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Libido Problems

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
Last updated:
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
Last updated:

Whether you don't want sex, your partner doesn't want sex, you want to want to but don't want can all be a bit confusing. You're absolutely not alone in this feeling, libido problems are the most common sexual issue in the world. Even though it can make you feel so alone and like you're the only one, millions of people have these problems just like you, and millions of others have found help to overcome them.

So, on your travels around google late at night you may have come across many different names for libido problems, we're here to clear it up and help you understand.

What are the symptoms of libido problems? 

They can manifest in many different ways, have a look at this list and see if you or your partner are experiencing some of these symptoms: 

1. Absent or reduced interest in sexual activity

2. Absent or reduced sexual thoughts or fantasies

3. No or reduced initiation of sexual activity, and typically unreceptive to a partner’s attempts to initiate

4. Absent or reduced sexual excitement or pleasure in almost all or all sexual encounters

5. Absent or reduced sexual interest/arousal in response to any internal or external sexual cues

6. Absent or reduced genital or non-genital sensations during sexual activity in all or almost all sexual encounters.

To be a problem, these symptoms must cause significant distress and have persisted for a minimum of six months. If you didn’t have any fantasies this week but did last week, you’re probably fine. The same goes for if you have any of these but aren’t distressed - no problem! 

If it’s been making you feel down, upset, angry, frustrated, broken, any of those negative feelings or causing distress in your relationship  – it’s time to reach out for some help. 

What is Sexual Desire Discrepancy?

Sexual desire discrepancy is any difference in people’s sexual desire. This can be a difference in the frequency, duration, type etc. of sex one wants to have. It can be a discrepancy in what, how, when, with whom, how often. Now of course, it's likely that everybody has had this in some way in their lifetime. You can't both magically want the exact same sex at the same time every time - that would be lucky but kind of strange! It becomes a problem when it starts to cause distress in your relationship, that's when SDD becomes something you want to address.

What is low libido or low sex drive?

Low libido or low sex drive means that one person has a very low sexual desire and it’s causing significant distress to them or their relationship. The exact definition of low libido is difficult as it’s always relative, there is no 'perfect' or 'medium' libido level that we are either above or below. If it's low it's in relation to either your past (how much you used to have sex), or your partner (how much they want to have sex). Again, remember this word 'distress', if you don't want to have sex much, or even at all, and it doesn't bother you or your partner. Then great! There's no reason why you need to have more. The terms libido and sex drive also need a little explaining, as they do add to a few myths that need busting. 

What is HSDD?

Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) is one of two sexual desire disorders in the DSM (the directory of current mental health conditions)and is defined by the "persistently or recurrently deficient (or absent) sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity" that causes "marked distress or interpersonal difficulty." - So basically the same as low libido, just a fancier name.

What is FSIAD?

Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (FSIAD) is defined in the DSM-5 as lack of, or significantly reduced, sexual interest/arousal that has caused clinically significant distress and has persisted for a minimum of six months. This is a new category in the latest diagnostic manual and is only for women.  

In a nutshell: HSDD is basically just the medical term for low libido and FSIAD is a combination of low libido and difficulty getting lubricated.

What is Erectile Dysfunction? 

Erectile dysfunction is generally defined more in terms of physiological arousal; difficulty getting or staying hard. But desire and physical arousal are often very closely interlinked, it’s not simply your body but also your mind. It is almost like the ‘male’ version of the above FSIAD.

Erectile disorder (ED) is defined in the DSM-5 as:

- The recurrent inability to achieve an erection

- The inability to maintain an adequate erection

- And/or a noticeable decrease in erectile rigidity during partnered sexual activity.

It can be specific (e.g. the problem occurs only when with a partner or only by yourself - usually the problem is when with a partner) or general (you can't get an erection in any way). The latter often has a physiological cause, the former is usually psychological (often, performance anxiety). 

What are orgasm problems? 

Well, the official name is anorgasmia, meaning the inability to orgasm. It can be situational (i.e., you can only orgasm alone but not with a partner) or generic (the problem occurs always or almost always). There can be multiple causes such as anxiety or you or your partner not knowing how to apply correct stimulation, most women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone and may not orgasm 'vaginally' but rather through clitoral stimulation. You can, of course, have great sex without an orgasm and putting pressure on trying to have one can get in the way of it happening.

How Sensate Focus helps each of these issues

Sensate focus is a technique used in sex therapy that has been tried and tested, and has helped millions of people overcome their sexual problems. Dr Laura Vowels is the Principal Researcher at Blueheart, and Leading Expert on Libido Issues, here's what she has to say:

These are extremely common desire and arousal problems, (desire being the want to have sex, arousal being the physical reaction to sexual stimuli). Sensate Focus would absolutely be the course of treatment for all of these, as they usually stem from some form of anxiety. Sensate Focus teaches you to focus on the sensation of touch allowing you to manage your anxiety during sex, and helping you to overcome your issues.

If this sounds like something that might help you, take a look at our app, with a sensate focus plan developed by Dr Laura Vowels and Dr Katherine Hertlein.

If you'd like to read more of Dr Vowels’ research on libido, explore her papers and learn the science behind Blueheart.

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