08/20/2015 03:21 EDT | Updated 08/20/2016 05:59 EDT

Female Desire: The Overworked Pink Pill

PBNJ Productions via Getty Images

After years of intensive lobbying, Flibanserin (now called Addyi) has finally been approved by the FDA as a treatment for low sexual desire in women.

Twice denied due to poor results and serious side effects including fatigue, fainting and nausea, Flibanserin is less than impressive. Working only slightly better than a placebo, the only significant result was a "modest" increase in a satisfying sexual event per month, which has little to do with desire. (read FDA report on efficacy)

Why do we keep trying to make this drug pass when we know it does not work well? Because we really want something to work for the many women who are wanting to feel desire.

Can a pill help increase sexual desire?

Sexual desire is complex and different for every individual. The factors that boost or suppress desire can be so numerous and so unique that no one solution can work for everyone.

Since the approval of Viagra in 1998, there has been a strong movement to find a physical cause for low desire in women, such as low testosterone or neuro-chemical imbalance. While there is some evidence to support this physical bent for a few women, it is still the non-physical factors -- relationship, social and life -- that play such prominent roles in whether a woman feels desire or not.

After so many trials and tweaks this overworked pink pill still does little more than act as a placebo. We need to stop beating this dead horse and look for something that gets some real results. Women with low desire deserve better. And this drug is distracting women from getting the help they really need.

So what increases desire?

To learn more about how to increase sexual desire in women we looked to women who already reported high desire. Did they have a secret? Over 8,000 women filled out a survey in a 2012 questionnaire, reporting the intimate details of their sexual desire and lifestyle. The top factors associated with high desire in women were identified (in order) as:

High sexual desire was positively associated with:

  1. Using fantasy: Far above any other factor, when women (and men) used sexual fantasy they were most likely to report high sexual desire. This explains the success of 50 Shades of Grey as an aphrodisiac, tapping into, and amping up, the erotic minds of millions of women. A pill cannot help women fantasize.
  2. Not living with a partner: No matter how well a woman gets along with her partner, the sheer day-to-day exposure to the same person can dampen sex drive. It is difficult to desire someone you already have. A pill cannot help a couple afford a second residence.
  3. Frequent laughter in sexual situations: Sex can get pretty serious. Laughter is a wonderful way to create intimacy and communicate with a partner, all the while keeping a playful mood. Just remember to laugh 'with', not 'at'. A pill cannot add levity and playfulness to sexual moments.
  4. Drinking alcohol: Whether we like it or not alcohol aids desire, most likely because it reduces inhibitions. A pill can induce the same relaxation alcohol brings, but this particular pill cannot be taken with alcohol.
  5. Being young: The under 50 crowd showed more desire than over the 50 group. A pill cannot make anyone younger (although I'd invest in that one).

High sexual desire is negatively associated with:

  1. Difficulty talking to their partner about sex. Many things need to be negotiated to have a good sexual experience. If a woman feels she can't ask for what she wants sexually, or she doesn't know how to talk with her partner when something goes wrong or becomes awkward, desire can be mired in anxiety and frustration. A pill cannot make women (or her partner) more comfortable talking about sex.
  2. A discomfort with masturbation. Women who felt touching themselves was uncomfortable, had a difficult time accessing their sexual desire. A pill cannot make a woman feel more at ease with masturbation.
  3. A partner's lack of skill. This one is self explanatory. If you are not getting the sex you enjoy, you are unlikely to want to do it very often. Desire goes limp. A pill cannot teach better oral sex skills
  4. A belief that sex is okay only with love. Holding the belief that sex is somehow dirty or bad if not attached to love will make it difficult to keep desire going after the initial bloom of romance fades. A pill cannot make pleasure-only sex acceptable.
  5. Body image. Most women worry about whether their body is sexy or attractive enough. This worry can dominate the erotic mood and undermine all the sexy desire. A pill cannot make a woman more content with her body.

Knowing your authentic arousal cannot be bought in pill form -- it needs to be discovered. And the discovery can be the most fun anyone ever had. Look to what works -- start with fantasy, open up communications with a partner and remember to laugh while you do it.

Anyone care to learn more about enjoying this discovery?