The thyroid makes hormones that influence various organs and systems within the body, including the systems responsible for a person’s sex drive, or “libido.”
Reduced libido can arise as a result of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) as well as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
In hypothyroidism, the thyroid makes too few thyroid hormones to support the body’s needs, while in hyperthyroidism, the thyroid makes too much.
This article describes how thyroid problems can affect libido in males and females.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
This, in turn, can cause changes to sexual desire, as well as impairments in sexual function. These changes can affect both females and males.
This hormone stimulates the production of breast milk during and after pregnancy. However, males and nonpregnant females also make prolactin for reasons that scientists do not yet fully understand, and researchers associate increased levels with a lack of sexual desire in both sexes.
Hypothyroidism can also cause a reduction in the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. This can lead to symptoms that may negatively impact libido and sexual functioning in both males and females. Examples include:
Males may experience different types of sexual dysfunction depending on whether they have an underactive or overactive thyroid.
This system consists of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain and the reproductive organs, or “gonads.” It enables hormone signaling between these parts of the body.
Hypothyroidism can disrupt the regulation of the HPG axis, leading to a reduction in levels of certain sex hormones, including:
- sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
- dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
Besides a decrease in libido, males with hypothyroidism may experience the following forms of sexual dysfunction: erectile dysfunction (ED) and ejaculatory dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation.
In males, hyperthyroidism may
Some possible effects of hyperthyroidism in males include:
- erectile dysfunction
- premature ejaculation
- psychiatric disturbances, such as irritability, depression, and anxiety
Females may experience different types of sexual dysfunction depending on whether they have an underactive or overactive thyroid.
According to the
This is partly because hypothyroidism has an increased tendency to occur around the age of menopause, and many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism may overlap with those of perimenopause.
Nonetheless, researchers have identified a possible link between hypothyroidism and the following forms of sexual dysfunction in females:
There are very few studies investigating the effects of hyperthyroidism on sexual dysfunction in females, and the results of these are
However, researchers agree that the condition can negatively impact female sexual function.
In hypothyroidism, the thyroid does not produce sufficient levels of the hormone thyroxine (T4).
Treatment for hypothyroidism brings T4 back to sufficient levels, which may help to normalize a person’s sex drive.
The treatments for hyperthyroidism aim to prevent the thyroid from making too much thyroid hormone and alleviate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. This may help normalize a person’s sex drive.
The best way for a person with hypo- or hyperthyroidism to treat libido issues is to treat the underlying condition.
However, the following could help to increase libido naturally:
- Exercise: A 2023 review concludes that both a single bout of exercise and long-term exercise improve libido via the following mechanisms:
- increasing activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which boosts sexual arousal
- improving mood and body image
- increasing energy and decreasing fatigue
- Foreplay: Engaging in foreplay can stimulate sexual arousal. For females, it can also promote relaxation and reduce pain during sex.
- Relationship counseling: The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) explains that relationship counseling can help couples overcome issues that may be negatively impacting their sexual desire.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): The NHS recommends CBT to help treat depression or anxiety, both of which can harm libido.
The following medications may help with some forms of sexual dysfunction:
- to combat
ED in males:
- vaginal lubricants to alleviate vaginal dryness and painful intercourse in females
- hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to boost libido and alleviate various forms of sexual dysfunction in females who are going through the menopause
Couples who find that their current form of contraception is reducing libido for one or both partners may also consider changing to another form of contraception.
The NHS recommends that people with reduced libido contact their GP if:
- they are concerned about their low sex drive
- they are taking hormonal contraception or taking medication that they suspect may be impacting their sex drive
- their sex drive does not return to normal following pregnancy
People who take thyroid medication should receive regular blood tests to check their thyroid function over time.
They should also contact their doctor if they notice a recurrence or change in their symptoms while taking thyroid medication, as these could be signs that the medication dosage needs adjusting.
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect sex drive, or libido, in both males and females.
Treating the underlying condition can help restore a person’s libido. Other tips that may help in some cases include exercising, practicing foreplay, and undergoing talking therapy or relationship counseling.
People should contact a doctor if they have concerns about their libido or if they suspect they may have a thyroid issue.