Do you often feel a little less than enthused about having sex?
“I believe a vast majority of both men and women have a reduction in their sex drive at some point in their lives,” says Karen Stewart, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in sex and couples therapy. It’s totally normal, she says. In fact, research has shown that more than a quarter of premenopausal U.S. women have a low sex drive.
However, if your lack of interest in doing the deed is distressing and feels persistent, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), says Sheryl A. Kingsberg, PhD, chief of the division of behavioral medicine in the ob-gyn department at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center’s MacDonald Women’s Hospital.
The good news is, “it’s possible to restore sexual desire if a woman experiences a significant decrease,” Kingsberg says. There are options, including counseling and medical treatment, to deal with the underlying causes.
So when is your low sex drive “low enough” to have a conversation with your doctor? Here’s how to tell if you should make an appointment.
Sign 1: The shift comes on suddenly, and stays.
Have you recently started taking birth control pills or antidepressants? Meds can be one reason for a change in libido, according to Kingsberg and Stewart. So can major or stressful life events, like a change in your health or relationship status, or starting a new job.
However, if your low sex drive sticks around even after you get used to your new prescription or lifestyle, you may want to check in with your doc. She may be able to recommend an alternative medication with fewer side effects or discuss treatments if she thinks something else, like HSDD, could be to blame.
Sign 2: It’s causing stress in your relationship.
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There’s a caveat here: “First, consider whether your low sex drive is causing stress in the relationship, or stress in the relationship is causing low sex drive,” Kingsberg says.
If things have been smooth sailing and you have no doubts about your attraction to your partner, it’s possible HSDD could be to blame. If it’s the latter, you two need to work on whatever is behind that stress. Either way, the first step is communication.
Maybe the two of you seek out the assistance of a sex therapist together, or perhaps this is something you’d feel more comfortable talking about with an expert on your own. Whatever you decide, go into the session with an open mind.
Sign 3: It’s negatively affecting your quality of life.
Some women want a six-times-a-week romp situation. Others? Not so much. Both types of women are normal, says Pam Costa, a sex and relationship therapist in Cupertino, California, who adds that “everyone’s sex drive is different, but what matters is if you’re content with where your levels are.”
Not feeling great about your sex life can impact your life way beyond the bedroom. “Sexual health is important to overall health, and every woman has a right to a healthy sexual life,” Kingsberg says.
In other words: If your lack of desire is messing with your happiness, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. After all, sex is supposed to be pleasurable!