Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder - Causes

Causes

Low sexual desire alone is not equivalent to HSDD because of the requirement in HSDD that the low sexual desire causes marked distress and interpersonal difficulty and because of the requirement that the low desire is not better accounted for by another disorder in the DSM or by a general medical problem. It is therefore difficult to say exactly what causes HSDD. It is easier to describe, instead, some of the causes of low sexual desire.

In men, though there are theoretically more types of HSDD/low sexual desire, typically men are only diagnosed with one of three subtypes.

  • Lifelong/generalized: The man has little or no desire for sexual stimulation (with a partner or alone) and never has.
  • Acquired/situational: The man was previously sexually interested in his present partner but now lacks sexual interest in them but has desire for sexual stimulation (i.e. alone or with someone other than his present partner.)
  • Acquired/generalized: The man previously had sexual interest in his present partner, but lacks interest in sexual activity, partnered or solitary.

Though it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between these types, they do not necessarily have the same etiology. The cause of lifelong/generalized HSDD is unknown. In the case of acquired/generalized low sexual desire, possible causes include various medical/health problems, psychiatric problems, low levels of testosterone or high levels of prolactin. One theory suggests that sexual desire is controlled by a balance between inhibitory and excitatory factors. This is thought to be expressed via neurotransmitters in selective brain areas. A decrease in sexual desire may therefore be due to an imbalance between neurotransmitters with excitatory activity like dopamine and norepinephrine and neurotransmitters with inhibitory activity, like serotonin. The, New York-based, "New View Campaign" organization has expressed skepticism about too much emphasis on explanations based on Neurotransmitters because emphasis on such explanations have been made largely by "educational" efforts funded by Boehringer-Ingelheim while it was attempting to get the FDA to approve a drug affecting neurotransmitters for treatment for HSDD. Low sexual desire can also be a side effect of various medications. In the case of acquired/situational HSDD, possible causes include intimacy difficulty, relationship problems, sexual addiction, and chronic illness of the man’s partner. The evidence for these is somewhat in question. Some claimed causes of low sexual desire are based on empirical evidence. However, some are based merely on clinical observation. In many cases, the cause of HSDD is simply unknown.

The usefulness of the current nosology in the DSM-IV-TR has been criticized for not taking seriously the differences between male and female sexuality (see section on criticism.) Still, there are some factors that are believed to be possible causes of HSDD in women. As with men, various medical problems, psychiatric problems (such as mood disorders), or increased amounts of prolactin can cause HSDD. Other hormones are believed to be involved as well. Additionally, factors such as relationship problems or stress are believed to be possible causes of reduced sexual desire in women. According to one recent study examining the affective responses and attentional capture of sexual stimuli in women with and without HSDD, women with HSDD do not appear to have a negative association to sexual stimuli, but rather a weaker positive association than women without HSDD

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