When Women Have Low Sexual Desire

When Women Have Low Sexual Desire

The father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud once asked, “What do women want?” while the pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey puzzled, “What do women desire?”  Well, lately, if online bloggers are to be believed, one possible answer to both questions is: “A version of men’s little blue pill to help ease sexual dysfunction!”

There are no FDA-approved medications to relieve hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in women. HSDD is defined as a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and lack of sexual desire that triggers distress or relationship problems. Yet it affects about 33% of women -- perhaps because of childbirth, emotional or hormonal problems, reactions to medications, medical conditions or procedures. Current treatment consists of a hit-or-miss collection of suggested lifestyle changes (drink less, exercise more, shed extra weight, avoid simple sugars and saturated fats, get enough sleep), treatment of medical or psychiatric issues, hormone therapy and/or marital counseling.

That may be changing: On its third review of a medication for HSDD called flibanserin, the FDA’s advisory committee recommended approval. Not a new drug, it was originally used to treat depression by acting on the brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors. How it improves HSDD is unknown. Unfortunately, it’s only 10% more effective than placebo. So if it’s ultimately approved, it’s just a baby step in the right direction.

If you have HSDD, don’t wait for flibanserin: Talk to your gynecologist about possible causes and ways to ease your distress. Everyone deserves to enjoy intimacy and the physical and emotional benefits it bestows.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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