Why Women Lose Interest in Sex Loss of sexual desire is women's biggest sexual problem, and it's not all in their heads. For a growing number of women, declining hormones, job stress , relationship issues, and other problems are taking their toll in the bedroom. Loss of sexual desire, known in medical terms as hypoactive sexual desire disorder HSDD , is the most common form of sexual dysfunction among women of all ages.
A recent study showed that nearly one-third of women aged 18 to 59 suffer from a lost interest in sex , and it's not all in their heads. Unlike men's main sexual complaint, erectile dysfunction , women's biggest sexual problem is caused by a combination of both mental and physical factors, which aren't likely to be cured by merely popping a pill. What Is Low Sexual Desire? Contrary to popular belief, experts say frequency of sexual intercourse has nothing to do with sexual desire or satisfaction.
Kingsberg says that sexual desire is more than just an issue of low libido or sex drive. She says sexual drive is the biological component of desire, which is reflected as spontaneous sexual interest including sexual thoughts, erotic fantasies, and daydreams. Continued Kingsberg, who is an associate professor of reproductive biology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine says, "It's about your body signaling that it wants to be sexual.
Whether or not there is any intention to act on it, we all have a certain level of drive. But sexual desire also encompasses interpersonal and psychological factors that create a willingness to be sexual.
Common causes for a loss of sexual desire and drive in women include: Partner performance problems, lack of emotional satisfaction with the relationship, the birth of a child, and becoming a caregiver for a loved one can decrease sexual desire.
Job stress , peer pressure , and media images of sexuality can negatively influence sexual desire. Testosterone affects sexual drive in both men and women. Testosterone levels peak in women's mids and then steadily decline until menopause , when they drop dramatically.
Mental illnesses such as depression , or medical conditions, such as endometriosis , fibroids , and thyroid disorders , impact a woman's sexual drive both mentally and physically. Certain antidepressants including the new generation of SSRIs , blood pressure lowering drugs, and oral contraceptives can lower sexual drive in many ways, such as decreasing available testosterone levels or affecting blood flow.
Blood levels of androgens fall continuously in women as they age. Putting the Desire Back in Women's Sex Lives Because a loss of sexual desire in women is caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors, it usually requires more than one treatment approach to fix the problem.
They're not just complaining of one plumbing problem, says Shifren. Sexual dysfunction usually affects both parties in a relationship and should be discussed together or individually with a mental health professional. Changing medications or altering the dose.
If the problem is caused by medications, a change of prescription or alternative therapies may be recommended. If an oral contraceptive is suspected as the culprit in lowering testosterone levels, a different formulation or nonhormonal birth control methods may be prescribed.
Addressing underlying medical conditions. Medical problems contributing to low sexual desire may require surgical treatment, such as the removal of painful fibroids or medication. In postmenopausal women, vaginal dryness may be treated with vaginal estrogen creams. Although no hormone or drug has been approved by the FDA to treat sexual problems in women , many gynecologists recommend off-label uses of testosterone therapy for women with low sexual desire to restore testosterone to normal pre-menopausal levels.
In addition, several therapies involving testosterone pills or skin patches specifically designed to treat female sexual problems are currently being studied in hopes of FDA approval in the near future. For example, Shrifen is involved in research using a testosterone skin patch to treat low sexual desire in women. Initial studies have shown that the patch significantly improved both sexual desire and satisfaction compared with placebo among postmenopausal women who had their ovaries removed.
She says a phase III clinical trial of the testosterone patch involving several thousand women worldwide is currently wrapping up, and results should be published soon. For the first time, this study looks at the effect of the testosterone patches in naturally menopausal women as well as those who have undergone surgical or early menopause caused by chemotherapy or removal of their ovaries. That's why drugs must be tested against a placebo sugar pill in order to scientifically measure their effect.
It also helps explain why many supplements claim to be effective in treating sexual problems, such as low sexual desire. Because expectations play such a large role in sexual desire, over-the-counter products may claim that they're effective, but it's likely just a placebo effect. But experts say research into women's sexual function is slowly catching up in the post-Viagra era.
She says that until recently, the only studies on women's sexual issues were very small, often short-term, and rarely well designed.