Treating Low Sexual Desire Can Appear Elusive
There is nowhere to “get” sexual desire, and no medical intervention will cause it to occur. Women’s sexual desire naturally arises when many aspects of a woman’s thoughts, emotions, biology, and relational functioning are working well.
If needed, referral to a physician for a physical exam or laboratory investigation can be made. A gynecological exam will determine the level of voluntary control over the pelvic floor muscles and their tone if there is vaginal atrophy, the presence of discharge, infection or pain. It is also important to rule out low-estrogen or progesterone-only contraceptives that may contribute to low sexual desire.
It is important to understand a woman’s perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes toward her own anatomy. Negative thoughts or misconceptions about sexual anatomy and/or physiology could interfere with sexual functioning. This can be discussed during a physical exam with a physician or with a mental health therapist.
When a woman enters psychotherapy and sex therapy to treat low sexual desire a structured evaluation is given to determine the various factors that are contributing to symptoms of low desire.
Some important aspects of the structured evaluation include: taking a medical history, learning about her family of origin, understanding past sexual experiences, examining her current relationship and relationship history, learning about what kinds of sexual stimulation she is receiving and how responsive she is to it and to what degree she is able to stay focused during sexual activity.
Mindfulness Meditation, CBT, and Masturbation Skills
Once the various contributing psychological, emotional or relational factors are determined, a targeted treatment plan is developed. Sex therapy for low sexual desire is interactive and dynamic, in which homework and exercises are given regularly to be done outside of session.
Mindfulness meditation techniques are often taught to women as a first step in learning how to stay present in their body.
Sex positive education is given to introduce the woman to new and exciting ways of thinking about her body, sexuality and sexual pleasure.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to treat anxiety or negative thinking that occurs about any aspect of a woman’s body or sexual experience. It has been found that women with sexual dysfunctions hold more negative beliefs about the influence of age and body image on sexuality.
Masturbation skills training can be implemented to foster a positive relationship between a woman and her body and is often the first step to a woman better understanding how she best receives pleasure.
Partner sex therapy activities can be given and many women are encouraged to invite their partner into the therapeutic process if low sexual desire symptoms occur or persist in the context of a relationship.
And finally, couples counseling is encouraged if relationship problems are the major cause of low sexual desire.