For many adults, sexuality forms an integral part of their lives.

And whether that sexuality is expressed with a partner, with several partners, or solely with ourselves,

Our sex life can be a source of meaning and great pleasure.

Typically, we tend to think of desire as an emotion;

That is, arising from our mental status, akin to affection or anger or grief or surprise or ecstasy.

Desire can lead to new and better things; it can also get us in trouble.

However, there are some of us who no matter what, some desires we just cannot experience.

And sometimes we want sex, sometimes we don’t.

We may take it as just a phase that will pass, but we may just be experiencing a Sexual Desire Disorder.


Sexuality is a complex interplay of multiple facets, including anatomical, physiological, psychological, developmental, cultural, and relational factors.

All of these contribute to an individual’s sexuality in varying degrees at any point in time.

Sexuality in adults consists of seven components:

  • Gender identity

  • Orientation

  • Intention

  • Desire

  • Arousal

  • Orgasm

  • Emotional satisfaction

Gender identity, orientation, and intention form a sexual identity;

Whereas desire, arousal, and orgasm are components of sexual function.

The interplay of the first six components contributes to the emotional satisfaction of the experience.

In addition to the multiple factors involved in sexuality, there is the added complexity of the corresponding sexuality of the partner.

The expression of a person’s sexuality is intimately related to his or her partner’s sexuality.


What is Sexual Desire Disorder?

This is a psychiatric condition marked by a lack of desire for sexual activity over a prolonged period.

It has been broken down into two separate conditions:

Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.

Both of these refer to a low level of sexual interest resulting in a failure to initiate or respond to sexual intimacy.

For now, neither of these conditions can be diagnosed if the main problem is a desire discrepancy.

Desire discrepancy is when one partner desires more sexual activity than the other.

But, the conditions are diagnosed when symptoms have been present for a minimum of six months and cause clinically significant distress for the individual.

What is Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder?

In times past, hypoactive sexual desire disorder was gender non-specific and could, therefore, apply to either men or women.

As sexual desire and arousal problems have been combined into a single disorder for women, Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder or MHSDD now accounts only for men.

It is defined as the absence of sexual fantasies and thoughts, and/or desire for or receptivity to, sexual activity that causes personal distress or difficulties in a relationship.

Symptoms for this include the following:

  • Reduced or absent sexual thoughts or fantasies
  • A reduced or absent desire for sexual activity

What causes it?

  • Psychological factors
    Certain mental illnesses can result in an individual’s loss of sexual drive and function,
    including depression and anxiety.
  • Physical factors
    Physical factors may also affect sexual desire;
    Such as a decrease in testosterone, which plays a key role in the sexual drive.
    Therefore, older men may be at a greater risk of developing male hypoactive sexual desire disorder because hormonal levels of testosterone gradually decrease with age.
  • Biological Factors
    These include heavy cigarette smoking, a history with alcoholism, and diseases of the vascular or nervous system.
  • Psychosocial Factors
    Psychosocial factors may play a role in the development of this disorder.
    Such as early childhood sexual abuse, relationship issues, stress, and exhaustion.
  • Medical Procedures
    Procedures like prostate removal, pelvic radiation, and certain procedures that affect the spinal cord can also lead to issues with sexual desire.

How do you treat it?

There are a few treatment options for those who suffer from MHSDD.

However, effectively treating this disorder relies heavily on removing or targeting the underlying issue.

For example, if the disorder has emerged due to relationship problems, relationship counseling will prove most effective.

The following are other successful treatment methods, again depending on the root of the problem:

  • Psychotherapy, which can help change behavior patterns.
  • Hormonal replacement therapy or hormonal treatments, which can consist of creams, patches, and pills.
  • A change in medication, such as a reduction in dosage.
  • Mindfulness, which teaches the individual to always focus on what is happening right now.
  • Antidepressant drugs, if the individual has depression or anxiety.

Female Disorder

What is Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder?

This occurs when the body doesn’t respond to sexual stimulation.

FSIAD is one of several conditions that fall under the umbrella of sexual dysfunction, which also includes:

  • pain during intercourse
  • inability to orgasm
  • lack of sexual desire

Symptoms include the following:

  • Decreased sexual desire.
    You may begin to lose interest in sex.
    While this can be due to a lack of arousal, it may also be a symptom of stress and anxiety from having FSIAD.
  • Few thoughts related to sex.
    You may rarely think about sex.
  • Less initiation of sexual activity.
    You may not initiate sex and maybe unreceptive to a partner’s attempts to initiate sex.
  • Decreased sexual excitement or pleasure during sex.
    Sexual stimulation or other things that used to turn you on no longer do.
  • Reduced arousal from internal or external sexual cues.
    You may no longer be aroused by cues like psychological intimacy, reading about enjoyable sex, or recalling an erotic fantasy.
  • Lack of genital or nongenital sensations during sex.
    When having sex, you might not feel much in your genital area or other erogenous zones.

What causes this disorder?

Arousal sets off a series of events in the body:

Blood flow to the tissues around the vaginal opening and clitoris increases, causing swelling.

The vagina produces a natural lubricant.

These events are the result of a series of chain reactions.

Any interruption in the process can cause FSIAD.

Many things, both psychological and physical, can affect the arousal process.

Psychological causes

Emotional and mental health issues that can cause FSIAD to include:

  • low self-esteem
  • poor body image
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • relationship problems
  • negative thoughts
  • guilt
  • trauma

Hormonal causes

Hormones are a necessary element of arousal.

Changes in hormone levels may affect your ability to be aroused.

Things that can cause hormonal changes and possible FSIAD include:

  • menopause
  • birth control pills
  • pregnancy

Anatomical causes

Arousal depends greatly on the body’s circulatory and neurological systems.

Problems with either of these may cause FSIAD.

Some potential anatomical causes include:

  • diminished blood flow to the vagina
  • nerve damage in the pelvis
  • infection of the vagina or bladder
  • thinning, drying vaginal tissues

Other causes

Other factors that could cause this disorder includes:

  • Medications.
    Certain types of antidepressants.
  • Medical treatments. 
    If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, you may experience FSIAD.
    Likewise, recent surgery may interfere with arousal and sexual stimulation.
  • Inadequate sexual simulation.
    You might have trouble getting aroused if the stimulation you receive from yourself or your partner isn’t sufficient.
  • Diabetes.
    Diabetes can affect your nervous and vascular systems.
    This may make arousal more difficult,
    Because your body is unable to send the necessary hormones, blood, and electrical signals for arousal.
Sexual Desire Disorder