There is a large prevalence of sexual dysfunction in the general population, including arousal, desire, orgasm, and pain disorders. The underlying causes of these dysfunctions are often physical or psychological and can be treated through a combination of therapy, medication, mechanical aids, and education. Depending on the cause, many sexual dysfunctions can be successfully treated.
What are sexual dysfunctions?
Sexual dysfunctions are conditions where an individual or a couple is unable to enjoy sexual activity. It is characterized by an interruption in the sexual response cycle and falls into four categories, arousal dysfunctions, desire dysfunction, orgasm dysfunctions, and pain dysfunctions.
Although the data is limited, research suggests that sexual dysfunctions are highly prevalent, with some studies estimating that approximately 40%-50% of women experience at least one sexual dysfunction. The research on men's prevalence rates is primarily focused on erectile disorder and premature ejaculation, meaning an accurate prevalence rate of all dysfunctions is not available.
What causes sexual dysfunctions?
While there are many causes of sexual dysfunctions, they largely fall into two categories, physical and psychological.
There are many diseases and other physical factors that cause sexual dysfunction.
Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, endometriosis, and urological infections and cancers are known causes of sexual dysfunction.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants and medication used to treat high blood pressure, have also been found to cause sexual dysfunctions in all genders.
Injuries such as spinal cord injuries and brain injuries have also been found to affect sexual functioning.
Psychological factors, including depression, anxiety, stress, and relationship problems, can cause sexual dysfunction. Similarly, shame, guilt, negative cultural messages about sex, poor body image, anxiety about sexual performance, and poor self-esteem are common causes of sexual dysfunction. Trauma, including sexual trauma, also has a significant impact on people's sexual functioning.
Can sexual dysfunctions be cured?
Many sexual dysfunctions can be cured by a combination of treatments, including therapy, medication, mechanical aids, and education. However, this is dependent on the underlying cause of the dysfunction.
Psychotherapy and sex therapy can assist in treating sexual dysfunctions in two ways, first, by addressing and treating underlying causes such as substance abuse, self-esteem, and depression. Secondly, by reframing the way an individual or couple thinks about sex through education and communication techniques.
Therapists may use different psychodynamic therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to challenge the irrational thoughts that may impede healthy sexual functioning. Individuals may work with a therapist to correct sexual mythology or negative cultural messages about sex through evidence-based sex education.
Therapists may also work with their clients to challenge their sexual scripts in order to find forms of sexual pleasure outside of penetration. Therapy may also help to increase communication skills between couples.
Mindfulness-based techniques can be beneficial for people with arousal dysfunctions as they can assist in noticing and focusing on erotic thoughts as they arise.
Several forms of medication can assist in treating sexual dysfunctions. For people with hormonal imbalances, hormone therapy may aid in restoring healthy sexual functions. People experiencing erectile dysfunction may benefit from medications that increase the blood flow to the penis.
If the sexual dysfunction results from antidepressant use, a doctor may work with the patient to lower the dosage of the medication or find another antidepressant with fewer sexual side effects.
Mechanical aids may assist in treating many sexual dysfunctions. The use of dilators helps people experiencing genito-pelvic pain disorder/ penetration disorder, commonly known as vaginismus, by gradually stretching the vaginal wall. The increased stimulation from vibrators and other sex toys may assist people experiencing arousal disorders. Moreover, penis pumps and vacuums may assist people with erectile disorder.
Accessing factual, sex-positive information about sex, sexuality, and gender helps to normalize sexual experiences and preferences. Sex education helps to increase an individual's comfort with sexuality, decrease anxiety, dispel sexual myths, and increase sexual autonomy. Education also aids in the destigmatization of lubrication and sex toys, which can help treat arousal and pain dysfunctions.
Sexual dysfunctions are highly prevalent within society and are caused by a number of physical and psychological factors. Treatment of sexual dysfunctions may result in a cure, depending on the underlying cause of the dysfunction. Treating these dysfunctions is done through a combination of therapies, including psychotherapy, medication, mechanical aids, and sex education. These work by treating the underlying cause of the dysfunction and reframing how the individual thinks about sex.
Sexual dysfunctions are highly prevalent in society, with around 50% of women experiencing at least one dysfunction. An accurate rate of men’s sexual dysfunctions cannot be determined at this time.
Sexual dysfunctions have physical and psychological causes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, medication, substance abuse, injury, stress, depression, relationship issues, shame, poor self-esteem, and anxiety about sexual performance.
Depending on the underlying cause, sexual dysfunctions can be cured through a combination of different therapies, including psychotherapy, medication, medical aids, and education.
Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence - Indian Journal of Psychiatry