Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder - History

History

In the early versions of the DSM, there were only two sexual dysfunctions listed: frigidity (for women) and impotence (for men).

In 1970, Masters and Johnson published their book Human Sexual Inadequacy describing sexual dysfunctions, though these included only dysfunctions dealing with the function of genitals such as premature ejaculation and impotence for men, and anorgasmia and vaginismus for women. Prior to Masters and Johnson's research, female orgasm was assumed by some to originate primarily from vaginal, rather than clitoral, stimulation. Consequently, feminists have argued that "frigidity" was "defined by men as the failure of women to have vaginal orgasms".

Following this book, sex therapy increased throughout the 1970s. Reports from sex-therapists about people with low sexual desire are reported from at least 1972, but labeling this as a specific disorder did not occur until 1977. In that year, sex therapists Helen Singer Kaplan and Harold Lief independently of each other proposed creating a specific category for people with low or no sexual desire. Lief named it "Inhibited Sexual Desire," and Kaplan named it "Hypoactive Sexual Desire." The primary motivation for this was that previous models for sex therapy assumed certain levels of sexual interest in one’s partner and that problems were only caused by abnormal functioning/non-functioning of the genitals or performance anxiety but that therapies based on those problems were ineffective for people who did not sexually desire their partner. The following year, 1978, Lief and Kaplan together made a proposal to the APA’s taskforce for sexual disorders for the DSM III, of which Kaplan and Lief were both members. The diagnosis of Inhibited Sexual Desire (ISD) was added to the DSM when the 3rd edition was published in 1980.

For understanding this diagnosis, it is important to recognize the social context in which it was created. In some cultures, low sexual desire may be considered normal and high sexual desire is problematic. For example, sexual desire may be lower in East Asian populations than Euro-Canadian/American populations. In other cultures, this may be reversed. Some cultures try hard to restrain sexual desire. Others try to excite it. Concepts of "normal" levels of sexual desire are culturally dependent and rarely value-neutral. In the 1970s, there were strong cultural messages that sex is good for you and "the more the better." Within this context, people who were habitually uninterested in sex, who in previous times may not have seen this as a problem, were more likely to feel that this was a situation that needed to be fixed. They may have felt alienated by dominant messages about sexuality and increasingly people went to sex-therapists complaining of low sexual desire. It was within this context that the diagnosis of ISD was created.

In the revision of the DSM-III, published in 1987 (DSM-III-R), ISD was subdivided into two categories: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Sexual Aversion Disorder (SAD). The former is a lack of interest in sex and the latter is a phobic aversion to sex. In addition to this subdivision, one reason for the change is that the committee involved in revising the pyschosexual disorders for the DSM-III-R thought that term "inhibited" suggests psychodynamic etiology (i.e. that the conditions for sexual desire are present, but the person is, for some reason, inhibiting their own sexual interest.) The term "hypoactive sexual desire" is more awkward, but more neutral with respect to the cause. The DSM-III-R estimated that about 20% of the population had HSDD. In the DSM-IV (1994), the criterion that the diagnosis requires "marked distress or interpersonal difficulty" was added.

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