February 14, 2022

February 14, 2022

How Libido Impacts Your Relationship

If a woman’s sexual peak occurs in her middle ages, why are so many relationships strained by lack of intimacy? Human sexuality is tricky without the proper emotional legwork or medicines. Can psychedelics help with low libido?

Written By

Hayley Kirsh

Hayley Kirsh is a writer and wannabe cabinetmaker living in Ottawa, Canada. She is a firm believer in the power of psychedelic healing in therapeutic settings after her own experiences with plant medicine in Peru.

The start of a relationship is an exciting time — getting to know someone and what they like. 

What’s sexier than loving someone else? Loving yourself, of course. But, for women especially, innate confidence and esteem can be hard to naturally come by. A study by Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. In fact, actual performance does not differ in quality or quantity.

These qualities also play a huge role in successful intimate relationships as physical intimacy is a key component.

As time goes on, physical intimacy can and will change, and if partners have different needs like desire or fantasies, riffs can occur, causing huge issues in any relationship. According to FairwayDivorce.com, the two top reasons people get divorced in the US are that their relationship has run out of steam and there has been a communication breakdown.

Who Is Responsible for Strains & Sexuality in a Relationship?

Any relationship is built and maintained by the effort, love, understanding, and patience put in by both parties.

According to MindBodyGreen.com, there is no concrete statistic on how many people divorce because of a sexless marriage. But data from a 2002 survey found that 16% of married couples were in a sexless marriage (no sex in the past year). And a 2018 survey found that over one in four relationships are sexless.

According to WebMD, a women’s sexual peak occurs during her 30s and 40s. Statistically, this is when their sex drive is the strongest. In fact, one study showed that between the ages of 27 and 45, women had sex more frequently and also experienced more intense sexual fantasies.

So, why are today’s relationships suffering from differences in sexual desire? And why is a lot of the blame put on women?

Lack of Sexual Desire in Women

In a study released by Statista that looked at the impact of the pandemic on sexual partner interaction, there was a 64% increase in cohabitating couples who say they have sexual desire less often.

The same study determined that 63% of women felt more stressed since the start of the pandemic.

Sex and intimacy in today’s relationships are being strained not only by the pandemic but also by an increasing amount of pressure on women’s self-esteem, body image, and mental health. For women, the inability to be intimate can lead to feelings of personal distress — like feeling guilt, or even a fear of being cheated on or abandoned by your partner.

In comparison to the research on men’s sexual dysfunction, far less is known about the etiology of and effective treatments for women’s sexual dysfunction. Men have a little blue pill and women have a lot of questions.

Why Is Sex So Important for Healthy Relationships?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes sexual health as a vital component of quality of life as it improves heart function and can also help keep estrogen and testosterone levels in balance.

In relationships, sex and intimacy are key components as they can help build confidence, strengthen emotional connections, and of course, relieve stress.

Up until recently, there was not enough research or focus into the impacts lack of sexual desire could have not only on relationships but also on women faced with the pressure to perform.

Moreover, sex and sexual desire can be hard topics to discuss not only with doctors but partners too. 

Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) is classified in the DSM-IV under four types: desire, arousal, orgasm, and sexual pain disorders. Under the FSD umbrella is Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), which is defined by a persistent or recurrent lack of desire, sexual thoughts, and/or fantasies that contribute to personal distress and/or interpersonal difficulties.

HSDD transverses biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors, making it difficult to pin down and even harder to cure.

The current list of cures or solutions for HSDD, a condition affecting an estimated 9.5 million premenopausal women, is short. Women with low desire are at the mercy of broad suggestions like using aphrodisiacs, exercising, or “experimenting.” Such actions place the onus on women without much medical support, and only address the symptoms.

What if desire issues were deeper? 

(Hint: they are.)

Potential Solutions for HSDD

As it stands, there are two FDA-approved pharmacological treatments for HSDD: Flibanserin and Bremelanotide for premenopausal women. Flibanserin, considered the “little pink pill,” works by reducing serotonin activity in the brain, which inhibits sexual function. Bremelanotide is an injection that blocks melanocortin receptors, which are suggested to alter the pathways that contribute to sex drive and arousal.

Physical activity (PA) is another treatment that has been researched for use in helping treat sexual disorders. In a study, pre- and post-menopausal women consulting for female sexual disorders like HSDD were studied along with the frequency in which they engage in physical activity. Women engaging in PA scored higher in the Female Sexual Function Index under domains like desire, arousal, and lubrication. They also showed lower sexual distress as compared to sedentary women. 

The study showed that women with FSD could benefit from PA, but also excessive PA could be related to psychological determinants that could in turn relate to poor sexual function.

Testosterone therapy has been shown to be an efficacious treatment for HSDD in postmenopausal women. In clinical trials, postmenopausal women with low libido and sexual dysfunction showed significant improvements in areas like libido, sexual desire, arousal, frequency, and satisfaction when testosterone was introduced. 

Finally, psychedelic therapy is a solution that allows women to confront the root of their sexual desire in psychotherapy. Psychedelics like MDMA are suggested to help subdue symptoms of distress, allowing individuals to open up, analyze, discuss, and integrate their sexual experiences with the help of a clinician.

How Can Psychedelics Help Women?

Female decreased desire is a complex issue that continues to impact a number of women in a number of different ways. Experts recommend a biopsychosocial approach that simultaneously considers physical, psychological, sociocultural, and interpersonal factors in order to appropriately guide the research and clinical care regarding women's sexual function.

The emphasis for a holistic approach to fully understand and treat sexual desire in women aligns with MINDCURE’s research goals that involve showing the benefits of psychological intervention in combination with psychedelic therapy to improve symptom severity for women with HSDD.

In particular, MDMA has been shown to have positive impacts on the mind when paired with talk therapy. It allows people to open up and express emotions they may not be used to dealing with, including past trauma or current issues. One study that looked at different impacts MDMA had on opposite sexes showed that “adult females are more sensitive than males to the acute and subacute physical and psychological effects of MDMA.”

This new information on MDMA and the effects it has on adult females has the potential to open the door to understanding and developing wellness approaches in the psychology of female sexual healing.

The Desire Project

At MINDCURE, we believe MDMA has the potential to assist psychotherapy in helping women who have HSDD. Our goal with the Desire Project is to create evidence-based research that supports a solution involving pharmaceutical MDMA and psychotherapy, in order to open the conversation and help pinpoint the root causes of HSDD in women. Ultimately, we’re aiming to create more options for women with a more long-term solution for healing.

Mental health and sex are intimately tied. Together, they contribute to overall well-being with the release of endorphins that influence mood, promote emotional intimacy, and ultimately impact certain relationships.

With so many women impacted by HSDD, we want to create spaces where they can share their experiences and heal from them, leading to better sex lives and overall health.

Get involved in the conversation about HSDD by taking the MINDCURE Desire Project survey.

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