February 9, 2022

February 9, 2022

What to Do When Your Doctor Ignores Your FSD

Sexual issues in women are perpetuated by silence and stigma that limit solutions. Ironically, a potential solution for some major female sexual challenges is also taboo: psychedelics.

Written By

Bailey Forcier-Yake

Bailey Forcier-Yake is an Indigenous freelance writer from the Nisga'a Nation of Northern BC. Her favorite topics to write about are mental health, well-being, and spirituality. Her goal is to raise awareness about mental health issues and help eliminate the stigma that comes with it.

Two topics that go hand in hand are finally getting the proper research and evaluations they've gone long without: female sexual desire and psychedelics used as a form of medicinal treatment

Women's sexual health has been stigmatized for a long time, not only by society but also by doctors. This is especially true in terms of female sexuality and issues with sexual desire. Maybe it’s the stigma or something about women’s bodies that makes some medical professionals uncomfortable. 

Similarly, psychedelics are just as taboo to society. The use of psychedelics, both recreationally and medicinally, has taken on negative associations. Although, researchers are currently working to open doors for medical acceptance all over the world.

These stigmas affect patient care in both the mental and physical health spaces and limit solutions. Women who struggle with sexual health issues are reaching out for relief from their pain. 

Here, we’ll walk through why such stigmas exist and explore the future of women’s sexual and mental health.

Why Is Proper Women's Sexual Health Essential for Maintaining Good Mental Health?

Sexual health has significant effects on overall well-being. When someone's sexual health problems (such as troubles with desire) are ignored and left untreated, distress symptoms can begin to take a toll on mental health. 

As you can guess, desire plays a vital role in maintaining healthy relationships. When someone's feelings of sexual desire are diminished, one or both people in the relationship can feel disconnected from the other. The lack of intimacy can put strains on their relationship, which can, in the end, negatively impact mental health.

While sexual health is incredibly important to mental health, a major barrier to healing is a lack of conversation and acknowledgment about female desire issues, despite being the most common of female sexual dysfunctions. With deeper explorations into the issues, causes, and connections that desire shares mental health (including self-esteem), we'll be able to better recognize and treat such issues more effectively. With more open discussions, women will be able to understand their bodies and feel more comfortable bringing up challenges to a doctor, and medical professionals may take such concerns seriously. 

What Issues Do Women Have With Sexuality & Desire?

It's quite a common occurrence for a woman to experience health-related problems in her sex life. In fact, anywhere between 30 to 50% of women experience some form of sexual issues in their lifetime. Sexual dysfunction in women is not as rare as it's made out to be. 

Some kinds of problematic sex-related symptoms a woman may encounter:

  • A lack of sexual desire (low sex drive, libido)
  • Difficulty becoming aroused 
  • Inability to reach an orgasm
  • Painful intercourse 

The pain associated with these symptoms can range from mild to severe, occurring occasionally or excessively. No woman is the same, so it's a sliding scale. 

As soon as a proper diagnosis begins, a treatment plan can be implemented. 

However, as pain is (obviously) subjective, it makes diagnoses all the more challenging. As well, with the undereducation and stigma affecting women's sexual health, a diagnosis could take a very long time — if a diagnosis is ever made — causing the woman to suffer silently without any form of relief. This is especially so with Female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), a sexual disorder that’s common among women, yet inadequately addressed or treated. 

What Is Female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)?

Female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, or HSDD, affects about 1 in 3 women in the US, yet a majority have likely never heard the term.

Women with HSDD have a constant or recurring lack or complete absence of sexual desire. They have no spontaneous desire for sexual encounters and often cannot feel aroused when their senses are stimulated (e.g., sight, touch, etc.) A woman is struggling with HSDD can feel tremendous amounts of distress.  

HSDD is typically connected to underlying troubles within their interpersonal relationships or distress within themselves. So, removing any blocks to their emotional connection with one another may is a way forward for desire. But, that’s easily said than done. Let’s check out some treatment options for HSDD.

What Treatment Options Exist?

One of the most common treatments for HSDD is psychotherapy or sex therapy. While this treatment may be helpful in the long run, it's not very practical for short-term, immediate relief.

As for medication for HSDD, if the decrease in libido is due to certain antidepressants, a doctor may recommend switching to different antidepressants, such as Bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL), which is known to help increase sex drive. 

Suppose the decreased sexual desire isn't caused by other medications. In that case, a doctor may prescribe Flibanserin (Addyi), taken in the form of a pill once a day, or Bremelanotide (Vyleesi), a self-administered injection used in the moments leading up to sexual encounters. Nothing like a slight jab to get one in the mood. The things we do for love.

These medications have mostly been found to promote only one additional sexually significant experience per month. Depending on the patient's preferences, that may be enough for them, or they could feel like it's not even worth the hassle of beginning a new medication. Hence, more silence.

These medications also seem to have more cons than pros, which is why women may choose not to take them. With various side effects, they’re only FDA-approved for premenopausal women:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue 
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing 
  • Headaches 
  • Skin reactions (at injection sites)

When taking Flibanserin (Addyi), also known as female viagra, another critical point is that women who are taking it can't consume alcohol or use the common yeast infection medication Fluconazole (Diflucan). Otherwise, symptoms could become much more severe. While virtually any medication or treatment will have side effects, the issue is a lack of variety for treatment options in the current space of women’s sexual health.

