What Is Sexual Dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction is any problem that prevents a person from desiring or
enjoying sexual activity. It can occur at any stage of sex, from pre-arousal to
It is normal for people to have varying levels of sexual desire and ability,
and it’s normal for these to change over time. Sexual dysfunction is any
problem that occurs on a regular basis and that interferes with a person’s
ability to have a happy life.
Sexual dysfunction can occur at any age, but risk increases as we grow older.
Both men and women experience sexual dysfunction.
Types of Sexual Dysfunction
There are four types of sexual dysfunction:
- A desire disorder is
when a person has little or no interest in sexual relations on an ongoing
- An arousal disorder is
when a person is interested in sex but the body won’t perform.
- An orgasm disorder is when an inability
to climax frustrates a person.
- A pain disorder is when
it hurts to have sexual intercourse.
What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?
Stress and relationship troubles are common causes of sexual dysfunction.
Sexual trauma or psychological issues can cause sexual dysfunction. So can
medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Using illegal drugs,
drinking alcohol, and certain medications can also affect sexual desire and
In men, low levels of testosterone can cause a loss of sexual desire. In
women, low estrogen or testosterone levels can affect desire. Pregnancy,
childbirth, breastfeeding, and menopause can affect a woman’s hormone levels
and her interest in sex.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man cannot achieve or maintain an
erection appropriate for intercourse. ED can be caused by problems with blood
flow, nerve disorders, Peyronie’s disease, chronic illnesses, and injuries to
the genitals or groin. Psychological issues can also cause ED.
Premature ejaculation is when a man ejaculates before or immediately after
penetration. It can be caused by psychological issues, as well as by nerve
damage and other physical conditions. Inhibited ejaculation is when a man is
unable to ejaculate.
Women may experience pain during sexual penetration, due to inadequate
lubrication and tense vaginal muscles. Involuntary vaginal muscle spasms (also
known as vaginismus) can cause pain during sexual intercourse. These spasms may
be symptoms of neurological, urinary tract, or bowel disorders.
Menopause causes hormonal changes that may make sex painful. A drop in
estrogen levels can thin the vaginal lining and decrease lubrication.
When to See a Doctor
Sexual problems can be a source of anxiety and embarrassment. These feelings
can make the problems worse.
If a problem continues for many weeks or if you suspect a physical cause,
make an appointment with your doctor.
How Is Sexual Dysfunction Treated?
Treatment for sexual dysfunction depends on the specific cause.
ED treatment has advanced a lot in recent years. Many men have positive
results with prescription medications like sildenafil citrate (Viagra).
Other remedies include mechanical aids, penile implants, or surgery.
Lubricating gels or creams or hormone therapy may solve the problem of vaginal
If no physical cause is found, psychological counseling may help.
Relationship or couples counseling can improve communication skills and help
Education about sexual behavior and sexual inhibitions can also be addressed
in counseling. Psychotherapy may help resolve deeply rooted sexual dysfunction.
important. If you have any type of sexual dysfunction, talk to your partner.
Don’t let embarrassment prevent you from getting help or talking to your
doctor. Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs, and educate yourself about potential side
effects of medication you’re taking. If you’ve been a victim of sexual
violence, seek counseling.
What Is the Outlook for Sexual
Stress and anxiety about sexual dysfunction can
make the problem worse. Often, the outlook for sexual dysfunction is quite good
if the problem is approached openly and dealt with. But some medical conditions
and deeply rooted psychological issues are more difficult to resolve.