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The term libido ( Latin libido : "desire, desire", in the narrower sense: "lust, instinct, excess") comes from psychoanalysis and describes that psychic energy that is linked to the instincts of sexuality . As a synonym for sexual pleasure and desire , this term has now also entered common usage.


The concept of libido occupies a central position in Sigmund Freud's work , even if it is not used uniformly throughout Freud's work. In his early work Freud contrasted the libido with the instincts of self-preservation and understood the libido as sexual drive energy, which is expressed in the phenomenon of “urge” or desire , as well as desire and pleasure . The libido was opposed by the instincts of self-preservation or ego-instincts, whose task lay in the self-preservation of the individual, for which he understood hunger as a form of expression. In 1914, in his work on the introduction of narcissism , he introduced the concept of ego libido, that is, a libido that is involved in the development of the ego. In mass psychology and ego analysis (1921) he defined that the libido is "the energy of those drives that have to do with everything that can be summarized as love ."

For Freud, however, the libido is expressed not only on the sexual level, but also in other areas of life, such as cultural activity, which Freud understands as the sublimation of libidinal energy. For Freud, the non-sexual, too, was ultimately shaped by sexual driving forces, which has brought him the accusation of “ pansexualism ”.

According to Freud's drive theory , the drives go through the following different characteristic development phases in childhood: an oral , anal , phallic (= oedipal ), latency - and finally a genital phase (see drive theory). According to Freud, disturbances in the development of the libido lead to psychological disturbances . These phases of development denote various organ cathexes ( object cathexes ) of the libidinal energy.

In any case, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari continued to define and use the term libido as a sex drive, e.g. B. as free energy, as desire, as "sexual energy that occupies everything". They also saw sexuality more as energy than as physical-genital behavior.

Analytical psychology

In his doctrine of analytical psychology , Carl Gustav Jung understood the libido to mean any psychic energy of a person in general. Unlike Freud, Jung saw this power as similar to the Far Eastern concept of chi or prana , i.e. as a general striving for something .

Differences between men and women

Many different scientific studies have shown that men have a stronger sexual drive than women, which is based on indicators such as spontaneous thoughts about sex, the frequency and diversity of sexual fantasies, preferred frequency of intercourse, preferred number of sexual partners, masturbation, preferences for different sexual practices , Willingness to forego sex and forego other things for sex, initiation and rejection of sex and other indicators were measured. According to a 2001 review, there are no conflicting scientific results.

The man's libido is highly dependent on the production of the male sex hormones testosterone . If testosterone levels are below 15 nmol / l, a loss of libido is more likely; at levels below 10 nmol / l the likelihood of depression and sleep disorders increases. Hot flashes and erectile dysfunction are usually only observed below 8 nmol / l. The female libido is also dependent on hormones. Many women report regular fluctuations in libido over the course of their menstrual cycle .

Libidinal dysfunction

Lack of libido is known as frigidity . In the case of erectile dysfunction in men, there is often not a lack of libido, but rather the ability to erect in spite of the existing libido (“You want, but you can't”).

Many illnesses, including mental and psychosomatic illnesses , lead to a deficiency or loss of libido, for example:

Various drugs can also be responsible for a loss of libido, for example trenbolone , finasteride or various steroid hormones such as B. Levonorgestrel .

Some diseases lead to an excessively increased libido, for example:

A pathologically increased libido is also called sex addiction or obsolete nymphomania (woman) / satyriasis (man).


  • Christina von Braun: Not me. Logic, lie, libido . Structure, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-351-02672-1 .
  • David Schnarch : The Psychology of Sexual Passion (Original title: Passionate Marriage. Love, Sex, and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships, translated by Christoph Trunk, Maja Ueberle-Pfaff). Piper, Munich / Zurich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-25137-2 .
  • Edwin J. de Sterke: The joy is twofold. In: Michael Erler, Wolfgang Rother (Hrsg.): Philosophy of lust. Studies on hedonism. Schwabe, Basel 2011, ISBN 978-3-7965-2765-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Libido  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sigmund Freud (1914): Collected works. Volume X, p. 141.
  2. Deleuze / Guattari (1977): Anti-Oedipus. P. 349 ff.
  3. ^ Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen R. Catanese, Kathleen D. Vohs (2001): Is There a Gender Difference in Strength of Sex Drive? Theoretical Views, Conceptual Distinctions, and a Review of Relevant Evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Review 5: 242–273 (PDF; 202 kB), doi : 10.1207 / S15327957PSPR0503_5 , accessed on January 9, 2019.
  4. Doctors newspaper , April 28, 2010, p. 15.