Sometimes, the biggest barrier to a fulfilling sex life begins before you even have sex. Everyone experiences periodic dips and peaks of sexual desire. But, if there is a prolonged period where someone experiences low or no sexual interest, it could be a sign of a disorder. An extended period is clinically defined as more than six months, but if it has been a long enough time that you are experiencing issues due to the lack of arousal, it’s probably time to seek some guidance. So, let’s talk about how to determine if this is a normal lull in desire or if it’s a disorder, and how to overcome the effects it has on your relationship.
If You Feel Okay About Your Level of Desire, It’s Not a Disorder
First things first: if you have minimal desire, but you’ve accepted that and it doesn’t pose problems for you, that’s great! You don’t have a disorder. Many people identify as asexual, and they do not have a disorder but may have very low or no sexual desire for their entire lives. In these situations, communication with your partner is key—especially if their desire differs from yours.
It’s not just men that suffer from the underlying idea that they should always be ready or eager for sex. Often, women feel the same way. Due to the prevalent lack of sex education, many women are not even taught that they will desire sex, so the lack of desire may not initially seem like an issue. But regardless of gender, a lack of sexual interest can feel like rejection unless you’re able to talk openly about what’s going on.
If You Have a Discrepancy of Desire Levels in Your Relationship, You May Not Have a Disorder
Many couples that come into therapy believe that the partner with the lower desire may have a disorder. This is often not the case. The partner with lower desire may have a healthy amount of arousal and sexual interest, but it is causing problems because their amount of desire is not compatible. The good news is that desire can be cultivated. If you can work together to find ways to increase arousal, many couples get a bonus benefit of having a more intimate sex life. Plus, you can become stronger as a couple since you know your sex life can overcome challenges that were initially difficult to admit and discuss.
If Your Partner Has Low Desire, Don’t Despair
Treatment options are abundant, from the pharmaceutical to the psychological. But the very first thing you need to do is get on the same page. Have an honest conversation about your current state of sexual desire, and do your best to tackle this problem as a team. Sometimes the tendency is to think whoever is having the experience of low desire needs to fix it and then reunite sexually with their partner. But, decreased desire is quite challenging to fix alone, and working together will help you see more immediate and lasting results.
Tips for Treating Low Sexual Arousal
If you or your partner has low desire, the first thing you should do is precisely what you’re already doing: study up! Read books, articles, and scientific studies from reliable sources on the topic. Learn about it together, so that you can identify causes of the low desire that you can remove from your relationship, or arousal enhancing behaviors that you’d like to add to your relationship.
Next, you should try something new together. And no, it doesn’t have to be related to sex! The goal of trying a new activity is to see your partner in a new light. When you can reignite a sense of discovery in your relationship, it often increases your desire for your partner. So, make sure the activity is new to both of you, and that you are both interested in trying it. Also, the activity should be interactive and engaging—binge-watching yet another show on HBO doesn’t count.
Lastly, the best thing you can do is work with a specialized therapist who can provide a safe space for difficult conversations and science-backed tips for improvement. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one today.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to take the sex quiz for women.