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HSDD 101: what it is, what it isn’t, and how it makes you feel

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Woman thinking about what HSDD is, and how it makes her feel. Figuring out the basics of what hypoactive sexual desire disorder is and isn’t.
  • Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) has been a known medical condition for decades
  • Defined as ongoing low sexual desire that women findfrustrating
  • Often undiagnosed because women are too embarrassed to talk about it
  • HSDD is treatable
  • Talk to your healthcare provider to find which treatment is right for you
  • Take back your desire for sex

If you’re hearing the term “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” for the first time, you’re in good company. HSDD has been known to the medical community for decades, but for a lot of us, the condition has been pretty much under the radar. But not to worry—you can get some HSDD basics right here; about what HSDD is, what it isn’t, and the impact it can have on your life.

 HSDD is a real medical condition
Defined as ongoing low sexual desire that women find frustrating, HSDD has been a recognized condition for decades. It’s believed to be the result of an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain that are responsible for regulating sexual desire.

 HSDD is not “just in your head”
Even so, a study of almost 4,000 women showed that many didn’t seek help for low sexual desire because they were afraid that they wouldn’t be taken seriously.

And while it’s natural for a woman’s sexual desire to rise and fall over the years, that’s not the same thing as HSDD. And a woman doesn’t have HSDD just because she’s unhappy with her partner, either. In fact, many women who have HSDD feel guilty and worry that they’re not being as good of a partner as they once were.

 HSDD is common
HSDD is the most common female sexual dysfunction, affecting millions of women, some as young as 20. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 women in the US has HSDD. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same percentage of US women who have diabetes.

 HSDD is not something you should hide
Especially not when you consider how many women are affected by HSDD. If you have low sexual desire that frustrates you, whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with HSDD, you don’t have to keep it a secret. Especially not here. unblush is a community. We get what you’re going through. And we want to help you take steps to get your sexual desire back.

Woman asks, what is HSDD? unblush explains hypoactive sexual desire disorder 101.”

 It often goes undiagnosed
Millions of women suffer with HSDD in silence, some of them for years. Why? Because even though open communication is vital to diagnosing HSDD, many women don’t bring up their low sexual desire with their healthcare providers, often because they’re too embarrassed.

 It’s definitely not something to be embarrassed about
It’s true that low sexual desire isn’t always the easiest thing to talk about. But the first step to treating HSDD is knowing it’s HSDD. And that means having an honest and direct conversation about it with your healthcare provider.

You might simply say, directly and calmly, “My sexual desire isn’t as strong as it used to be and that’s really frustrating for me. I’ve heard of HSDD and I’m concerned that I might have it.” You can do it.

 It is, by definition, FRUSTRATING
Remember that we mentioned that frustration is part of the diagnosis for HSDD? Well, it’s a big part. Simply put, if the loss of sexual desire isn’t frustrating, it isn’t HSDD.

Women with HSDD have reported feeling ashamed because of it and worried that they’re letting their partner down. It can also have a substantial negative impact on a woman’s health and quality of life. HSDD can make women avoid intimacy, leading to self-esteem issues and stress in relationships.

 It’s not something you have to face alone
It’s true that the loss of sexual desire is frustrating for millions of women. But figuring out what to do about it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t have to confront HSDD by yourself.

It can help to have someone to talk to. Maybe your partner or women who’ve experienced HSDD themselves can share what they’ve learned. unblush is a community of those women.

How HSDD makes different women feel. What hypoactive sexual desire disorder is…and what it isn’t.

 

But how does it feel to have HSDD?
Explaining how it feels to have HSDD is kind of daunting. After all, the main symptom of HSDD is what you don’t feel—the sexual desire that you used to have. Another important symptom is one you do feel: frustration.

Before going any further, it’s important to know that it’s not abnormal to find one’s sex drive stuck in neutral from time to time. When work is crazy. Or home is crazy. Or you’re crazy-exhausted and JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

But with HSDD, the lack of interest in sex is different. It’s ongoing. Maybe you still do it once in a while. Maybe you feel obligated to. But you haven’t wanted to have sex for months. Or even years. With HSDD, lack of desire may start to feel like your new normal. And that can bring a host of negative feelings that disrupt your life and sense of self.

With HSDD, lack of desire may start to feel like your new normal. And that can bring a host of negative feelings that disrupt your life and sense of self.

First among these is that the lack of sexual desire itself really frustrates you. Like we said above, the fact that it’s frustrating for you is essential for a diagnosis of HSDD. In other words, if you don’t mind that your sex drive has driven away, it’s not HSDD. Women who have HSDD would like to have their sexual desire back, thank you very much.

But in addition to the lack of desire for sex, what are some other ways that HSDD can impact your life and your relationship? Although every woman’s experience is unique, here are some examples from surveys of women with HSDD:

  • 92% said that they felt they were letting their partner down1
  • 69% said it had affected their body image(and not in a good way)2
  • 57% said it made them feel ashamed1
  • 51% said it made them feel less confident2

Here’s another stat we want you to know: 73% of women who were experiencing low sexual desire (but were not yet diagnosed with HSDD) said that they hadn’t told their healthcare provider about it. Why? One of the top reasons was that they were too embarrassed.2

Let that sink in for a moment. Many women who have low sexual desire, who are frustrated by that and want to get their sex drive back, don’t tell the person best equipped to help them.

It simply doesn’t have to be that way. Low sex drive in women is nothing to feel embarrassed or awkward about. Or ashamed of. Or to hide. It’s not a personal failing. Millions of women have HSDD. It’s a medical condition and medical professionals can treat it.

Remember: sexual desire is a part of your overall health and you deserve to have it. If you have any of the symptoms described above, you’re certainly not alone. It’s time to unblush and speak up. Talk to your healthcare provider and find out what you can do to take your sexual desire back.

 

References
  1. Leiblum SR, Koochaki PE, Rodenberg CA, et al. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder in postmenopausal women: US results from the Women’s International Study of Health and Sexuality (WISHeS). Menopause. 2006;13(1):46‐56.
  2. Kingsberg SA. Attitudinal survey of women living with low sexual desire. J Womens Health. 2014;23(10):817-823.
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About the Author
unblush
unblush is a community of women speaking up about the impact of loss of sexual desire—and ways to confront it.
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