Not feeling as frisky in the foyer as you once were? While age may be a contributing factor, sexual aversion disorder — with the somewhat appropriate acronym SAD — is a widely “under-appreciated” condition, according to an NIH study published in the peer-review journal Psychiatry. The National Health and Social Life Survey, conducted a few years ago, found that 32 percent of women and 15 percent of men lacked sexual interest for several consecutive months. We’re pretty sure they were surveying everyone we know. One study of menopausal women found that nearly half reported that their sexual desire decreased after menopause.
What used to be known as “Honey, I have a headache” syndrome, isn’t apparently something that gets readily discussed a lot in doctors’ office, in part because of its personal nature. So the Huffington Post spoke to Dr. Pepper Schwartz, AARP’s Love, Sex and Relationship Ambassador and author of 22 books, for some tips how folks can boost their sex drive.
1. Stop believing that lots of people really have sex five times a day.
Everybody always thinks everybody else is having more and better sex than they are. This is just a fact of life at any age, said Schwartz. It is also just not true. Frankly your sex life is nobody’s business, but just so you know, a lower libido is a real thing that happens — and it’s perfect natural. A woman’s sexual desire fluctuates over time. There are highs and lows generally associated with pregnancy, menopause, illness and feelings about mates. The lack of desire for sex really only becomes an issue when it causes you distress. But if you and your partner are on the same page and can agree that the frequency and quality of your sex life is sufficient, just be good with it.
But if things are bothering you — and the lack of sex drive is making you feel damaged or short-changed in some way — it’s time to get working on things, Schwartz said.
2. Stop thinking that this is a “women-only” problem.
Men are more likely to experience performance issues rather than lack of desire — although the first can certainly lead the latter. The leading reason men lose interest in sex is medication use, usually SSRI-type antidepressants and antihypertensive drugs prescribed for high blood pressure. All of these drugs have side effects including low libido, according to WebMd.
But there are differences on how the sexes react. Schwartz says that sometimes sex for men is akin to an itch that wants to be scratched. Women don’t want to feel mechanically needed; they want to feel loved and desired or their own interest diminishes, said Schwartz.
3. Gift it.
Love means doing things for your partner to make him or her happy. It can be flowers delivered to the office, a surprise weekend away for no reason, or simply putting on a good beneath-the-sheets show. Do it for love, if not for your own pleasure. Plus doctors say that once things start to get amorous, you might be surprised that your interest level rises to the occasion. “Give this gift generously,” said Schwartz, “and remember this is the person you love.”
4. Go to a horror movie and scare yourself silly.
Do something that gets your heart rate up, whether it be the gym, working in the garden, taking a walk or yes, watching a scary movie that sets your adrenaline into high gear, Schwartz said. Really? A horror movie? “Absolutely,” she said, “grab your honey’s arm, squeeze tight, bury your eyes in his shoulder and let yourself get scared. When you get the adrenelane pumping, you raise those hormones!”
5. Like exercise, know that the hardest part is just getting started.
You live a busy life and wear a lot of hats. You are tired a lot. Sometimes, you just have to make having sex a priority — kind of like committing to go to the gym. Make a date with your mate. Do the things you did back when the idea of making love all night was thrilling: bubble bath, couples massage, your favorite wine, nice music.
6. Don’t use garbage time.
It’s Saturday night and you had dinner guests over who didn’t leave until 11:30 p.m. You’ve been eating and drinking all evening and are bloated and exhausted by the time you get to bed. No, you will not be having sex tonight. You gave your best time to your friends, not to each other, said Schwartz.
Instead, make time for intimacy. Start at 6 p.m. with a glass of wine and a bath together. Light some candles and give each other a massage. Take your time. When you’re finished, you can have dinner at 8 p.m.
7. Make the effort.
If you are going to do a “date night” with the goal of intimacy, don’t give it short shrift. Bathe, wear something you feel you look good in, and make a plan that gets you excited. Schwartz says that making a hotel or motel reservation and anticipating what’s going to happen on the big date helps you get excited.
8. Don’t forgo foreplay.
The reason many women fake orgasm is that many men fake foreplay, said Schwartz. “You want him to build up your excitement until you are clawing at him,” she adds. Think of foreplay as good preparation. Like throwing a wedding or planning a big event, the success of the occasion often comes from the preparation you put into it beforehand.
9. Never have an honest conversation about sex during sex.
Want to talk about a deflating situation? The time for “the talk” is on neutral grounds at a neutral time. It’s fine to express your desires and fantasies in very specific terms. Just don’t do it in bed right after you’ve had sex.
10. Hold your mate’s hand and give hugs freely.
Hand-holding has been shown to increase our plasma oxytocin — a hormone that creates bonding. Hand-holding also shows commitment and presents a vision of yourself as a team. People who hold hands solve their arguments faster, said Schwartz.
Hand-holding is also good for your blood pressure. A study by Dr. Karen Grewen at the University of North Carolina found that 20-second hugs from a loved one or partner resulted in lower blood pressure. Hugs also have a cardio-protective result. Results showed significantly higher blood pressure in the group who sat alone compared to the group who hugged and held hands.
Touch is important, said Schwartz.