Low libido, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), refers to a woman’s chronic or ongoing lack of interest in sex, to the point that it causes her personal distress or problems in her relationships.
According to the Society for Women’s Health Research, low libido is the most common female sexual dysfunction and chronic low libido affects about 1 in 10 women. Wax and waning of sexual interest over time is normal, and a woman’s libido can fluctuate throughout her life.
It might be high when she’s feeling good about her relationship or if she’s excited about a new one. It might decrease when she’s under emotional stress or dealing with hormonal changes from pregnancy or menopause.
The important distinction with low libido is when causes personal distress or problems in a relationship. If a woman does not feel concerned about her sex drive, and even if she might have a lower libido than other women or less interest in sex than her partner, if she’s not bothered by it and it doesn’t cause problems with her partner, then there generally isn’t a problem. It is when a disinterest in sex causes personal or relationship distress that exploration into the cause and treatment is indicated.
Causes of low libido
Low libido can happen at any age, and can be correlated to many different medical conditions or the consequence of their treatment such as thyroid disease, use of some birth control methods, menopause, mood disorders or a side effect of medications that treat mood disorders.
A number of psychological and emotional factors can affect a woman’s sex drive. She may have anxiety, depression, or poor self-esteem. She might be under a lot of stress. Or, she might be a victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or rape. Problems in her relationship can also be a factor. If her partner has been unfaithful or deceitful, her lack of trust may make her less interested in sex.
Low sex drive might result if she and her partner don’t communicate well or haven’t resolved a fight. She and her partner might not have satisfactory sex to begin with because they don’t talk about their needs or what they like in bed. They might not know how to talk about it or are too embarrassed to do so. That can fuel low libido, too.
The Mayo Clinic notes that as many as 40 percent of women have low libido at some point in their lives. Low libido can be frustrating for a woman and her partner. But it’s a treatable condition. Even though it might take some time to discover what’s causing it, and treatment approaches are often multi-factorial, a woman with disinterest in sex can return to a satisfying sex life with support.
Diagnosing low libido
The main symptom of low libido is a lack of interest in sex.
But because every woman is different, diagnosis of low libido depends on how distressed she is about her low sex drive and whether it’s causing any problems for her.
A thorough evaluation of low libido involves exploration into physical causes with a complete medical work up, including a medical history, screening tests, and physical exam. Evaluation for low libido also commonly involves evaluation by a sex therapist to explore emotional and relationship contributions to disinterest in sex.