Female Sexual Arousal Disorder: Understanding and Coping with Inhibited Sexual Desire

Sexual desire or libido is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by various physical and psychological factors. While it is normal for women to have variations in their sexual desire, some women experience persistent or recurrent absence or inhibition of sexual arousal that disrupts their sexual functioning and quality of life, leading to Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSAD).

What is Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Female Sexual Arousal Disorder is a sexual dysfunction characterized by the persistent difficulty or inability of a woman to attain or maintain adequate lubrication and swelling response in the genitals, as well as a lack of subjective or objective sexual arousal during sexual activity or stimulation, leading to distress or impaired sexual functioning. The condition is also known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) when accompanied by a lack of sexual desire.

What Causes Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Female Sexual Arousal Disorder may have multiple causes or risk factors, including physical, hormonal, psychological, and social factors. Some of the common causes or risk factors include:

  • Physiological factors, such as menopause, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, chronic pain, and medication side effects.
  • Hormonal factors, such as low levels of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
  • Psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, stress, history of sexual abuse, negative body image, and relationship issues.
  • Social factors, such as cultural and religious beliefs, sexual taboos, lack of sexual education, and societal expectations.

What are the Symptoms of Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

The symptoms of Female Sexual Arousal Disorder can vary from woman to woman and may include:

  • Difficulty in becoming aroused or aroused for an insufficient amount of time during sexual activity or stimulation
  • Inability to maintain sexual arousal during sexual activity
  • Lack of pleasure or satisfaction during sexual activity
  • Difficulty in achieving orgasm
  • Lack of sexual desire or interest in sexual activity
  • Feeling distressed or frustrated by sexual functioning problems

How is Female Sexual Arousal Disorder Diagnosed?

Diagnosing Female Sexual Arousal Disorder may require a comprehensive medical and sexual history, physical exam, and laboratory tests. The healthcare provider may also use specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), a standardized manual used to diagnose mental health conditions.

Since sexual desire and arousal vary among individuals and may be influenced by cultural and social factors, diagnosing HSDD or FSAD can be challenging. It is essential to rule out any underlying physical or psychological causes before concluding that the individual has Female Sexual Arousal Disorder.

What are the Treatment Options for Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Effective treatment for Female Sexual Arousal Disorder depends on the underlying cause and severity of the symptoms. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Medication: Medications such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) have been approved by the FDA to treat FSAD. These drugs help increase blood flow to the genitals and enhance sexual arousal response. Hormone therapy, such as estrogen and testosterone replacement, may also help in some cases.
  • Counseling: Couples or sex therapy can help address any psychological or relationship issues that may contribute to the symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be helpful in managing sexual dysfunction and restoring sexual confidence.
  • Lifestyle changes: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, stress management, a balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco can help improve sexual functioning and overall well-being.
  • Alternative therapies: Some women may find alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and photobiomodulation therapy useful in treating FSAD. However, scientific evidence for their efficacy is limited.

How Can Women Cope with Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Coping with Female Sexual Arousal Disorder can be challenging and stressful. Women with FSAD may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or isolated, and may avoid seeking medical help or discussing their sexual problems with their partner. However, there are ways to cope with FSAD and improve sexual functioning and quality of life.

  • Communication: Open and honest communication with one’s partner can help alleviate fear, guilt, and anxiety, and foster emotional intimacy. Discuss sexual issues, preferences, and expectations with your partner, and seek their support and understanding.
  • Self-exploration: Spending time exploring one’s body, desires, and fantasies through masturbation or self-pleasure can help increase sexual confidence and desire.
  • Sexual aids: Using sexual aids such as lubricants, vibrators, or erotic literature or videos can help enhance sexual arousal and pleasure.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practicing techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall sexual well-being.

Conclusion

Female Sexual Arousal Disorder is a complex sexual dysfunction that can affect women of all ages and backgrounds. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options can help women identify the problem and seek effective solutions to improve sexual functioning and quality of life. Coping with FSAD may require a combination of medical, psychological, and lifestyle interventions, as well as open communication, self-exploration, and relaxation techniques. Women should not feel ashamed or afraid to seek help and support and should be encouraged to discuss their sexual problems with their healthcare provider and partner.

FAQs

What is Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSAD) is a condition where females experience difficulty or inability to become sexually aroused, which negatively affects their sexual experiences and relationships. This disorder is diagnosed when the lack of arousal is not caused by other factors such as anxiety or medication.

What are the symptoms of Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Symptoms may include difficulty becoming aroused, lack of desire for sex, inability to achieve orgasm, and lack of sexual pleasure. Women with FSAD may also experience physical symptoms such as genital numbness or pain during sexual activity.

What are some treatments for Female Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Treatment options for FSAD vary and may include medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both. Some prescription medications that may be used to treat FSAD include topical creams and pills that are designed to increase blood flow to the genital area. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or sex therapy may also help to address underlying psychological factors contributing to FSAD. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional to find the right treatment plan for you.


References

1. Meston, C. M., & Brotto, L. A. (2012). An integrative biopsychosocial model of sexual response. The Journal of Sex Research, 49(2-3), 207-237.
https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2012.658862

2. Basson, R. (2002). Women’s sexual dysfunction: Revised and expanded definitions. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 167(4), 405-411.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1219569/

3. Schultz, W. W., Van Andel, P., Sabelis, I., & Mooyaart, E. (1999). Magnetic resonance imaging of male and female genitals during coitus and female sexual arousal. British Medical Journal, 319(7225), 1596-1600.
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7225.1596