Do You Know the Difference Between Sexual Arousal and Desire?

Understanding and Managing Your Sexual Response

Couple holding hands on bed
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Much of the population often conflates libido with arousal. After all, if you feel satisfied with your sex life, these aspects of your sexuality can be difficult to separate from one another.

In actuality, libido refers to your baseline interest in sex, and may also be referred to as your sexual appetite.

Arousal, on the other hand, refers to your physiological response to sexual stimuli. Physical manifestations of sexual arousal include vaginal lubrication and increased blood flow to the labia, clitoris, and vagina.

Can I Increase My Levels of Sexual Arousal?

One of the symptoms of decreased sexual arousal in women is a reduced amount of vaginal lubrication. Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants can augment lubrication.

If a decrease in vaginal lubrication has been caused by menopause, hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed. While this is an approved drug therapy for this problem, however, newer research shows that this treatment also carries great risk. For this reason, personal lubrication purchased from your local pharmacy can be your safest option.

Viagra (sildenafil) and a class of medications called alpha-adrenergic blockers, such as Regitine (phentolamine), have also been shown to increase vaginal lubrication in response to sexual stimulation. However, it should be mentioned that study after study of Viagra for various female sexual problems have not shown an increase in sexual pleasure in women, and it has still not been approved by the FDA for use with women.

Aside from pharmacological solutions, you can also choose behavioral therapy to help increase sexual arousal. Such therapy is aimed at enhancing sexual fantasies and focusing one's attention on sexual stimuli. If you are in an ongoing relationship, your therapist would also take a hard look at the possibility that communication problems exist in your relationship, or that your partner does not spend as much time as is needed to sexually stimulate you.

 

Can I Increase My Levels of Sexual Desire?

The FDA recently approved Addyi (flibanserin) for the treatment of low sexual desire, but this approval comes after a long, hard road during which the drug's side effects were shown to be greater than its possible benefits. Even after its approval, doctors need to go through a training process before they are able to prescribe it.

Addyi is a pill that must be taken every day. It is advised that you not drink while on Addyi, as this can lead to fainting.

Perhaps this less-than-ideal mix of high risk followed by low benefits is the reason Addyi is not exactly performing well on the market. There are those, however, who hope its approval will lead to more research into what women might be able to do with their distressingly low levels of arousal, libido, and orgasm frequency, or with instances of genital pain.

There have also been studies indicating that testosterone can increase sexual desire in women whose low sex drive is a result of the surgical removal of their ovaries.

Continual treatment with testosterone does, however, carry side effects and health risks.

Another factor to consider is that, for some women, feelings of guilt and shame learned in early childhood may interfere with adult sexual function, and may affect one or more phases of the sexual response cycle. In these instances, as well as in cases of sexual abuse, psychotherapy can be beneficial. Marriage counseling or couples therapy can also be of value.

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