Sexual Dysfunction

What is sexual dysfunction?

If you have an issue that prevents you from wanting sexual activity or causes you to stop enjoying it, you may have a case of sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction refers to a problem occurring during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from sexual activity. This cycle includes the phases of excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. Desire and arousal are both part of the excitement phase of the sexual response.

Sexual dysfunction is a fairly common condition that affects men and women of all ages, although the chances do increase as you grow older. Most of these conditions are treatable but people hesitate to talk about it or seek help for fear of being judged.

If you have been experiencing trouble enjoying sexual activity, you should talk to your partner about the condition and seek professional help. With proper treatment you will be able to resume enjoying a healthy sex life.

What are the symptoms of sexual dysfunction?

The symptoms of sexual dysfunction are different for men and women. Some of the common symptoms are:

In men:

  • Erectile dysfunction: Having trouble getting or maintaining an erection for intercourse.

  • Ejaculation problems: Being unable to control when you ejaculate. This could happen before or just after penetration (premature), or considerably long after orgasm (delayed). Some men experience retarded or retrograde ejaculation, where the ejaculate enters the bladder instead of the penis at the time of climax.

  • Low libido: Low levels of testosterone can reduce your desire for sexual activity.

In women:

  • Diminished libido: Your desire for sex is low due to low levels of estrogen or testosterone.

  • Inability to achieve orgasm: You regularly have difficulty achieving orgasm even though there has been enough arousal and stimulation.

  • Vaginal dryness and pain: Lack of vaginal lubrication before and during intercourse, causing severe pain.   

What causes sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction can be caused by a variety of physical, psychological and environmental factors. Some of the common factors are:

  • Physical factors:In men, nerve damage, problems with blood flow, conditions such as diabetes, hormonal imbalance, neurological disorders, heart or kidney failure, can cause sexual dysfunction. Alcoholism and use of some types of medication can also hamper sexual function.

In women, urinary or bowel problems, neurological disorders, arthritis, and use of some medications can cause sexual dysfunction. A decrease in estrogen levels can cause thinning of the vaginal lining and thus a drop in lubrication. This can make intercourse quite painful.

  • Psychological and environmental factors: Stress from the workplace is a common cause for reduced sexual desire. Other factors include sexual performance anxiety, an existing case of depression or anxiety, relationship problems with the partner, and sexual trauma from one's past.

Getting treatment for sexual dysfunction

In most cases, sexual dysfunction can be treated by addressing the underlying medical condition. Your doctor will give you medication to treat the underlying problem, which in turn will reduce the symptoms of your sexual problem. Men suffering from erectile dysfunction may also be prescribed medication which increases blood flow to the penis. Sometimes, they may also use vacuum devices to enable them to achieve and maintain an erection. Women may use dilators in case they experience vaginal spasms during intercourse.

If the doctor is unable to find a physical cause for your condition, then he may refer you to psychological therapy for your sexual problems. Therapy can help you cope better with stress and anxiety. Your therapist can give you insight on how to ensure that your body's sexual response is optimal. Couples therapy for you and your partner can help increase intimacy, communication, and help resolve relationship problems.

Caring for your partner

If your partner has been exhibiting symptoms of a sexual disorder, then it is extremely important that you understand that they are going through immense distress. In such cases, they require a lot of support and patience from you, considering the intimate and sensitive nature of the problem. Try to speak to them about their problem and offer any support they require to overcome it. Encourage them to consult a doctor, and offer to accompany them during this visit. If you believe that some relationship tension is causing this issue, try to address that issue and make things better. Most importantly, be involved in their recovery; if a therapist recommends joint therapy, do not be reluctant or refuse; if the doctor has drawn up a treatment plan, make sure that your partner follows this plan.   

Living with sexual dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction is a source of embarrassment for a lot of people, but the sooner you accept it and seek help, the better your chances of recovery; delaying this only increases your levels of stress in the long run. Making some lifestyle changes can ensure better sexual response. Being open and honest with your partner usually helps reduce your anxiety related to your problem. Leading an active lifestyle with regular exercise helps increase stamina and blood flow. Avoid alcohol and smoking; drinking reduces your sexual response and smoking restricts blood flow. Learning some relaxation techniques can help deal with daily stress. Most importantly, you must reach out to a professional who will help you understand your problem better and prescribe a treatment plan for you.