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Adv Psychosom Med. 2011;31:16-34. doi: 10.1159/000328806. Epub 2011 Oct 10.

Sexual desire and arousal disorders in women.

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  • 1Department of Sexology and Psychosomatic Obstetrics, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


According to incentive motivation theory, sexual desire is the result of the interplay between a sensitive sexual response system and stimuli that activate the system. From this notion it follows that sexual desire is not a cause but a consequence of sexual arousal. The effects of hormones, somatic disease and medication on sexual arousability are discussed, as well as the influence of psychological factors - such as stimulus meaning, mood and cognition - and relational context on female sexual desire and arousal. At present, much attention is being paid to possible pharmacological treatments for decreased desire and arousal problems, even though desire and arousal seem more strongly associated with psychological and relational factors. Empirical evidence of the effect of psychological treatments for decreased desire and arousal problems in women is scarce. A cognitive-behavioral therapy approach with explicit attention to relational context and a focus on improving arousal and sexual satisfaction has shown to be effective. Knowledge about which treatment elements bring about change is still lacking.

Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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