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Women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder Suffer Emotional Stress


Women with low sexual desire, also known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), experience a great deal of emotional stress that can significantly impact their personal lives. That’s the finding of a new study presented at the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.

A new study, called DESIRE (Desire and its Effects on female Sexuality Including Relationships), consisted of 65,129 women ages 18 to 88 years living in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The women completed an initial screening designed to help diagnose hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The researchers identified 7,542 women who met the criteria for the disorder, and from that group 5,098 women elected to participate in the in-depth survey.

In the survey, many of the women reported experiencing dissatisfaction with their sex life, guilt about their sexual difficulties, and distress over their sex life. The reports of their frequency and level of sexual desire over the past year were significantly associated with the amount of distress they suffered concerning their low sexual desire and with each of their negative emotional feelings.

Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder is defined by the DSM-IV-TR as consisting of persistently diminished or absent sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that is not attributable to another mental disorder (except another sexual dysfunction) and that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulties. According to a recent article in Urologic Nursing, HSDD is the most common complaint among women experiencing sexual dysfunction.

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In 2006, the women’s International Study of Health and Sexuality evaluated the prevalence of HSDD and found that 24 to 36 percent of women between 20 and 70 years of age had problems with low sexual desire. Although this does not mean all of these women had HSDD, it does highlight the prevalence of this sexual problem. Low testosterone can be a factor for some women who have HSDD, as lack of the hormone is associated with low libido and decreased sexual receptivity and pleasure.

The exact cause of HSDD is difficult to determine because the condition is often the result of relationship and/or psychological issues along with physiological factors. Stress, history of physical and/or sexual abuse, strict religious upbringing, and relationship problems all can play a role. Physical factors that may have a role in HSDD include but are not limited to menopause, pregnancy, hormone imbalances, endometriosis, urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and side effects from certain medications.

A New HSDD Patient Registry
The New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts, is conducting the HSDD Registry for Women. The goal is to provide information on the natural history, lifestyle factors, and long-term consequences of the disorder.

According to Ray Rosen, PhD, Chief Scientist of the New England Research Institutes, “The HSDD Registry for Women is the first sexual medicine registry of its kind to investigate the history and clinical course of generalized, acquired Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in women.” Perhaps with the help of this registry, as well as other research, women who suffer with HSDD can better understand and get relief from the emotional and physical stress associated with the disorder.

Barton I et al. Menopause 2006; 13(1): 46-56.
Feldhaus-Dahir M. Urologic Nursing 2009; 29(4): 259-60,263
International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health