Increasing Your Sexual Desire Starts with Expert Conversation
From movie scenes to song lyrics to advertising, we’re overwhelmed with images of couples who seem interested in sex, anytime, anywhere.
It’s one of the biggest myths in our society—that consistently strong sexual desire is the norm in a loving relationship. And it can lead people to assume there’s something wrong with them if they’re not interested in sex.
The truth is that decreased sexual desire, or low libido, is far more common than society portrays. In fact, most women experience decreased desire at some point in their lives but, due to embarrassment, many avoid discussing it with a health care professional. Elizabeth Kusturiss MSN, CRNP, a nurse practitioner at Virtua Sexual Wellness and Pelvic Health, offers more perspective:
Why start the conversation?
Studies show that decreased sexual desire can have a negative impact on body image, self-confidence and self-worth, as well as relationships and quality of life. Low sexual desire also has been linked to psychological and emotional distress. It’s normal to experience fluctuations in sex drive, but when there is a chronic—and distressing—lack of interest, it may be a sexual disorder that can be diagnosed and treated.
A woman’s libido is complex and a diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) may be caused by a wide range of biological or psychosocial factors. From everyday life stressors, body image issues, and relationship quality to painful medical conditions, fatigue, and depression, the list can seem endless.
Complicating matters, sexual desire is different for women than it is for men. The mind-body connection is particularly strong for women when it comes to sex. Interpersonal factors play a role, such as relationship discord or lack of emotional intimacy. Concerns about privacy and safety can also affect women’s sex drive, as well as history of trauma or negative emotions such as shame, fear or guilt. Even past experiences with disappointing or painful sex can derail a woman’s libido. And it’s not all in our minds—sex hormones, fatigue or illness can take a toll. Even common medications can reduce a woman’s desire for sex, from antidepressants to antihistamines, oral contraceptives to cholesterol meds.
What’s a normal sexual response?
There’s simply not a “one size fits all” for sexual response. But a better insight into the female anatomy and orgasm can help women to overcome feeling “abnormal.” One woman may experience a single intense orgasm with sex or sex play, whereas another may have multiple orgasms of a decreased intensity. Both are completely normal. Understanding adequate sexual stimulation—and the impact of age-related changes in sexual desire at different life stages—can open new doors to a healthy sex life.
Everything starts with communication and education. I work with patients to address emotional factors in their relationships. Psychotherapy or couples sex therapy may be incredibly useful to modify existing thoughts, behaviors or emotions, or to enhance communication between partners.
I make it easy to talk about and learn how to add sexual aids or toys that also may improve sex drive. Clitoral stimulators or vibrators can enhance arousal in women, and topical feminine massage oil can increase blood flow and genital nerve sensitivity.
Specific nutritional supplements and hormonal treatment may provide benefits for women. Anti-anxiety drugs like buspirone also have been shown to be effective in treating HSDD. And, while the development of a “Viagra” for women hasn’t quite been the answer, progress is being made for a medication to treat hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women. Currently there are two medications available specifically for women with HSDD: Flibanserin and Vyleesi.
Sometimes, a medication that a woman is taking for another condition may be affect libido. In that case, I’ll look to replace it with medications that don’t impact sex drive, if available.
With so many life-changing treatment options for decreased sex drive, women have no reason to suffer in silence. A sexual medicine specialist can tease out the root cause and develop a multi-pronged treatment plan specialized for each woman. Whatever course of treatment a patient pursues, women feel tremendous relief in having a place to share their concerns and make positive changes in their sexual experiences.