Cover image for Reclaiming desire : 4 keys to finding your lost libido
Reclaiming desire : 4 keys to finding your lost libido
Goldstein, Andrew, M.D.
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Publication Information:
Emmaus, Pa. : Rodale, [2004]

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xii, 324 pages ; 24 cm
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HQ46 .G65 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HQ46 .G65 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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4 Keys to Finding Your Lost Libido

Anyone who has stood in a supermarket checkout line has seen all the sexy headlines on women's magazines, touting exciting new ways for readers to drive their men wild in bed or to heighten their own sexual pleasure. These are tantalizing promises, to be sure. But they sorely miss the mark.

The fact is, many women aren't interested in more sex or better sex. They aren't interested in sex at all. They used to be, of course. Over months or even years, their sexual desire all but disappeared. And they can't understand why.

Through years of clinical practice, Andrew Goldstein, M.D., and Marianne Brandon, Ph.D., have worked with scores of clients who aren't satisfied with their sex drives. They've seen how women struggle to open up about this very personal and painful problem. And they've seen how it can erode women's self-esteem and strain intimate relationships.

In Reclaiming Desire , Dr. Goldstein and Dr. Brandon present a self-care version of their highly effective holistic approach to treating low libido.

Inside you'll find:
- An exclusive self-test to assess physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health--the four cornerstones of a healthy sex drive

- Essential information on how major life events like pregnancy, menopause, and divorce can affect a woman's sexual health

- A range of practical measures, from conventional and herbal medicines to mind-body techniques and lifestyle strategies, that can help rekindle sexual desire

- Personal stories that draw upon the real-life experiences of women who once struggled with low libido--and emerged with a greater understanding of their sexual selves

Reclaiming Desire also offers a healthy dose of reassurance and encouragement as an antidote to all of the misconceptions about low libido. As you'll learn, a decline in sex drive doesn't automatically happen with age. And while hormones influence sexual desire and response, they don't determine a woman's sexual destiny. Just as important, low libido doesn't necessarily point to a problem in a woman's relationship with her partner. More than likely, she simply has lost touch with her sexual self.

Unlike those magazine headlines, Reclaiming Desire will more than live up to its promise. With this book, you can reclaim your desire--and make your sex life better than ever.

Author Notes

Andrew Goldstein, M.D., and Marianne Brandon, Ph.D., are cofounders of the Sexual Wellness Center in Annapolis, Maryland

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Low libido is the most common sexual disorder in American women, affecting an estimated 22 to 43 percent of the female population. And, according to authors Goldstein (a gynecologist) and Brandon (a clinical psychologist), the problem is more complex than most therapists realize. ?A decline in sexual desire seldom has a single cause,? they argue. ?The collection of factors that influences a woman?s sex drive is as unique as the woman herself.? Drawing upon their experience at the Sexual Wellness Center in Annapolis, Maryland, an institution that they founded, the authors advocate a holistic treatment that addresses four spheres of a woman?s life: physical health, emotional resilience, intellectual fulfillment and spiritual contentment. Their book covers all the possible factors: weight, diet, exercise, medical conditions, sleep patterns, testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, emotional arousal, stress, sexual trauma and life passages such as motherhood, menopause and divorce. Understanding the mind-body connection can increase sexual pleasure, they emphasize, and the acceptance of some basics?sexual pleasure fluctuates throughout life; a woman?s experience often doesn?t match society?s ?ideal??can smooth the road to change. Personal stories from the authors? patients demonstrate the problem?s complexity and help make the book more a practical, open-ended discussion about women?s sexual desire than a definitive medical manual. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

