Common Sexual Disorders and How to Treat Them
Physical intimacy is an integral part of relationships and general health, yet millions of people live with sexual dysfunctions that can interrupt their time in the bedroom. Luckily, there are treatments, both medical and lifestyle-based, to address several of the most common sexual dysfunctions.
What is sexual dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction refers to any issue that prevents an individual, or their partner, from experiencing pleasure from sex (1). In order for a doctor to diagnose sexual dysfunction, the medical causes of the problem need to be ruled out. Also, the symptoms need to be impairing the patient’s daily life.
Factors such as depression, anxiety, medication side effects, stress, relational issues, drug abuse, chronic pain, and diseases like obesity and diabetes can increase the risk of sexual dysfunction.
Despite the feeling that these disorders spell the end of a healthy sex life, there are often effective treatments and ways to adjust your routine in order to maintain a fulfilling intimate life. Physical intimacy is a crucial aspect of romantic relationships and a healthy adult life, so if you or your partner find certain issues are beginning to interrupt your sex life, then it’s important to reach out to a medical professional and begin to manage the issue.
Common types and treatments:
There are several types of sexual disorders that interrupt the ability to enjoy sex to the fullest. Here are the most common types and different ways to treat them:
ED is characterized by a man’s inability to get or maintain an erection which can affect his ability to have penetrative intercourse. It’s much more common than many think; in fact, experts believe it will affect the majority of men in their lifetime. Contributing factors include diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism, stress, and depression. While occasional erectile issues are completely normal and even common, you should visit a doctor when it begins occurring about a quarter of the time you’re trying to be intimate, or if you have any other concerns.
Short-term treatment is fairly simple. Doctors can prescribe sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, which improves blood flow to the groin and helps the penis stay hard. In the long-term, lifestyle changes based on the root of the issue should be adopted. For example, if drug use is the issue, then quitting, or at least cutting back, should help improve erectile functioning. If weight is the cause, regular exercise and healthier dieting can help restore sexual performance. It’s important, however, to speak with your doctor to address your specific case in ED and determine the best ways to move forward.
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder
HSDD is a condition that causes women to experience a lack of interest in sex or low libido. It’s believed to be one of the most prevalent sexual disorders for women: while there isn’t an exact number of cases, the Society for Women’s Health Research estimates that around 10 percent of women live with the condition. Researchers are still working to discover the causes of HSDD, but have most frequently associated it with anxiety, multiple sclerosis, relationship issues, and medication side effects.
If you are concerned about your level of sexual desire, reach out to a doctor who will likely ask you questions about your libido in order to diagnose you. Treatment will depend on the doctor’s individual diagnosis and what they determine to be the root cause of the problem. This may include sex therapy, couple’s counseling, or medications based on underlying issues like depression or anxiety. Keep in mind, however, that if the case is found to be rooted in a psychological issue, treatment will likely include a combination of medication and regular counseling sessions in order to improve sexual response most effectively.
Orgasmic dysfunction is a condition that mostly affects women but can also occasionally appear in men. It occurs when someone has difficulty reaching orgasm, despite sufficient stimulation and arousal. Factors that may lead to the disorder include relational issues, gynecological surgery, the use of antidepressants, and even a history of sexual abuse. Research has also shown that women over the age of 45 are more likely to experience issues orgasming than younger women.
Diagnosis will likely include a conversation with your doctor so they can fully understand your symptoms, as well as a physical examination. Treatment can differ and it should be based on individual needs. Sex therapy and couples counseling can help patients overcome trust or self-esteem issues that cause dysfunction. Menopausal women may opt for hormonal therapy as an effective treatment. Also, alternative stimulation techniques like masturbation may also work.
Much like orgasmic dysfunction, premature ejaculation is an issue that affects climaxes. PE, however, is individual to men who can’t control their orgasm and ejaculate more quickly than they’d like. Typically, this is characterized by ejaculating within a minute of penetration, but it varies by individual. Psychological factors like performance anxiety, guilt, and relational issues have all been linked to premature ejaculation. However, it can also be a result of nerve damage.
