What Is Libido in a Man? Male Sex Drive

Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2022
What Is Libido in a Man
Libido in a man is his sex drive, influenced by hormones and neurotransmitters such as testosterone, dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate

Libido in a man is his sex drive, influenced by the symbiotic relationship between hormones and neurotransmitters—testosterone, dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate.

  • Testosterone: Testosterone is a sex hormone produced in the gonads and adrenal glands. While testosterone plays a role in muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, and sperm production, it is also involved in libido, vitality, bone density, fat distribution, and red blood cell production. Imbalances in this hormone can result in decreased libido.
  • Dopamine: Dopamine is involved in emotion, motor control, focus, memory, and feelings of pleasure. Dopamine imbalance can contribute to cravings, low mood, loss of muscle control, and difficulty focusing.
  • Serotonin: Serotonin, which is thought to be an inhibitory neurotransmitter, affects mood, the sleep-wake cycle, and impulse control. As a result, low levels are linked to anger, sleep problems, mood problems, cravings, aches, and low libido.
  • Glutamate: Glutamate is the brain's primary excitatory neurotransmitter. Too much of it can be harmful due to its stimulating effect on the nervous system, leading to anxiety, stress, and depression. Low levels, however, have been linked to fatigue and poor brain function.

What causes low libido in men?

While there are numerous causes of low libido in men, such as diet, exercise, mental health, and age, the balance of testosterone and neurotransmitters is crucial.

Table: Neurotransmitter effects on male libido
Sexual function Dopamine Serotonin Glutamate
Desire Enhance Inhibit Enhance
Erection Enhance Enhance or inhibit Enhance
Ejaculation Enhance Inhibit Enhance

For optimal sexual performance, there must be adequate and balanced levels of testosterone and neurotransmitters.

What are symptoms of low testosterone levels?

Declining levels of testosterone can lead to the following symptoms:

According to studies, men with low testosterone levels are more likely to suffer chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and type II diabetes.


Testosterone is a chemical found only in men. See Answer

How is low libido in men treated?

Licensed treatments for male libido work by increasing blood flow to the penis, making it easier to achieve and maintain erections (for treatment of erectile dysfunction) and lasting longer before orgasm (for treatment of premature ejaculation).

Commonly used male enhancement drugs include:

Male libido problems that are treated with these types of drugs include:

  • Longer erections: Viagra, sildenafil citrate, Levitra, and Cialis are examples of approved treatments for erection problems.
  • Reduced frequency of ejaculation: Treatments available include antidepressants (Lexapro, Paxil or Priligy) and anesthetic creams (such as eutectic mixture of local anesthetics).
  • Tiredness: Tiredness in bed can be caused by several factors, including dehydration or lack of salt, iron, vitamin D, B12, or overall hemoglobin. Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause.

However, these medications are not suitable for everyone, especially if you have heart problems, low blood pressure, or currently on nitrates.

Do male enhancement pills work?

Male enhancement pills contain a variety of herbs, and companies often make claims about their ability to increase penis size or improve sexual performance. 

However, there is no medical evidence to support these claims. Consult your doctor before taking male enhancement pills.

Do testosterone boosters work?

Herbal testosterone boosters are supplements that are believed to raise testosterone levels. 

Although studies have proven that testosterone boosters work to some extent, the FDA reports that it is only the zinc in these medications that is responsible for raising testosterone levels. Other studies have shown that most of these products do not affect testosterone levels, and or only provide effects that last less than a month.

Medically Reviewed on 2/9/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Better Health. Libido. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/libido

Healthdirect. Loss of male libido. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/loss-of-male-libido

Endocrine Society. Decreased Libido. https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/decreased-libido

Almaiman AA. Effect of testosterone boosters on body functions: Case report. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2018;12(2):86-90. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5870326/

National Institutes of Health. Erectile Dysfunction/Sexual Enhancement. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/erectile-dysfunctionsexual-enhancement