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Why Women Lose Interest in Sex

Loss of sexual desire is women's biggest sexual problem, and it's not all in their heads.

WebMD Feature

Living with libido loco? 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.

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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.

"Women's sexuality tends to be multifaceted and fairly complicated," says sex psychologist Sheryl Kingsberg, PhD. "Although we would love to simplify it so we could have the one-two or even a one-punch treatment, it doesn't tend to work that way."

But the introduction of anti-impotence treatments in the last few years has spurred more research into the causes of sexual dysfunction among both men and women, and effective therapies are available to help put the lust back into women's lives.

What Is Low Sexual Desire?

Contrary to popular belief, experts say frequency of sexual intercourse has nothing to do with sexual desire or satisfaction.

"One of first things I do in speaking to women who come in with sexual concerns is let them know that there is no normal frequency or set of behaviors and things change with time," says Jan Shifren, MD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "If it's working for them and/or their partner, there is no problem."

But when a woman experiences a significant decrease in interest in sex that is having an effect on her life and is causing distress, then it's considered a problem of low sexual desire or HSDD.

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.

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."

That sexual drive declines naturally with age based on physiological factors. But sexual desire also encompasses interpersonal and psychological factors that create a willingness to be sexual.

"Above and beyond horniness, it is the sense of intimacy in the relationship," says Kingsberg. "If you are mad at your spouse, you could be horny but you're not going want to be sexual with that particular person."

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