Sexual Desire Discrepancy: A Position Statement of the European Society for Sexual Medicine

Dewitte Marieke*, Carvalho Joana, Corona Giovanni, Limoncin Erika, Pascoal Patricia, Reisman Yacov, Stulhofer Aleksandar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Introduction: There is a lack of theoretical and empirical knowledge on how sexual desire functions and interacts in a relationship.
Aim: To present an overview of the current conceptualization and operationalization of sexual desire discrepancy (SDD), providing clinical recommendations on behalf of the European Society of Sexual Medicine.
Methods: A comprehensive Pubmed, Web of Science, Medline, and Cochrane search was performed. Consensus was guided by a critical reflection on selected literature on SDD and by interactive discussions between expert psychologists, both clinicians and researchers.
Main Outcome Measure: Several aspects have been investigated including the definition and operationalization of SDD and the conditions under which treatment is required.
Results: Because the literature on SDD is scarce and complicated, it is precocious to make solid statements on SDD. Hence, no recommendations as per the Oxford 2011 Levels of Evidence criteria were possible. However, specific statements on this topic, summarizing the ESSM position, were provided. This resulted in an opnion-based rather than evidence-based position statement. Following suggestions were made on how to treat couples who are distressed by SDD: (i) normalize and depathologize variation in sexual desire; (ii) educate about the natural course of sexual desire; (iii) emphasize the dyadic, age-related, and relative nature of SDD; (iv) challenge the myth of spontaneous sexual desire; (v) promote open sexual communication; (vi) assist in developing joint sexual scripts that are mutually satisfying in addition to search for personal sexual needs; (vii) deal with relationship issues and unmet relationship needs; and (viii) stimulate self-differentiation.
Conclusion: More research is needed on the conceptualization and underlying mechanisms of SDD to develop clinical guidelines to treat couples with SDD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-131
Number of pages11
JournalSexual Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Sexual Desire
  • Sex Therapy
  • Relationship
  • Couple


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