Your Sex Drive With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

You're tired. You hurt all over. Exertion can wipe you out for days. When you have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, is it any wonder your sex life isn't great?

Couple in their bed with drinks
Comstock / Getty Images

On top of it being more difficult, we often find that, after illness strikes, we just don't have much sex drive. That can be hard on your self-esteem and your intimate relationships.

So, where exactly does that sex drive go?

Why We Lack the Drive

When we know so little about many aspects of our fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, it's startling to know that there's actually a fair amount of research on the libidos of women with these conditions. As you'd expect, multiple studies confirm that we have a lower sex drive than healthy people.

However, they don't always agree on why. One of the earlier studies on fibromyalgia and sexual function, published in 2006, suggested that it was more of a psychological problem than a physical one. Researchers based that on their finding that mental distress was a predictor of sexual dysfunction while pain was not. Some later research finds a role for distress and other mental/emotional factors as well but also found numerous physical reasons.

Other studies link sexual dysfunction in fibromyalgia to:

  • Tenderness, judged by tender-point count
  • Pain from sex
  • Inadequate lubrication
  • Being dissatisfied with the relationship
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep quality

Chronic fatigue syndrome studies tie sexual dysfunction to:

  • Comorbid myofascial pain syndrome, or Sjogren's syndrome
  • More cognitive and neurological symptoms
  • More intense fatigue

Drug-Related Sexual Dysfunction

Many of us are on medications (such as antidepressants or anti-seizure drugs) that can lower sex drive.

All three of the FDA-approved drugs for fibromyalgia—Lyrica (pregabalin), Cymbalta (duloxetine), Savella (milnacipran)—can cause a loss of libido, although it's not a common side effect of them.

Other classes of drugs that can cause sexual dysfunction include:

Re-Gaining Your Sex Drive

Some medications may help you regain your desire for intimacy, especially if the problem is drug-induced, so talk to your healthcare provider about it.

If you believe relationships problems, anxiety, or other mental/emotional issues are causing your problems, you may want to work with a therapist.

If major symptoms like pain and fatigue are to blame for your low libido, the best approach is to keep trying to find treatments that help.

Regardless, you don't have to give up your sex life.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Besiroglu MDH, Dursun MDM. The association between fibromyalgia and female sexual dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studiesInt J Impot Res. 2019 Nov;31(4):288-297. doi:10.1038/s41443-018-0098-3

  2. Kool MB, Woertman L, Prins MA, Van Middendorp H, Geenen R. Low relationship satisfaction and high partner involvement predict sexual problems of women with fibromyalgiaJournal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2006 Nov;32(5):409-423. doi:10.1080/00926230600835403

  3. Galvez-Sánchez CM, Duschek S, Reyes Del Paso GA. Psychological impact of fibromyalgia: current perspectivesPsychol Res Behav Manag. 2019 Feb;12:117-127. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S178240

  4. Blazquez A, Ruiz E, Aliste L, García-Quintana A, Alegre J. The effect of fatigue and fibromyalgia on sexual dysfunction in women with chronic fatigue syndromeJournal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2014 Mar;41(1):1-10. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2013.864370

  5. Clayton AH, Croft HA, Handiwala L. Antidepressants and sexual dysfunction: mechanisms and clinical implicationsPostgraduate Medicine. 2014 Mar;126(2):91-99. doi:10.3810/pgm.2014.03.2744

  6. Semet M, Paci M, Saïas-Magnan J, et al. The impact of drugs on male fertility: a reviewAndrology. 2017 Jun;5(4):640-663. doi:10.1111/andr.12366

Additional Reading

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.