Findings from a European study show that women with low sexual desire and associated distress experience personal and emotional distress related to the sexual issue.
The findings, presented at the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health's 2010 annual meeting, are based on a survey of 5,098 women with low sexual desire and associated distress. In the Desire and Its Effects on Female Sexuality Including Relationships (DESIRE) study, many women reported experiencing negative emotions, such as dissatisfaction with their sex life, guilt about sexual difficulties and distress about their sex life frequently or always during the previous three months.
The study identified 7,542 women with low sexual desire and associated distress. Among these women, 5,098 participated and were surveyed on a range of attitudes and behaviors relating to their experience of low sexual desire. The reports of their frequency and level of sexual desire over the last 12 months were significantly correlated with reports of their level of distress about their low sexual desire and with each of these negative emotional responses.
The study's methodology consisted of 65,129 women ages 18 to 88 from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. These women completed an initial screening comprised of the first four questions of the Decreased Sexual Desire Screener (DSDS). The DSDS is a five-question diagnostic tool that assists nonexpert clinicians in the clinical diagnosis of generalized, acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), with more than 85 percent accuracy. In total, 7,542 women answered "yes" to all four questions and did not attribute their desire problem to partner sexual issues or physical trauma, and 5,098 women further chose to participate in the in-depth survey.
The DSDS consists of five yes or no questions:
- In the past, was your level of sexual desire/interest good and satisfying to you?
- Has there been a decrease in your level of sexual desire/interest?
- Are you bothered by your decreased level of sexual desire/interest?
- Would you like your level of sexual desire/interest to increase?
The fifth yes or no question asks women to note any factors from the following list they feel may be contributing to a loss of sexual desire or interest:
- Medications, drugs or alcohol you are currently taking
- Pregnancy, recent childbirth, menopausal symptoms
- Other sexual issues you may be having (pain, decreased arousal or orgasm)
- Your partner's sexual problems
- Dissatisfaction with your relationship or partner
- Stress or fatigue
If a woman answers "Yes" to questions one through four, and "No" to all of the factors in question five, then she may meet the criteria for the diagnosis of generalized, acquired HSDD. However, following the completion of the DSDS, a clinical assessment and review with the clinician is required to confirm the diagnosis of generalized, acquired HSDD.
To understand the natural course of HSDD in women, the New England Research Institutes, in Watertown, Massachusetts, is conducting the first-ever registry in female sexual health. The HSDD Registry for Women is a prospective, multicenter, observational study that aims to provide data on the natural history and long-term consequences of HSDD.
"The HSDD Registry for Women is the first sexual medicine registry of its kind to investigate the history and clinical course of generalized, acquired hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women," said Ray Rosen, Ph.D., chief scientist of the New England Research Institutes. "With its in-depth analysis of medical comorbidities, lifestyle factors and long-term outcomes, we expect the HSDD Registry to address a number of knowledge gaps surrounding HSDD in women."
Nearly one in 10 women report low sexual desire with associated distress, which may be HSDD, an often underdiagnosed condition defined as a decrease or lack of sexual desire that causes distress for the patient, may put a strain on relationships with partners and is not due to the effects of a substance, including medications, or another medical condition.
"Many of the women I see with HSDD experience a high level of guilt and feelings of confusion," said Sheryl Kingsberg, Ph.D., president of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health and professor in reproductive biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "They also complain about the distance they feel between themselves and their partner. The emotional impact of HSDD is significant, so I am excited by the growing body of research being presented this year as it provides an in-depth look at this underrecognized but distressing condition."
The study and patient registry are supported by unrestricted grants through Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.