The pathophysiology of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in women

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2010 Jul;110(1):7-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2010.02.014.


Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is defined as a deficiency or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity that causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. The dysfunction cannot be better accounted for by another psychiatric disorder (except another sexual dysfunction) and must not be due exclusively to the physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition. HSDD occurs in approximately 1 in 10 adult women in the USA and its prevalence appears to be similar in Europe. A number of potential causative and contributory factors to low sexual desire have been identified, reflecting the interplay among hormonal, neurobiological, and psychosocial factors. One theory is that sexual desire is controlled in the brain by a balance between inhibitory and excitatory factors. In general, dopamine, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone play an excitatory role in sexual desire, whereas serotonin, prolactin, and opioids play an inhibitory role. It is hypothesized that decreased sexual desire may be due to a reduced level of excitatory activity, an increased level of inhibitory activity, or both. A greater understanding of the complex pathophysiology of HSDD would improve the identification and management of women for whom low sexual desire is a concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • United States / epidemiology