Hypoactive Sexual Desire (HSD) or low sexual desire is a common sexual difficulty. Although it can be experienced by both men and women, it is much more prevalent among women. Having low sex desire means that the individual lacks interest in sex, even though they get aroused and may have orgasms when they do have sex.
Low sexual desire can range from mild to extreme. In mild cases a person may go through periods of not thinking about or wanting sex. Others will not hunger for sex, but enjoy it when it does happen. In extreme cases, people do desire sex and may become anxious when presented with the possibility that sex may occur. Life long HSD is rare, but some people never show interest in masturbation, sexual fantasies or any sexual aspects of sexual relationships.
No matter what level of low sexual desire a person experiences, it only becomes a problem when individual or the couple begins to find it problematic. For some couples it may be all right that one partner that is not very interested in sex for that relationship, while another couple might find this a serious problem. There are many ways to try to increase sexual desire in a relationship so that this problem does not cause conflict in a relationship (see treatment section below).
What causes it?
Low sexual desire has many possible causes that include:
- Age: As an individual ages many changes occur in the body that affects sexual desire.
- Menopause: In women, the changes of aging start when she is beginning menopause, which is the cessation of ovulation. Her changes include decreased lubrication, lower estrogen levels (the female sex hormone), lower testosterone levels (the hormone believed to be responsible for female sexual arousal), and many other changes in the sexual response cycle.
- Hormone deficiency: Decreased amounts of testosterone in the body are liked with declines in sexual desire for both men and women.
- Gender: Although men and women may experience low sexual desire, it is much more prevalent among women.
- Bad experience with sex: Low sexual desire can result from having painful intercourse (dysparenunia), aversive events in childhood, or unusually high levels of inhibition. For instance, people who were sexually abused in childhood or view sex as a sin often do not have very much sexual desire.
- Depression: People who suffer from depression usually have a general decrease in mood, which tends to decrease their sexual motivations and activity.
- Anxiety & stress: If the individual suffers from either of these conditions, it may cause temporary to more long-term decrease in sex drive, depending on the amount of stress or anxiety being experienced.
- Medicinal or psychoactive drug dependence: Certain medications, especially psychoactive drugs (for instance those used to treat depression), may affect sexual desire. For individuals who use these types of medications, decreased sexual desire is a common side-effect.
- Habituation to one’s partner: When a person becomes used to and comfortable being around his or her partner, sexual interest may decline.
- Relationship problems: Very commonly HSD stems from problems that have not been resolved in the relationship. This is especially true for women: If they are not happy with their relationship, they tend not to want to be sexual until all conflicts are resolved.
Symptoms and Signs
- Individual is not interested in sexual activity.
- Decreased frequency in sexual activity.
- Decreased frequency in sexual activity becomes a problem in the relationship and causes conflict.
- Apathetic feelings during sex, despite attempting to please his/her partner.
- Habituation to his/her partner and decreased desire is evident only in association with him/her.
- There may also be selective desire deficiencies, in that the individual may respond physically, but be disinterested mentally.
- No interest in pursuing sexual interaction.
- Physical signs may include: vaginal dryness, weakened erections, decreased genital sensation, difficulty achieving orgasm, genital pain with or without sexual contact, or lack of sexual interest.
Depending on the causes of low sexual drive, different therapies will apply. This is something you should talk to your doctor about to find the right treatment for you.
Additional resources on female sexuality are available from MayoClinic.com: