Sexual Dysfunctions

Sexual dysfunction refers to problems during the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or a couple from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual activity. Sexual dysfunction represents a group of disorders that interfere with a full sexual responsiveness. These disorders make it difficult for a person to enjoy or to have sexual intercourse. Sexual problems rarely threaten physical health, but they can be a heavy psychological burden that leads to depression and anxiety.

Sexual dysfunction occurs in different forms in men and women. Sexual disorders can be either lifelong or temporary. Symptoms include the lack or loss of sexual desire, anxiety during intercourse, pain during intercourse, or the inability to achieve orgasm. About 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men complain of sexual problems. They can occur in adults of all ages. Sexual dysfunctions often affect seniors, which may be attributed to a decline in health associated with aging.

Sexual dysfunctions can be caused by either a physical or a psychological problem. The physical conditions include diabetes, heart and vascular disease, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, chronic diseases such as kidney or liver failure, and alcohol and drug abuse. The side effects of certain medications may also result in sexual problems. The psychological causes include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, and the effects of a past sexual trauma.

According to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, unhealthy lifestyle factors such as weight problems, physical inactivity, high alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking and hard drugs are associated with sexual dysfunctions in men. In deciding whether sexual dysfunction is present one should bear in mind that each person has a different level of sexual interest. Some people may be ready to engage in sex at almost any time, while others have low levels of sexual interest. A sexual disorder is present only when it is a source of personal or interpersonal distress instead of a voluntary choice.

Most cases of sexual dysfunction are treatable and people with such problems ought to seek early medical advicey. Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder is among the most common sexual disorders. It refers to decreased sexual fantasies and a decreased or absent desire for sexual activity. People affected by this kind of disorder do not initiate sexual activity and may be slow to respond to sexual advances. Low sexual desire usually occurs in adulthood, often after periods of stress.

Male Erectile Disorder is another common sexual problem. Men affected by this disorder are unable to maintain an erection throughout sexual activity. In order to be considered a sexual disorder, the problem must be either persistent or recurrent in nature and must get in the way of the relationship with the sexual partner. The disorder includes the inability to obtain erection or the loss of the erection during sexual activity. Erectile disorders may be caused by a fear of failure. Sometimes this disorder is present throughout life.

Another common dysfunction is the Orgasmic Disorder, which occurs when there is a significant delay or total absence of orgasm associated with the sexual activity. In order to be considered a sexual dysfunction, this condition must cause a problem in the relationship with the sexual partner. Some men complain of premature ejaculation, which occurs when a minimal sexual stimulation causes orgasm and ejaculation on a persistent basis for the male. Premature ejaculation often affects young men who have experienced premature ejaculation since their first attempt at intercourse.

Dyspareunia is a sexual pain disorder. It refers to genital pain during sexual intercourse. Both males and females can experience this disorder, but women are more likely to be affected. Dyspareunia tends to be chronic in nature. Many cases of sexual dysfunction can be cured by detecting and treating the underlying physical or psychological problems that cause the disorder. People who have sexual problems can be subjected to a medical treatment, psychological therapy or education. They may also be prescribed some medication.

The possibility of curing sexual disorders depends largely on the underlying cause. Dysfunctions related to a treatable or reversible physical condition can be easily corrected. Dysfunctions related to stress, fear, or anxiety often can be successfully treated with counseling, education, and communication between partners. To maintain good sexual function, people are advised to limit their alcohol intake and to quit smoking. They also have to deal with any emotional or psychological issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Intensified communication with the partner can also be helpful.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Psychological Perspectives on Sexual Problems: New Directions in Theory and Practice
Jane M. Ussher; Christine D. Baker.
Routledge, 1993
Human Sexuality and Its Problems
John Bancroft.
Churchill Livingstone, 1989 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Sexual Problems," Chap. 9 "Assessing People with Sexual Problems," and Chap. 10 "Helping People with Sexual Problems"
Psychodynamic Approaches to Sexual Problems
Brian Daines; Angelina Perrett.
Open University Press, 2000
The Handbook of Sexuality in Close Relationships
John H. Harvey; Amy Wenzel; Susan Sprecher.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 20 "Sexual Dysfunction from a Relationship Perspective"
Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples
Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks; Michael S. Robbins.
Brunner-Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "Evaluation and Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction"
Psychopathology: Foundations for a Contemporary Understanding
James E. Maddux; Barbara A. Winstead.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Sexual Dysfunctions and Disorders"
Diagnosis, Conceptualization, and Treatment Planning for Adults: A Step-by-Step Guide
Michel Hersen; Linda Krug Porzelius.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Sexual Dysfunction"
Sexual Health for Men: The Complete Guide
Richard F. Spark.
Perseus Publishing, 2000
Sexual Strands: Understanding and Treating Sexual Anomalies in Men
Ron Langevin.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Sexual Dysfunction"
Sexuality and the Elderly: A Research Guide
Bonnie L. Walker.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Sexual Dysfunction among the Elderly"
The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook
Louis Diamant; Richard D. McAnulty.
Greenwood Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Sexual Dysfunctions in Nonclinical Populations"
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