If you face these issues, you should see a healthcare provider just to rule out any biological causes for which treatment would be different. Then, speak with your doctor about different ways to address the issue. These treatments can be therapy or couple’s counseling, but also might include a medication to numb the tip of the penis temporarily. Other home treatments include masturbating an hour before intercourse, taking breaks during sex, and using thicker condoms to last longer in the bedroom. Keep in mind, however, that there are many other ways to continue sexual activity without intercourse if you’re unable to control your climax. Keep an open dialogue with your partner to ensure you’re both satisfied and comfortable.
Vaginismus is one of the many pain-related sexual disorders that some women live with. It’s a condition that causes muscle spasms on the pelvic floor when something enters the vagina, like a penis or tampon. Some believe the issue is rooted in anxiety or fear of sex. This can make it very difficult or uncomfortable to have penetrative intercourse, so painful sex is often the first sign of the condition.
Painful sex can also be caused by several other issues, like infections, so one should always speak with their doctor in order to move forward correctly.
Doctors will likely perform a physical exam in order to fully determine the underlying cause of your pain. They will then ask questions about your mentality around sex. They may recommend therapy to treat underlying anxiety or another approach that uses Kegels exercises called progressive desensitization. This involves squeezing and relaxing your pelvic muscles in sets of 20 for a few days. You then advance to the insertion of a finger in the vagina while you’re performing your Kegels. Eventually, you’ll add more fingers in order to become comfortable with penetration.
Sexual aversion disorder
Sexual aversion disorder is a fairly rare issue but can be very disruptive to a healthy sex life. Persistent avoidance of, and personal distress caused by, sexual contact is what characterizes the disorder. Also, it is often present in survivors of sexual abuse. In order to be diagnosed, it needs to be differentiated from any other physical disorder that might cause the reaction. Diagnosis is typically made by a psychologist or other mental healthcare provider. They do so through a series of questions about personal history, health and your interaction with sex.
Treatment for sexual aversion disorders differs based on the individual. Typically, therapists will work with you to determine the root causes of the issue. They will then try to resolve them. The more you work with a therapist, the better your prognosis will be. Often, sufferers can work through these issues with consistent counseling and are able to enjoy a healthy sex life.
Other things to consider
There are many other issues that aren’t classified as sexual disorders. Yet they can, and often do, contribute to difficulty with sex. Here are just a few to consider and seek treatment for if you notice their symptoms:
It’s an often painful disorder that causes the tissue that’s normally inside the uterus to grow outside of it. Women living with endometriosis are at double the risk of developing sexual dysfunction than women who don’t have it and therefore often experience difficulty having sex. If you find yourself having extremely painful periods or sex, speak with your gynecologist. They may offer possible treatments like a hormonal contraceptive or even surgery.
While not an official dysfunction, the psychological effects of performance anxiety can cause both men and women to be unable to perform sexually. And, it often leads to the development of common dysfunctions like premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction. It can cause several other sexual issues, like vaginal dryness and impotency. Make sure you talk with your partner about feelings of sexual inadequacy. You should also consider visiting a counselor or sex therapist to move forward with your intimacy.
Sex addiction is a condition that causes an individual to be unable to control their sexual behavior or thoughts. This ultimately inhibits their ability to function in daily life and can lead to job loss or relational issues.
According to statistics, around 12-30 million Americans– both men and women– have experienced sex addiction. However, it has not yet been classified as a diagnosable condition. A psychologist often treats the disorder. Gradual lifestyle changes and consistent counseling can also make the condition much more manageable.
Age-related sexual issues
Many people face issues with sex as they grow older, whether it be from diseases, pain, menopause, or new medication. Be on the lookout for signs that your age is beginning to affect your sex life. This includes vaginal dryness or thinning, impotency, increased time to arousal, and delayed ejaculation all often begins later in life. If you notice these issues, bring them up to your doctor. There are several medications that they can prescribe, as well as treatments that are simple. This can mean using lubricant or trying to longer foreplay.
The bottom line on sexual dysfunction
If you suffer from sexual issues– you’re not alone, and there is hope. Millions of people have sexual dysfunctions and still lead sexually-fulfilling lives. However, it’s important to speak with your doctor if these issues begin interrupting your intimacy or happiness. This will help you get the treatment you need and begin enjoying a healthier life.
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