1898, by a doctor by the name of A. Moll in a text on physiology and sexuality. Then, it was brought back decades later by the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud -credited for developing the Libido Theory.
In psychoanalysis, the libido theory is one of the many terms that make up the psychosexual development theory and the instinct theory. Specifically, from the Freudian perspective, libido refers to the dynamic manifestation of sexuality.
Besides, it's the source of all of the mental energy and can flow towards any thing, person, or bond, etc., that is an object of our attention. For this reason, Freud would suggest that libido establishes our mental relationship with objects, both in fantasies and in reality.
For example, he talks about creative activity as a way to 'fulfill' one's libido. In other words, a way to give sexual energy a socially acceptable meaning (that coincides with the proposals of the social groups and institutions that we belong to).
This unloading of sexual energy is, in fact, the source or the origin of civilization itself and mental structure, according to the psychoanalytical theory from the Freudian perspective.
Among other things, although not exclusively, libido can manifest itself as sexual desire (channeling energy towards people and sexual and emotional bonds), or regarding function or dysfunction.
This was widely developed starting during the second half of the 20th century, not only by other psychologists but also by doctors from different disciplines, like physiology and neurology.
These last two use the word libido not just in the psychoanalytical sense, but also regarding sexual desire, including organic activity and psychological processes or motivations. Starting from this point, theories regarding sexual response cycles, where desire could follow a pathological course evolve.
During this same period 'sexual disorders' began to be described. On this list, sexual dysfunction, defined as a sexual desire disorder and the psychophysiological changes associated with the sexual response cycle.
In the same context, libido has to do with mental states that are reflected or inhibited in the activation of sexual behavior. This encompasses the many different ways in which a person may be unable to participate in a sexual relationship in the way that they'd like to. Besides, this can act in the same way in both men and women, but it doesn't have to necessarily.
Once the concept of sexual desire became widespread in medicine, it became an attribute that could be enhanced, decreased, or increased depending on each case or context.
So, some techniques and even pharmaceutical options have been developed specifically to increase libido or sex drive. Below we'll check out the 5 main ones.
Viagra or sildenafil is likely the medication that's most closely related to sexual desire. Although this medicine is useful when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction, it doesn't necessarily increase sex drive.
This is because it improves the physiological response for erection, but not necessarily the psychological perception when it comes to sexual excitation. Besides, this medication is closely associated with male sexuality.
In the case of women, particularly, hormonal therapies which consist of the use of testosterone patches (Intrinsa, being the most popular brand) are used, since some studies have explored feminine libido and androgen deficiency.
However, there's no consensus on the direct relationship between sexual desire and said hormone, and therefore there isn't a consensus on its effectiveness either.
Aphrodisiacs are substances that can increase libido (sex drive), potency or pleasure. These are elements used in different cultures, whose goal is to gratify the senses.
Some examples include music, scents, or food. The theory is that said gratification could also heighten the sexual experience since these elements have an impact on the central nervous system altering neurotransmitters like serotonin, or rather, the concentration of different hormones.
Some of the most popular aphrodisiacs are mollusks; ambrein (whale intestinal secretion); salvia pratensis extract; Lithospermum arvense leaves and seeds; the skin of amphibians from the Bufo genus; turnip and ginger oils, and many others.
On a scientific level the effects of these have been studied in animals, and to a lesser degree in human beings.
Currently, there are many psychotherapy options guided by specialists in sexology. Sexology is the discipline that studies sexuality in human beings, including sexual behavior and its manifestations.
Since it takes on personal concerns from both physiological and psychological perspectives, psychotherapy could be beneficial to determine the cause of low libido, as well as in deciding treatment for this.
Besides, this option is essential since sometimes said loss could be related to organic activity, or on other occasions, it could be more closely connected to mental activity, which is highly relevant information for treatment.
Considering that sexuality is a critical aspect of essential development, it's important to analyze the lifestyle of the individual in question.
For example, research on the relationship between sleep disorders and low sex drive report that reduced libido in men is often related to an obstructive sleep apnea diagnosis.
This significantly decreases sleep quality, besides generating anxiety and depression, which have also been linked to low sex drive.
Another option to increase libido is exploring, taking care of, and learning about one's own body.
This could be useful since the underlying psychological cause of a lack of sex drive is often monotony, little knowledge of one's sexuality, and misinformation regarding anatomy and pleasure.
In this regard, awareness of one's own body, preferences, and pace concerning sexual activity could promote and increase libido.
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Davis, S. & Tran, J. (2001). Testosterone influences libido and well being in women. Trends in Endocrinology, 12(1): 33-37.
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Leeming, DA., Madden, K. & Marlan, S. (2010). Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer: Boston, MA, USA.
Libido (2019). Oxford Living Dictionaries - English. Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 7, 2019. Available at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/libido