Few popular books deal with sexual desire disorders, so this one is much needed. Goldstein and Brandon, physician and psychologist colleagues at a medical/therapy practice centering on women's sexual health, trace women's low desire to problems in physical health, emotional resilience, intellectual fulfillment, and spiritual contentment. A final section summarizes life-cycle influences. In refreshing contrast to the more-sex-is-always-better school of therapy, the authors maintain that if the existing desire level is not bothersome, it's not a "disorder." They also discuss how not wanting sex can relate to relationship power issues and even have "benefits." A few drawbacks: the title does not indicate that this book is for women, the text in a later chapter about unrealistic media images regarding body size should have been incorporated into an earlier chapter about health and overweight, and the resource listings could have encompassed more topics (e.g., body image, diet, and cognitive therapies such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). Nonetheless, this perceptive, detailed, and helpful book is highly recommended for all public libraries.-Martha Cornog, Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER 1 RETHINKING LOW LIBIDO We are a culture fascinated by sex. In fact, sex may be the hottest commodity driving our economy. We use it to sell everything from chewing gum to cars. Sex can be traded for power, attention, money, and control on both a societal and personal level. It can add excitement, drama, mystery, danger, and intrigue to our existence. For most of us, sex represents much more than procreation or even physical pleasure. Particularly for women, feeling sexually attractive is an integral part of self-esteem. How a woman feels about her body and her sexuality helps determine how she views herself in general. This is why a decline in sexual desire results in significant distress for many women. It not only can extinguish positive sexual experiences, it also can undermine a marital or romantic relationship by negatively affecting the level of physical and emotional intimacy between a woman and her partner. In a more general sense, it can prevent a woman from getting all that she wants from her life. Low libido shows no regard for age, ethnicity, or lifestyle. It affects women who have children as well as those who do not; women who consider themselves to be attractive as well as those who are unhappy with or critical of their appearance. Low libido is common even among women who clearly love their partners. It affects singles, newlyweds, and those who have been married for decades. Among the goals of this book is to dispel the myth that low libido is rare and relegated to just one type of woman. The simple truth is this: Most women report a decline in their sexual desire at some point in their lives. So if you don't want sex as much as you used to, you are not alone. In fact, some health professionals believe that diminished sexual desire has become a new epidemic in our society. Researchers are just beginning to investigate this phenomenon statistically. According to recent estimates, more than one-third of women in the United States have problems with their sex drives. Even this statistic may be low, as people may be embarrassed to respond to such personal interview questions honestly. Myths and Misunderstandings In cases of low libido, most health professionals try to identify a single, specific physical or psychological cause. And they tend to attribute the apparent increase in sexual "dysfunction" among women to the fast-paced, stressful lifestyle that is the modern norm. We disagree, at least partially. In our opinion, a decline in sexual desire is neither a diagnosable nor a pathological condition. What's more, though the stress and demands inherent in our lifestyles never help a woman's libido, we believe that the reasons behind a loss of interest in sex are much more complex than that. We propose that a decline in sexual desire is a normal and perhaps even an appropriate response to the complicated challenges inherent in life and intimate relationships. Rather than something to be ashamed of, it is a sign of a fundamental imbalance in our lives. This imbalance can have any number of causes--for example, the multiple responsibilities at home and in the workplace that leave little time for pleasure; a simmering anger at our partners for ignoring our needs; or old belief patterns, such as "Mature women aren't sexual and don't really enjoy making love." Chances are, if your excitement for sex is diminished, your excitement for life in general is compromised. Many women recall feeling so sexual and turned on by their partners early in their relationships that they just can't grasp feeling differently now. Our society perpetuates a myth that sexual desire should remain consistently strong in a loving couple. So when women don't want sex, they tend to assume that they are somehow "abnormal." Further complicating matters, they are often too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it or to seek help. Their reluctance to open up only creates a sense of self- consciousness and isolation. It doesn't help that we're surrounded by people who appear to have satisfying sex lives. Neighbors, coworkers, and friends--even complete strangers who walk hand in hand--all seem to enjoy healthy sexual relationships. Popular movies feature exciting sex scenes in which women are overcome with passion for their partners. Song lyrics describe people turned on by each other, flirting with each other, lusting after each other. Ads in magazines and on TV show sexy models passionately embracing their partners in what appears to be a prelude to sex. One popular commercial even hints that a woman will have an orgasm just by using a certain brand of shampoo. Everywhere we look, we are presented with images of passionate people wanting each other and wanting sex. It's no wonder that women with low libido are reluctant to talk about their plight. Despite the frequent jokes about the demise of sex after marriage, few women feel comfortable openly admitting that they don't want to make love to their partners. Often they're reluctant to tell even their closest friends that they've lost interest in sex. As with any issue, when we remain silent about our pain, we prevent ourselves from healing. Body, Mind--And More As a gynecologist and a clinical psychologist who see female clients on a daily basis, we realize that many women want and expect more for themselves sexually. We opened our Sexual Wellness Center in 1999 to respond to women's concerns about a variety of sexual issues, including low libido. What do we mean by sexual wellness? We interpret it as a holistic concept, with four primary dimensions: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. All four must be present and in balance for a person to feel "well" sexually. We believe that applying this holistic approach is essential to fully and accurately evaluating women who are having problems with their libidos. When a patient tells us that her interest in sex is waning, our first step is to explore the following: * Her physical health, including underlying medical problems, hormone levels, medications, and lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise * Her emotional well-being--whether she is