Is sex being 'over-medicalized'?

While women are flocking to doctors asking what's wrong with them, many experts are pointing...

While women are flocking to doctors asking what's wrong with them, many experts are pointing fingers back at their patients. (Shutterstock.com)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 AM ET

Women around the world are increasingly suffering from low sex drive, and many often feel guilty about it. But with pharmacies rushing to market new drugs to help fix the problem, some groups are concerned about the over-medicalization of sex.

A 2008 study from the journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that nearly half of all women suffer from one sexual disorder or another. A more recent study from the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health found that nearly one in ten women report low sexual desire and experience emotional distress because of it.

But while women are flocking to doctors asking what's wrong with them, many experts are pointing fingers back at their patients. Drugs and lifestyle are big factors when it comes to sex drive.

The explosion of birth control pills since the 1960s could be part of the explanation, some experts say. Birth control pills increase a chemical in the blood that binds with testosterone, one of the central hormones associated with desire. No testosterone means no sex drive.

But that's only part of the explanation.

Petra Boynton, a social psychologist at the University College London, told Reuters in February there are many factors that can cause low sex drive. Not all of them are diagnosable and treatable from a pharmaceutical standpoint.

"In truth there is lots of detailed and interesting research on women's sexuality that specifically addresses the many issues that may cause low sexual desire - like pregnancy, menopause, bereavement, divorce, a lack of privacy or poor body image."

While conditions like vulvar vestibulitis - chronic vaginal pain associated with sexual activity - are serious and can require treatment, Jan Shifren, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, says not everyone with low sex drive should be told they have a condition.

"Women in good relationships who are physically and psychologically healthy are generally satisfied with their sex lives," she told ABC News in April.

Other experts blame stress related to the economy, raising a family and popular expectations for the perception of a low sex drive. Thinking about money, after all, is a huge buzz kill.

But part of it could also come down to pure unreasonable expectations. Maybe we're just not meant to have as much sex as we think we are - or as much as Tiger Woods.

New York-based sex expert Judith Steinhart told ABC that MTV videos and other forms of popular culture pressure young people to be "sexpots" and it's difficult to move out of that mindset.

"Is it a lack of sexual desire or do we have expectations that we are supposed to be hypersexualized women at 16, 26, 36 and so on?" she asked.

In the end, the best way to a good sex life is also the best way to a long life.

According to Jean Koehler, president of the American Association of Sex Educations, Counselors and Therapists, taking care of yourself can be the number one libido booster, and more effective than any drug regimen.

"Nothing sinks the libido of a physically and emotionally healthy woman faster than lack of sleep, poor eating habits and/or sedentary lifestyle," she told Shape Magazine.

So while pharmaceutical companies are gearing up to market a form of Viagra to women, and the male versions rack up billions in sales every year, many doctors are recommending one thing to members of both sexes who want a better sex life: eat well and exercise regularly.


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