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Drug Improves Women's Sexual Desire

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Female sexual dysfunction is a widespread, serious, and little-understood problem, Mark Ackerman, PhD, a psychologist specializing in sexual health at the Veterans Administration Hospital and Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "When you talk to women who have the problem, they'll tell you it's a huge problem. It can lead, frankly, to the destruction of a good relationship."

"I think it would be hard to make a blanket statement to say that one drug in and of itself is the answer to hypoactive sexual desire in women," says Ackerman, who also counsels men and women as a private-practice sex therapist. Still, "whether it really boosts sexual drive or not ... certainly merits further attention," he tells WebMD.

Reduced sexual desire in women can have many causes, Ackerman says. "One, of course, is the nature of the relationship and another is their overall mental health. Another factor is whether there is any history of sexual trauma, sexual abuse. Psychosocial trauma certainly needs to be ruled out before you can prescribe any medication."

Suki Hanfling, MSW, LICSW, AASECT, founder and director of the McLean Hospital Human Sexuality Program in Boston, tells WebMD: "The most common thing we deal with is low desire in men and in women. The most common cause, aside from menopausal issues, is depression. Or there may be some people who are depressed and don't know it. The other is marital/relationship conflict. There are so many causes for it, but [Wellbutrin] is an exciting possibility."

She points to the "placebo effect" that comes with studies like this: just being part of such a study sometimes increases sexual desire. "But they didn't have a group that got just the placebo the whole time, so we don't know."

"I am skeptical that 40% were satisfied with their sexual desire," she tells WebMD. "If that's really true, that's incredible ... but I do believe that for a certain percentage, it may make a big difference. ... They need to have more studies with different ages of women separated, to see what happens.

Despite the drug study's promising findings, Hanfling says, psychotherapy for sexual dysfunction should not be overlooked. "I think that couples sex therapy can be quite effective for low desire in certain instances where the cause doesn't seem to be physiological," she says.

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