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For Women, Low Sexual Desire Comes in Two Forms

Let’s start with the facts.

Upwards of 50% of women will experience a low sex drive at some point in their life. In fact, studies suggest around 50% of women will experience low sex drive each year. So, if you’re someone experiencing low desire, it looks like you’re in good company.

Considering how prevalent low libido is, historically, research into why women experience low desire has been pretty sparse. For years, science has repeatedly blamed low testosterone levels in women as the main cause.

While various research projects have backed this up, several studies have also proven the exact opposite. For example, one study compared testosterone levels in women who have a high sex drive with women diagnosed with a desire disorder and reported no difference.

With that in mind, it remains a mystery why doctors and women continue to ask for testosterone treatment for low libido. Namely, the popularity of the drug Addyi (nicknamed the “female viagra”) for treating a low sex drive. It’s even crazier when you learn that the success only raises libido levels by 0.5% (equivalent to an allergy drug stopping one sneeze a month*).

Low sexual desire isn’t just caused by hormones, although hormones can in part play a role. Both women and men experience dips in desire for many different reasons, the birth of a child, the time in their life, relationship conflict, even the context of the moment. So, while Addyi (or flibanserin) may be useful for women with low levels of serotonin or dopamine, for the vast majority of women it won’t address the main issue.

Such interest in testosterone treatments in part needs to be understood in the context of what is considered a “normal sex drive”. Which historically has been focused on the idea that men have healthier levels of desire, and therefore the issue is resolved by comparing men with women.