Sexual dysfunction is characterized as a problem that can occur during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or couple from experiencing sexual satisfaction/gratification from the sexual activity. In a healthy sexual response cycle, the following phases are typically included; excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Desire and arousal are both part of the excitement phase of the sexual response.
Sexual dysfunction can be broken down into 4 separate categories:
- Orgasmic disorder – Orgasmic disorder is the inability to achieve climax during sexual stimulation
- Desire disorders – lack of sexual desire, reduced or non-existent interest in sex
- Pain Disorder- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Arousal disorders – inability to become physically aroused or excited during sexual activity
Sexual health is an important part of a couple relationship, no matter the age of the partners involved, civil status, or sexual orientation. Sexual health is also an important part of a couple’s foundation and contributes to the quality of life. Sexual problems or challenges is pretty common, impacting the overall sexual health of the individual and the relationship. Many problems with sexual health can be treated. Therefore, it is important for those struggling with issues related to decreased desire, failure to becoming sexually aroused, and climaxing to discuss these issues with a physician.
Sexual dysfunction can affect both males and females of any age, although it is more common in persons over 40 as it is often related to a decline in health associated with aging. Specifically, anorgasmia (type of sexual dysfunction in which a person cannot achieve orgasm despite adequate stimulation) in males, it is most closely associated with delayed ejaculation. Failure to climax can cause sexual frustration and feelings of inadequacies. Anorgasmia is far more common in females than in males and is especially rare in younger men.
Symptoms of sexual dysfunction- Female
- Inability to become sexually aroused
- Pain during intercourse
- Failure to achieve an orgasm
- Insufficient vaginal lubrication prior to and during intercourse
- Reduced or lack of interest in sex (reduced sexual desire)
Symptoms of sexual dysfunction- Male
- Failure to achieve or maintain an erection
- Failure to have an ejaculation or delayed ejaculation
- Failure to control timing of ejaculation, i.e., premature
- Retrograde ejaculation – at orgasm, the ejaculate is forced back into the bladder rather than through the end of the penis
- Low libido
Sexual dysfunctions and or challenges can be caused by several different factors, including but not limited to; changes in health (heart problems, diabetes, etc.), past sexual abuse or trauma, hormonal imbalance, change in medication (some psychotropic medications can cause a decrease in sexual response, desires, etc.), drug or alcohol abuse, and neurological disorders.
Although, some people may struggle with embarrassment associated with having a sexual dysfunction, many types of sexual dysfunction can be effectively treated with individual therapy, couples therapy, medication, mechanical aids (vacuum devices, penile implants, etc.), sex therapy, sexual education, and trauma therapy. The success of treatment for sexual dysfunction depends on the underlying cause of the problem or factors related to its maintenance. Mild dysfunction that is related to stress, fear, or anxiety often can be successfully treated with counseling, education, and improved communication between partners.