According to science, about 40% of all women have at some point experienced “sexual dysfunction”. Its the elephant in the room that barely anyone is talking about!
So, what if you think that you have a problem? Lets talk about what a diagnosis might look like.
When to seek help…
If a specialist (GP/Gynecology doctor etc) felt that you had a problem with sexual dysfunction, you might be diagnosed with what is know as Female sexual interest/arousal disorder.
(Note: there are other diagnoses that fall under sexual dysfunction such as orgasmic disorder, painful sex and vaginismus which I don’t cover in this post)
Discovering at what point the problem arises is a key part of learning the cause. Remember we learnt about the difference between desire and arousal here? Its important, because women might be seen to have a problem with either their level of desire, or their ability to get aroused.
The following two issues were merged into the one diagnosis in 2013 to make life easier:
|Female hypoactive desire disorder (HSDD)/sexual desire disorder:
a decreased interest in having sex.
|Female arousal disorder:
a woman’s inability to become lubricated, aroused, or sexually excited, even after being sexually stimulated.
Although becoming physically aroused (body) and sexually desiring someone (brain) are two seperate aspects of sexual response, they are also really difficult to separate from each other.
Symptoms of Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder:
The criteria of female disorder of sexual interest/arousal (according to the DSM) are:
- absent or decreased sexual interest
- absent or decreased erotic thoughts or fantasies
- absent or decreased initiation of sexual activity or responsiveness to a partner’s attempts to initiate it
- absent or decreased excitement and pleasure
- absent or decreased response to sexual cues
- absent or decreased sensations during sexual activity, whether genital or non-genital.
(Three out of six criteria are required for diagnosis)
Generally, “when a woman is not able to fully, healthily, and pleasurably experience some or all of the various physical stages the body normally experiences during sexual activity” a diagnosis might be made.
When I first saw this, I thought- THIS IS ME! I’ve finally worked out what’s wrong with me- yippee!
I was so relieved to know that I had a “something”, and that if I had a “something”, there’d surely be a cure.
And this is a big but.
When I learned about being a more sexually responsive person (see my post on this here), I realised that that wasn’t me. Instead, I did get turned on and enjoy sex, but only after being turned on. And that’s normal. And me and my partner just needed to learn how to deal with it, rather than prescribe me pills, a psychiatrist and a medical diagnosis!
Are you the problem, or is it the way we understand sex drives?
So I urge you to go back and re-read the symptoms of sexual dysfunction again from the point of view of a responsive sexual response person. Problematic, right?
It may be that you don’t have a problem at all, but rather a very different way of being sexual than men (which the diagnosis is based on). Read more here.
And yes, there might be periods in our lives when we don’t enjoy sex or find it harder to get turned on, but that’s normal. Life is stressful and chaotic and sometimes hard (read more about what puts the “brakes on your sex drive” here).
And yes, we might also only get turned on in response to sex rather than before. But that’s also normal. This blog will talk you through loads of different ways of dealing with your type of sex drive.
I still think I have an issue: when to seek help?
After reading this, you may still believe you have a low sex drive and you need to seek help. And that’s OK, there is no shame in getting help.
There is no official threshold or diagnostic test that tells whether a woman has a sexual disorder, because everyone is different and just because you aren’t interested in sex doesn’t mean you are sexually dysfunctional. LOTS of people don’t fantasize or have no interest in sex.
The key issue is if the disinterest in sex is causing distress in your life. Don’t think about your partner, or your relationship, or societal expectations. Is it causing you cause for concern?
If so, there is so much help out there!
Who can I talk to?
The first port of call is your GP who should be understanding and talk to you about the problem.
It would be helpful if you could show them a diary that has detailed a bit more about your experiences, e.g:
- How long has the problem gone on for?
- How does it impact on you, your sex life and your relationship?
- Is there a link between how you feel sexually and other things going on in your life (e.g. depression, relationship issues, bereavement, stress)?
Your GP should help you look at what might be causing the issue and signpost you to more support, whether that’s for your physical or mental health.
If you would like to talk to someone about a sexual health issue, you can call the national sexual health helpline free on 0300 123 7123. The Sexual Health Helpline is open from 9am-8pm, Monday-Friday.
Good luck little pearls!