- 1: instinctual psychic energy that in psychoanalytic theory is derived from primitive biological urges (as for sexual pleasure or self-preservation) and that is expressed in conscious activity
- 2: sexual drive
Libido refers to a person's sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. The desire for sex is an aspect of a person's sexuality, but varies enormously from one person to another, and it also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time. Sex drive has usually biological, psychological, and social components. Biologically, levels of hormones such as testosterone are believed to affect sex drive; social factors, such as work and family, also have an impact; as do internal psychological factors, like personality and stress. Sex drive may be affected by medical conditions, medications, lifestyle and relationship issues. A person who has extremely frequent or a suddenly increased sex drive may be experiencing hypersexuality, but there is no measure of what is a healthy level for sex. Asexual people may lack any sexual desires.
A person may have a desire for sex but not have the opportunity to act on that desire, or may on personal, moral or religious reasons refrain from acting on the urge. Psychologically, a person's urge can be repressed or sublimated. On the other hand, a person can engage in sexual activity without an actual desire for it. Males reach the peak of their sex drive in their teens, while females reach it in their thirties. Multiple factors affect human sex drive, including stress, illness, pregnancy, and others.
A sex drive can be viewed in terms of a general desire for sex or in terms of desire for sex with a particular person. A general desire for sex is an important motivator for the formation and maintenance of intimate relationships in both men and women, and a lack or loss of sexual desire can have an adverse impact on a relationship. A general change in desire for sex by either partner in a relationship for any reason if sustained and unresolved may result in a lack or loss of sexual desire for the other partner, which may cause problems in the relationship. Infidelity may be an indication of a continuing general desire for sex, though not with the primary partner or because personal sexual needs cannot be satisfied adequately by that partner. Problems can arise from the loss of sexual desire in general or for the partner or a lack of connection with the partner, or poor communication of sexual needs and preferences.