Physical, emotional and cognitive elements that affect sexual desire


Sexual desire is, according to Kaplan, an impulse produced by a network of nerve cells in the brain whose functioning affects the genital organs during the phases of orgasm and arousal.

On the other hand, according to Cottraux, it is a phase in the sequence of sexual behavior that translates into affective phenomena, preceding consummatory behavior, representing itself as an anticipation of sexual activities, being conscious and the result of mental and physiological and biochemical processes. Here we will know some aspects of the functioning of sexual desire both in cases in which there are disorders that affect it and in cases in which these do not occur.

The role of hormones in sexual desire

Testosterone plays an effective role in increasing the frequency of nocturnal swelling of the penis. In women, androgens are also the basis of sexual desire.

The effect of testosterone on sexual desire is not immediate, but you have to wait seven to ten days to observe an increase in its presence. Androgens would not be related to sexual functioning itself, but to sexual appetite . Its effects would be more in the sphere of desire.

Affective and mental aspects

Sexual desire is allied with pleasure experiences . Sexual episodes lived satisfactorily usually act as a motor for successive experiences. Similarly, negative ideas about sex, highly frustrating or painful experiences associated with sexual experience, seem to have a clear inhibitory effect. Sexual desire is clearly influenced by emotional psychological processes.

On the other hand, the quality of the existing affective bond in the couple's relationship can greatly affect the presence of desire . And sexual fantasies, as a form of anticipation and sexual recreation, seem to be a motor of sexual desire.

Factors to consider

Sexual desire has to be seen in relation to several factors, which we will see below.

1. Importance of fantasies

They charge the desire with energy and put that component of the game necessary in sexual relations and reinforce the behavior, anticipating the possibility of an encounter and preparing the neurochemical system for it. When the relationship becomes monotonous, that fun, necessary part disappears.

2. The dynamics of the limbic system

There are times when in our limbic system, in the emotional part, there is a primitive "recording" that negatively charges the sexual response, feeling it as something bad, either through experiences or through the messages transmitted from our environment.

3. Sex learnings are important

If the person has had bad experiences, there will be no good sexual learning , tending the system to avoid it and leading to the absence of desire. This often occurs when sex is forced or done out of commitment to the partner rather than out of desire.

4. The object of sexual attraction is very important

This influences as much as if the couple stops liking us, as if there is a disguised homosexuality that prevents the person from expressing their desires in a natural and healthy way.

5. Sex education that the person receives and the perception of the other is basic

If we understand that the other sex is going to use us, use us or hurt us, the attraction component will be ambivalent , one part needs it and another rejects it. Here we include when sexual behavior itself is considered a danger, either due to possible pregnancies, or anticipation of the relationship as something that generates alert.

Desirelessness disorders

Normal sexuality: We must not get the wrong interpretation that every hypoactive state of desire is equal to disorder. The lack of desire or low desire becomes a problem when the person experiences such a situation with lack, generating anguish .

Physical causes of lack of desire

Some dysfunctions with physical origin can interfere with the appearance of sexual desire. The most common are the following:

  • Low level of testosterone .
  • Thyroid problems
  • Anemia.
  • Epilepsy.
  • High level of stress, tiredness.
  • Depressive states.
  • Drugs: anxiolytics, antidepressants, sedatives and tranquilizers.

Psychological causes of lack of desire

The most frequent are the following:

  • Fear to fail. Lack of pleasure in any of your sexual relationships.
  • Fear of any dysfunction such as vaginismus, premature ejaculation, pain ...
  • Fear of pleasure (to be considered sluts) or negative ideas about sex.
  • Anguish for fear of having children or acquiring the new role of mother.
  • When the affection diminishes since the woman mainly relates affection and sex or simply the non-sexual attraction of the couple.
  • Fear of lack of control (very important cause).
  • Absence of fantasies.
  • Presence of sexual relations without desire.
  • Use of unpleasant sexual techniques.

A separate one requires people who have suffered some kind of abuse in this area . The percentage of the general population of women and men who have suffered some type of child abuse is very high. This can generate a traumatized response to the sexual component, with a tendency to avoid. In many cases the person cannot access that information for different reasons, as a form of defense of our mind, appearing a freezing response to sexual behavior, without a cause that the person can identify.

Treatment techniques

These are the techniques most used in psychotherapy in the face of these types of problems:

  • Physical examination and treatment of problems of physiological origin, if any.
  • Erotic reading.
  • Mentally reliving pleasant sexual situations.
  • Pleasure techniques: exercises in which intercourse is excluded for a time.
  • Plan sexual relations with the partner.
  • In case of evaluating a possible trauma , the work is recommended to be within the therapeutic framework.

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