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Sex Health Blog

Looking at HSDD

Happy New Year! 

As we begin 2011, let’s look at an issue facing many women these days – hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a decrease or absence of sexual desire or fantasies that causes a woman personal distress.

You might experience a dip in your sex drive from time to time.  And this is normal.  For example, many women see their libidos drop during times of stress.  Once the stressful situation calms down, their libidos perk up again.  Hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause can also affect your desire for sex.

But if your loss of desire is constant and worrisome, you might have hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD).  HSDD is more common than you might think.  About 1 in 10 women have HSDD.  It’s the most common of female sexual dysfunctions.  And it can have a number of causes, from emotional factors like relationship issues to physical illnesses like diabetes or coronary artery disease.

If you’ve never heard of HSDD, you’re not alone. 

A recent survey conducted by the Society for Women’s Health Research showed that women were 7 times more familiar with erectile dysfunction in men (ED) than with HSDD.  66% of the women surveyed knew about ED, but only 9% knew about HSDD. 

Why is this?  It may be that men’s sexual health issues get more publicity.  Drugs for ED are constantly advertised in the media.  And how many times have you gotten spam e-mail touting the latest ED remedies at the lowest prices? 

There may be social issues at work here, too.  In American culture, men are expected to want sex.  But many women are brought up to think that “nice girls” aren’t supposed to want it.  Or, they may believe that their sexual satisfaction just isn’t as important as a man’s.

Fortunately, this mindset is changing and there are many resources available for women who want to learn more about libido, HSDD, and their overall sexual health.  Once place to start is our educational article here

How Do I Know If I Have HSDD?

A woman’s experience with sexual desire is personal.  Sex drive varies from woman to woman.  You might find you want to have sex more often (or less often) than other women you know.  As long as you and your partner are comfortable with your situation, there’s no cause for concern.

What characterizes HSDD is a woman’s personal distress over the lack of desire.  If you feel worried, anxious, or depressed because of your sex drive or if it’s becoming a problem in your relationship, then you might have HSDD.

One way to assess your symptoms is to use the Decreased Sexual Desire Screener.  This is a short online questionnaire that can help you decide if you should see a clinician or not. 

Overall, if your lack of desire is bothering you, you don’t need to suffer.  Your doctor can help you.

Why Should I See a Doctor?

You might feel embarrassed or reluctant to bring up your sex drive with your healthcare provider.  A lot of women feel this way.  For many, sex just isn’t talked about.  It’s  considered too personal or private.  You might think that your doctor doesn’t have the expertise or the time to discuss your sexual concerns. 

But we encourage you to begin the conversation.  Here are some reasons why:

  • Low sex drive can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.  Your diminished libido could be a symptom of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, coronary artery disease, and even cancer.  Diagnosing such conditions, and getting them under control, can save your life.
  • You might be experiencing hormonal changes.  Women going through menopause often see their sex drive decline because of dramatic drops in estrogen and testosterone, two hormones that affect libido.  Pregnant and breast-feeding women have hormonal changes, too. 
  • You might need a change in medication.  Some medications, like antidepressants, can affect your sex drive.  Your doctor may be able to prescribe something different.
  • A doctor can help you find a sex therapist or counselor, if you need one.  HSDD can have psychological causes, such as anxiety, depression, low-self esteem, or past sexual abuse.  Relationship problems like infidelity or conflict can also play a role.  You might need some help working through such issues and that’s okay.  Your healthcare provider can help you find a sex therapist or counselor.  Some doctors will even set up the first counseling appointment for you. 

Good sexual health is important for good overall health.  It affects your entire well-being, your self-esteem, and your relationships with others.  So if you think you might have HSDD, it’s well worth seeking treatment.