Feeling “meh” about sex? If you’re a woman and your answer is yes, you’re certainly not alone. Loss of interest is the most commonly reported sexual problem for women. It’s a problem that’s largely fixable – whether through medical intervention, help from a psychologist, or even just a more accurate understanding of what’s causing it. But as you start to address the problem, it’s important to keep in mind that there is the problem itself – the loss of interest, and then there is the way you feel about the problem (which can be a heavy load in itself).
Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia recently talked with women who sought treatment for a loss of sexual interest. Some common themes arose, which I’ve seen in my clinical practice, as well:
Personal Distress: Women struggled with feeling guilty, sad, inadequate, frustrated, and embarrassed. They also reported that their sexual concerns lowered their self-esteem.
If you can relate to these concerns, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone – many women experience the same problem. Losing sexual interest does not mean there is something essentially wrong with you.
In fact, the real problem may have more to do with your expectations. If you expect to just spontaneously become physically aroused, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Women are wired differently than men and than how the media often portrays how they “should” be. Women in long-term relationships frequently feel sexual only after feeling emotional intimacy; and then often only after deciding to be sexually intimate and beginning to do so. If you feel you have a problem even within this context, it is only one aspect of your life that you can work on – albeit an important one.
Relationship Concerns: Many women worried about the negative effect their sexual disinterest would have on their partner. In my clinical experience, even when partners are supportive, women remain concerned about the effects it has on their intimacy.
This concern is well-founded, and you may have similar worries, but it’s important to keep these thoughts in proportion. When you are in a healthy, loving relationship, you can maintain emotional intimacy as you work on the sexual aspect of your relationship. Of course, it’s important to make it clear to your partner that your sexual disinterest is not about them. And then you can work together with your partner to find solutions. For instance, you might give each other sensually arousing massages without the intention of it leading to sex. If you both respect that you need to fire up your sexual interest, then this can become a natural part of your relationship.
Concern about a hormone deficiency: Many women in the study, especially those who were peri-menopausal or fully in menopause, worried that their problem was stemming from a lack of the necessary hormones for sexual interest.
When I talk with women who have this concern, we review their history to assess whether the problem seems to correspond with particular biologically based events, such as menopause or medical treatments like chemotherapy. And I suggest that they see their physician to follow up on the medical piece. Sexual problems can be multi-faceted, so it can be very helpful to have a professional – or more than one – help you assess your problem and the feelings that you have about it.
As the study found, and as I’ve seen in working with patients, it is very common to feel distress about changes in your libido. And this distress can add to the problem itself and make it harder to find a solution. If you take some time to address your concerns, you can alleviate your worries and start to find ways to regain your sexual interest.
Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.