How Psychedelics May Promote Women's Sexual & Mental Health

Women's sexual health has been swept under the rug and left to cause adverse effects on mental health and well-being. While some solutions exist, there aren’t many options for the wide array of issues or their root causes. As researchers and practitioners search for new, updated treatment options for women's sexual health issues, there's an industry of medicine that's quickly gaining more and more attention — psychedelics

Psychedelics are turning heads in the medical research field as possible remedies to help treat issues women experience with their sexual health, such as decreased sexual desire. 

The use of psychedelic drugs like MDMA has shown great potential for treating sexual health issues before becoming illegal in North America. Now, clinical studies are proving effective for PTSD.

Why Is There a Lack of Treatment For Women's Sexual Health Issues?

The idea of women being sexually active and having any desire for sexual activity has been taboo and unfairly stigmatized for decades. This is true in society and in the medical field. 

There is a significant lack of knowledge surrounding female sexuality and how a woman's body works regarding sexual desire. This lack of understanding can lead to dismissal but medical professionals.

Why Is Female Sexual Desire So Taboo in the Medical Field? 

Female sexuality and desire are taboo not only to society but also in the medical field. Why? Well, the answer is quite simple — there's a significant lack of knowledge, understanding, and proper communication. 

To put that into better perspective, during 4 years of training at medical school, most med students will only spend 3-10 hours learning about sexual health issues. Now imagine how much of that is spent learning about women's sexual health in particular. It seems to be next to nothing. 

Many doctors and health care professionals have developed a dangerous and misogynistic habit of downplaying or just straight up ignoring symptoms and concerns expressed to them by their female patients. The term for this phenomenon is called medical gaslighting

Medical gaslighting occurs when patients express their symptoms, such as pain, to medical professionals who then dismiss their concerns. Distressed patients are told that their symptoms aren't that bad. Or, they’re treated as if they are lying about their pain.  

For example, women with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) rarely get a proper diagnosis. If  they do, it can take years to receive. Because PCOS causes weight gain, doctors will ignore a woman's supporting symptoms and suggest dieting, thus putting the onus on the patient. When results don’t show, doctor may accuse her of not trying hard enough, leaving her feeling ashamed and discouraged. And, we’re back to mental health.

This scenario isn’t uncommon. Women are left to suffer in silence and live with their pain until it leads to a medical emergency. Sometimes the damage caused by a late diagnosis is irreversible.

With these issues about women’s physical and reproductive health, imagine the barriers that exist for women’s sexual and mental health. Women are often left feeling neglected and ashamed. 

What Causes Doctors to Gaslight Women's Sexual Health Issues?

A couple of factors contribute to the cause of doctors downplaying and dismissing women's sexual health issues. Let's take a look at the leading causes of this phenomenon.

Gender Bias

The most forefront and apparent cause of the dismissal of women's sexuality and reproductive health problems is the strong gender bias in the medical field. The very foundation of our medical system was built upon a male-dominant perspective. 

For a long time, female pain (usually caused by undiagnosed and untreated reproductive health problems) was considered emotional pain, not actual physical pain. It wasn't uncommon for women to be treated as though their pain wasn't real and that they were just being dramatic. 

For example, female hysteria is a disorder that many women were diagnosed with during the 18th and 19th centuries in response to expressing their symptoms or displaying certain behaviors or emotional responses that made men uncomfortable.

While the medical community has come a long way, the term “hysterical” is still frequently used in society to disregard women. The gender bias lives on.

Generational Gaps

Another cause of medical gaslighting is the generational gap between doctors and patients. If the term hysteria can live on, imagine the mindsets that span decades, with outdated and false information spreading around in the medical field. We’ve come a long way since then, and continue to learn more about one another as humans as we venture further towards the future.

Generational gaps that harbor misogynistic mindsets in the medical system are hazardous. Healthcare professionals should always stay updated on health and safety protocols and procedures, as they are constantly changing with all the ongoing research getting done, especially now. 

Women's sexual and reproductive health is finally getting some well-deserved attention. More and more studies are being conducted to help medical professionals today better understand how they can help heal women. 

How Psychedelics Are Also Stigmatized

As medical researchers and healthcare professionals study women's sexual and reproductive health more, they are on the hunt for new and improved treatments as well. 

As with female sexuality and desire, there is a stigma surrounding treatment options with great potential. Psychedelics are one form of therapeutic treatment option that has been used for centuries, yet governments have demonized such substances, ultimately restricting the research that began decades ago. 

Psychedelics have been ignored as a potential treatment option for quite some time, due to a lack of research and knowledge, alongside outdated ideations. However, more medical professionals and researchers have been fighting to have those misconceptions about psychedelics and their uses diminished. 

Life science companies like MINDCURE are driving to correct the misinformation and stigmas with much-needed research. For example, the Desire Project looks at how psychedelics such as MDMA can help treat women's sexual health problems. 

Now things are beginning to look up for psychedelic treatments and therapies in medical research. This is due to the fantastic results that are being recorded in the successful treatment of mental health issues.

A Battle Against Two Stigmas 

It's perfect timing to have both of these stigmas brought to light around the same time. The medical system is on the verge of significant breakthroughs. Healthcare professionals in the near future will have a better understanding of women’s sexual health, its connection to mental wellness, and psychedelic medicines. With these understandings, care providers will be able to treat their patients in the best ways possible. 

It's all thanks to the scientific research and clinical studies that continue to debunk the myths of women's sexual health issues and use psychedelics to treat them, amongst many other things. 

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