A qualitative study from a team of researchers at Monash University (Melbourne) has sought to understand the personal impact of loss of sexual interest on women and the expectations of women seeking treatment for their problem. This is the first study to consider the real-life situation of women seeking treatment at a clinic; previous studies have actively sought out women with sexual problems, which may change the expectations and experiences of the patients. This work is published in the December edition of the peer-reviewed journal Climacteric.
Loss of sexual interest is the most commonly reported sexual problem amongst women. Although researchers have identified that loss of interest in sex can be very concerning for women, there has been little understanding as to what motivates women to seek help for this problem. There is also little known about women’s expectations of treatment for female sexual dysfunction.
The team interviewed 17 women who had been referred to the Cabrini Medical Centre (Melbourne, Australia) for specialist assessment and possible treatment. In depth face-to-face interviews took place prior to the medical consultation, in which women were asked to talk about their sexual worries and the reasons for attending the clinic. Four major themes emerged during the course of the interviews.
1: Personal psychological distress: these feelings manifested themselves in low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, sadness, worthlessness, inadequacy, frustration, disappointment and embarrassment:
- ‘I think a feeling of guilt from my point of view and from my husband probably a feeling of not being attractive to me. A feeling of not being adequate maybe’ (Olivia, aged 43).
- Older participants also reported psychological distress. Justine, aged 70, stated: ‘I just do not feel inclined to have sex. I want to approach my husband, to be physical. There is nothing there. I just don’t feel anything at all. You know it has been for a few years now and I just don’t think that’s normal because I am not that old. This is disappointing that I do not like to be touched. ‘
2: Concern about the adverse effect of lack of sexual interest on the relationship with their sexual partner Although most women appreciated their partner ‘s support, they were concerned about the negative effects of their sexual problems on intimacy and cited this as a driving factor for seeking medical help:
- Stella, aged 47 described: ‘Physically I don’t really feel like I need to be sexually active. I do get concerned about the future and whether it is going to affect the relationship with my husband. ‘
- Emma, aged 51 stated: ‘It’s not like our marriage is in trouble because of it, but it is definitely something that we both would like to enjoy and my husband would like more of. It is important for any marriage and relationship. You still need to have that regardless of how long we’re together whether it’s 10, 20, 30 years. I guess it’s always the thought of hearing other people having regular sex and you say “what’s wrong with me?”. ‘
Source: International Menopause Society