1 in 10 Women Have This Sexual Disorder—and Don’t Even Know It
Can't get excited about sex with your significant other? It might be because of this under-diagnosed condition.
“Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a common form of sexual dysfunction when women have no or a low desire to have sex, and it causes distress,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, founder and medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Health and Menopause. HSDD can manifest from both physical and psychological elements.
Conservative estimates say that 10 percent of women have HSDD, but some research suggests the condition is under-diagnosed and affects closer to 33 percent of women, says Heather L. Beall, MD, a gynecologist at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital. Find out some more medical reasons for low libido.
Signs you might have Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder
You’re on birth control
Some women taking birth control find that their arousal and ability to orgasm dip when they’re on “the pill,” which may be why some women are ditching the pill in favour of an app. Talk to your doctor about your birth control options.
You’re on antidepressants
Antidepressants greatly decrease your sex drive and your ability to orgasm, which is a side effect not often talked about, considering nine percent of Canadians take antidepressants. “They may not realize the impact it can have on [their] sex drive,” says Dr. Beall.
You’re closing in on menopause
“I would say 90 percent of perimenopausal women have decreased sexual desire,” says Dr. Beall. “It can be a huge problem if your partner is still active.”
Age has a lot to do with your lowered libido. Your estrogen levels drop as you age, according to the Mayo Clinic, which may lower your desire and increase vaginal dryness.
You’ve had traumatic experiences in the past
“[HSDD] can stem from past trauma,” says Dr. Streicher. “Either molestation, rape, or perhaps being brought up in a very religious atmosphere where sex was deemed bad. It’s usually not about not liking sex, and it doesn’t happen with just one sexual partner, but all.” In fact, HSDD used to be in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; it has since been lumped together with another syndrome as sexual interest/arousal disorder. You may also want to try some of these natural libido boosters.
Sex is painful for you
One cause of HSDD may be painful sex, creating fear or an aversion to having sex. “Women with endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or other infections may have painful intercourse,” says Dr. Streicher. It’s important to see your gynecologist to treat any preexisting conditions or to discuss when sex starts to become painful—don’t accept this as normal.
How to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder
The only Health Canada-approved treatment for HSDD is Addyi (flibanserin), which is nicknamed “the female Viagra” because it increases sexual desire or response. Health Canada approved the drug in 2018, reports the Ottawa Citizen.
As another option, Dr. Beall suggests vaginal estrogen, especially for postmenopausal women. “Decreased sexual desire and dryness is a recipe for never having sex again,” she says. “As women age, we experience a lot of vaginal dryness. You don’t self-lubricate like you used to.” She recommends her patients use a vaginal estrogen cream twice a week. “It will give you a sense of being younger, and that your vagina still works the way that it used to,” she says.
Depending on the root of what may be causing your HSDD, your gynecologist also may refer you to a sex therapist or behavioural therapist. “There are sex therapists that specifically deal with HSDD. Talk therapy may also help treat HSDD,” says Dr. Streicher. Therapists can help women get through the day-to-day HSDD struggles and deal with past trauma. They may also prescribe medication to help manage anxiety related to HSDD.
Next, read about the 8 secrets you should definitely tell your gynecologist.