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Why Women Lose Interest in Sex

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What Is Low Sexual Desire? continued...

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."

Therefore, all of these aspects of sexual desire must be examined in order to determine the root of the problem.

Common causes for a loss of sexual desire and drive in women include:

  • Interpersonal relationship issues. Partner performance problems, lack of emotional satisfaction with the relationship, the birth of a child, and becoming a caregiver for a loved one can decrease sexual desire.
  • Sociocultural influences. Job stress, peer pressure, and media images of sexuality can negatively influence sexual desire.
  • Low testosterone. Testosterone affects sexual drive in both men and women. Testosterone levels peak in women's mid-20s and then steadily decline until menopause, when they drop dramatically.
  • Medical problems: Mental illnesses such as depression, or medical conditions, such as endometriosis, fibroids, and thyroid disorders, impact a woman's sexual drive both mentally and physically.
  • Medications: Certain antidepressants (including the new generation of SSRIs), blood pressure lowering drugs, and oral contraceptives can lower sexual drive in many ways, such as decreasing available testosterone levels or affecting blood flow.
  • Age. Blood levels of androgens fall continuously in women as they age.

Putting the Desire Back in Women's Sex Lives

Because a loss of sexual desire in women is caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors, it usually requires more than one treatment approach to fix the problem.

"For women, it is much more complex. They're not just complaining of one plumbing problem, says Shifren. "So we have to be more thoughtful in our approaches to treatment."

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