depressed, stressed, or anxious, and whether she is satisfied with her life, her marriage, and herself * Her intellectual fulfillment, both in her private life and in the life she shares with her partner and family * Her spiritual beliefs and needs, and their impact on her sexuality By identifying and treating problems in each of these core areas, we help make sex more gratifying for each woman. Once this is achieved, sexual desire often takes care of itself. The majority of our patients come to us because of low libido. Many of them have attempted to get help elsewhere but saw no significant improvement in their sex drives. We suspect that most conventional treatments fail because their focus is exclusively physical (adjusting a woman's hormone levels, for example) or psychological (examining a woman's sexual history or current emotional state). They don't take into account the interplay of these and other factors that collectively shape a woman's sexual desire. From our clinical experience, we've come to understand libido as a function of all that defines a woman--including her body, her relationships, and her lifestyle. This is why so many cases of low libido have such complex, and surprising, causes. The good news is that most of these causes are completely treatable. It Isn't Just "Sparks" More often than not, the women who come to our Sexual Wellness Center are longing for what might best be described as spontaneous desire. That is, they want to find themselves suddenly and without reason experiencing the sort of intense sensations that indicate they want to have sex. These sensations may take many forms--warmth or tingling in the genitals, frequent positive thoughts about sex, or perhaps some undefined physical or emotional need. Unfortunately, spontaneous desire is a misnomer. What our clients remember as spontaneous was anything but. Rather, their feelings of desire kicked in with some sort of stimulus--perhaps an attractive man walking by, a romantic scene in a movie, hot water cascading down their bodies as they showered, or a partner's loving caress. Whatever it was, they were receptive to it at that moment, and they responded by wanting to make love. For most women in mature relationships, this is the nature of desire: Rather than occurring spontaneously, it is a reaction to a stimulus. Sometimes our clients find this reality disappointing. They would rather experience sexual desire as effortless and dependable, like hunger. In fact, it can be effortless--if they allow themselves to be open to sexual stimuli, which are all around them. For most of our clients, the goal of treatment is not to experience spontaneous desire. Rather, it is to relearn how to be open and responsive to a sexual stimulus--that is, their partners--long enough for their desire to build. Admittedly, this takes commitment and effort. For a multitude of reasons, which we explore in the following pages, women sometimes shut down sexually. They must work to want sex again. Your Journey Begins Here You cannot simply will yourself to experience a desire for sex. Like joy or peace, it is a feeling generated from deep within you. The goal of our Sexual Wellness Center, and this book, is to help women who have had very fulfilling sex lives recapture the balance that is necessary for their passion to return. We attend to the whole woman--body, mind, and spirit--using a combination of conventional medical interventions, naturopathy, and individual and couples psychotherapy. We have found this holistic approach to be essential to helping a woman find her lost libido. We've written this book to provide a path for women like you, who wish to embark on a more meaningful and fulfilling journey to reclaim sexual desire. Along the way, we'll explore how the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of your self combine to influence your sexuality. We'll explain how these dimensions can slip out of balance, and how restoring this balance will not only reinvigorate your sex drive but also lay the foundation for a more stimulating, satisfying life. In working with our clients, we've found it helpful to conceptualize sexual desire by using the analogy of an onion. There are many layers to an onion. Those near the outside may be larger and more visible, but those underneath are just as important to the onion's integrity. We must break through the thin, sometimes damaged outer layers to get to the more substantive inner ones. Although the purpose of the onion's skin is to protect its contents, we must remove the skin to get to the more vulnerable bulb inside. Eating the onion with its skin on would dramatically alter our experience of it. Like the onion, a woman's sexuality consists of multiple layers, some more apparent than others. The outer layers serve as defenses, protecting from uncomfortable emotions like shame, guilt, and fear. The inner layers consist of the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that shape a woman's desire for sex. We must examine the more obvious layers before we can delve into the inner, more mysterious ones. All aspects of your sexuality are important and influential in your ability to receive and give sexual pleasure. You can access the inner, more potent layers of your sexual desire only if you first remove the protective shell placed around it. For some women, removing this protective shell--if only momentarily--can be the most difficult step toward reclaiming their sexual desire. It may involve a level of vulnerability with themselves and their partners that they would prefer to avoid. Self-examination can be a challenging, even frightening process. However, the understanding that comes from self- examination offers extraordinary rewards. Give yourself the gift of exploring and taking responsibility for your sexual desire. Excerpted from Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding Your Lost Libido by Andrew Goldstein, Marianne Brandon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vi
Introductionp. ix
Part I Why Desire Fades--And How You Can Bring It Back
Chapter 1 Rethinking Low Libidop. 3
Chapter 2 Getting to Know Your Sex Drivep. 10
Chapter 3 The Sexual Desire Self-Testp. 24
Part II The First Key: Physical Health
Chapter 4 Start with Your Bodyp. 33
Chapter 5 In Touch with Physical Pleasurep. 49
Chapter 6 The Hormone Factorp. 72
Chapter 7 Testosterone for Your Sex Drivep. 85
Chapter 8 Boosting Dopamine for Better Libidop. 101
Chapter 9 Aphrodisiacs from Medicine and Naturep. 107
Part III The Second Key: Emotional Resilience
Chapter 10 The Emotional Building Blocks of Libidop. 121
Chapter 11 Cultivating a Healthy Body Imagep. 135
Chapter 12 Depression, Anxiety, and Stress: Adversaries of Sex Drivep. 147
Chapter 13 The Hidden Impact of Sexual Traumap. 165
Chapter 14 The "Benefits" of Not Wanting Sexp. 180
Part IV The Third Key: Intellectual Fulfillment
Chapter 15 How Your Thoughts Affect Your Libidop. 193
Chapter 16 Inside Your Sexual Mindsetp. 204
Part V The Fourth Key: Spiritual Contentment
Chapter 17 The Soul of Your Desirep. 217
Chapter 18 Sex and Your Spiritual Selfp. 222
Part VI Life Passages and Your Libido
Chapter 19 From Infatuation to Intimacyp. 231
Chapter 20 The Miracle of Motherhoodp. 253
Chapter 21 Not Your Mother's Menopausep. 276
Chapter 22 Surviving and Thriving after Divorcep. 291
Epiloguep. 307
For More Informationp. 309
Indexp. 313