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Get Back In The Mood
An Undercharged Libido Is The Most Common Sexual Problem Women Face; Lighting It Up Again Only Takes A Little Knowledge.

April 23rd, 2004

By Ken McGrath :eCureMe Contributor
April 22th, 2004 : Physician Reviewed

There are names and acronyms for it: hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), female sexual dysfunction (FSD), inhibited sexual desire (ISD), sexual aversion and sexual apathy. But many women know it just by feel, when they realize it has been months since they felt that spark. Over 33% of women from 18 to 59 report that just not having the urge was their most common problem in the bedroom. The causes are wide ranging, but so are the solutions; and in the coming years, jump-starting your desire may be as simple as visiting the pharmacy.

Get Back In The Mood


As prevalent as it is, it’s important not to confuse a low libido with related problems, like difficulty becoming aroused or difficulty reaching orgasm. Chances are, if you’re having difficulty with arousal or orgasm, you have an appetite for pleasure; it’s just not being fulfilled. The two sets of problems can feed into each other. If you’re having difficulty becoming aroused and climaxing, the whole process of sex can start to lose its luster.

Women with lowered libido generally find that the possibility of pleasure has lost appeal. The primary symptom is a loss of interest in sex, though secondary symptoms can include a decrease in sexual activity, feelings of apathy during sex - even while you’re trying to please your partner - vaginal dryness and decreased genital sensation. Reduced desire can also be selective; you may no longer desire sex with your partner, but the thought of other partners might get you going.

When it comes to sex, there is no normal: some women need sex once a month, others may need it at least once a day. Thinking that there is a median of desire, some women might feel their libido is abnormal when it isn’t. This problem can be exacerbated by relationships where the two partners have varying sex drives. If your partner feels the need at least once a day, but you’re only horny once or twice a week, it’s easy to think there’s a problem when nothing’s wrong. Unless you want to be in the mood more than you are, you don’t have a problem.

The underlying causes of low sexual desire are also difficult to identify, and vary from woman to woman. On one hand, some cases are primarily related to changes in the body. During menopause, glands release less estrogen and less testosterone. Both are related to a woman’s sex drive, though testosterone - typically identified with men - is thought to be the primary hormonal mover and shaker behind women’s desire. Once it thins out, so does the libido. Thyroid disorders can produce the same results.

Menopause, however, can’t take all the blame. The highest percentages of women who report tepid sex drives are between 35 and 39 years old, years ahead of menopause. Prescription medication can also factor into the equation. By reducing the effect of testosterone in a woman’s system, or restricting the flow of blood to certain areas, many medications can choke off desire. Certain types of blood pressure and contraceptive medication can lead to problems. Among the most common desire inhibiting medications is a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that include the widely prescribed antidepressants Prozac and Zoloft. Some researchers believe that because the drugs pump the bloodstream with serotonin, a chemical that can help to signal satisfaction, the body doesn’t need to generate any more of it by being sexual. According to some reports, as many as half of those who take the popular drugs notice their libidos dip.

A Mental Challenge

" The majority of reasons that women lose interest in sex are psychological," says Dr. Ava Cadell, a clinical sexologist in Los Angeles. " If your body is healthy, it’s really mind over matter. If you expect your libido to diminish by a certain age, it will."

Most experts agree on this point. Women’s sexuality tends to be more nuanced and complicated than men’s. A certain emotional comfort level has to exist in order for women to feel inclined towards sex, and any number of interpersonal or psychological difficulties can interrupt that comfort.

Low self-esteem can decrease desire. "If a woman doesn’t think she’s worthy of sex," notes Cadell, "chances are she won’t be as open to the possibility." Any latent hostility or anger a woman harbors towards her partner can easily present as a roadblock to their physical relationship. If the intimacy in a relationship isn’t as close as a woman may like, she may consciously or unconsciously decide not to be sexual with her partner. Past sexual experiences that were unpleasant or traumatic can present a block to sexual feeling as well, as can depression, recent childbirth or poor body image.

Routine can also figure into desire problems. If the sex you have been having is predictable and unexciting, you may slowly sour on the experience.

Sexual Healing

Lifelong inhibited desire is rare, and in most cases reviving desire only requires that a woman and her partner change the way they’ve been interacting.

If sex has become routine, try new things: set aside certain times for being romantic, find an outfit that makes you feel risque, fantasize, make an effort to try new positions or locations. If you can jump start your sex life, the renewed excitement may keep you coming back.

If your difficulties have to do with unresolved feelings towards your partner, it’s important to get them out in the open. Talking about issues that may make you less likely to feel amorous is a good first step in rebuilding the trust that has to precede sexual interest. When problems have to be dealt with, Dr. Cadell says, "the process of forgiveness is essential for moving forward and reconnectin

g with your partner." Sometimes certain relationship difficulties can be too much to handle alone, and often sex or marital therapy can help to diffuse tension. If you’re not quite sure where to find one, the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists keeps a directory of licensed practitioners throughout the U.S. and Canada at their website (

A dubious pharamacopeia of herbal supplements, cremes and pills touts its ability to restart idled sexual engines, however few have been tested and none have been approved by the FDA. So far, researchers haven’t found a silver bullet medication or therapy for women with low levels of desire, but since Viagra exploded onto the sexual dysfunction scene in the late 90s, scientists have been looking at the potential much more closely. Early attempts to modify Viagra for use by women led to disappointing results.

Several new treatments are on the horizon though. In 2003, preliminary clinical tests of a product called LibiGel, made by BioSante Pharmaceuticals, were conducted. LibiGel’s main ingredient is testosterone. Women involved with the study rubbed the gel onto their arms, shoulders or abdomens and the testosterone was absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. At the conclusion of the test period, the subjects reported a 136% jump in sexual desire.

A similar process has worked for Proctor & Gamble as its been developing a testosterone patch based therapy it calls Instrinsia. Like the nicotine patch used by smokers, small testosterone patches are placed on the body for about a week, allowing the hormone to seep into the blood and stimulate appetites. Test results have been promising and Instrinsia is slated to go on the market later this year.

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