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Most Common Sexual Dysfunctions


Sexual dysfunctions are relatively common for all genders. The most common sexual dysfunction experienced by women is female sexual interest/ arousal disorder, affecting around 7.5% of women. The most common sexual dysfunctions experienced by men are erectile disorder which affects approximately 4.2% of men, and premature ejaculation, which affects approximately 8%-10% of the male population. The treatment for these disorders varies depending on the individual and the type of dysfunction. If you are experiencing distress associated with any of these disorders, consult a sexual health professional.

All of the sexual dysfunctions in this article are disorders listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. While this is the most recent edition, research into sexual dysfunctions, particularly for women, is limited, and more research is needed to gain a fundamental understanding of these dysfunctions. Additionally, as there is still a stigma associated with sexuality and sexual dysfunctions, the ability to capture accurate prevalence rates of these dysfunctions is limited.

Common sexual dysfunctions for women

The most common sexual dysfunction experienced by women is female sexual interest/ arousal disorder.

Female sexual interest/ arousal disorder

Female sexual interest/ arousal disorder is thought to affect around 7.5% of females. It is characterized by either a low rate of sexual desire, a low rate of sexual arousal, or a combination of the two. Women who experience this disorder report having a limited or absent interest in sex and do not respond to sexual stimulation. Although it is common, many women experience this disorder temporarily.

Causes

Many physiological and psychosocial causes can lower arousal and desire, including:

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Poor relationship quality
  • Low self-esteem and body image
  • Psychological trauma
  • Hormone changes from pregnancy, menopause, and hormonal medications such as the pill
  • Vaginal or pelvic infections
  • Dryness of the vagina
  • Medication

Diagnostic criteria

In order to meet the criteria for diagnosis, a woman must experience three or more of the following symptoms. These symptoms must have been experienced for at least six months and cause significant distress.

  • Absent or reduced interest in sexual activity.
  • Absent or reduced sexual thoughts or fantasies.
  • Absent or reduced initiation of sex.
  • Absent or reduced experience of pleasure from almost or all sexual activities.
  • Absent or reduced sexual interest or arousal from any sexual cues.
  • Absent or reduced genital sensations from almost or all sexual activities.

Treatment

As there are many causes of female sexual interest/ arousal disorder, treatment is often individualized. In most cases, the disorder can be treated through a combination of psychotherapy, healthy communication practices, and devices to increase stimulation, such as lubrication and sex toys. At times, medication is required for effective treatment.

Common sexual dysfunctions for men

The most common sexual dysfunctions for men include erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.

Erectile disorder

Erectile disorder is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for sexual activity. Erectile disorder affects approximately 4.2% of all men and is thought to affect between 50%-100% of men over 70. Erectile disorder can be either present over a lifetime or recently acquired. Furthermore, it can be experienced in all forms of sexual stimulation or only in certain types of sexual stimulation, for example, a new partner.

Causes

Many physiological and psychosocial causes can cause erectile disorder, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Poor relationship quality
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Psychological trauma
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Medication

Diagnostic criteria

In order to meet the criteria for diagnosis, a man must experience three or more of the following symptoms in almost or all of their sexual experiences. These symptoms must have been experienced for at least six months and cause significant distress.

  • Difficulty in obtaining an erection
  • Difficulty in maintaining an erection until the end of sexual activity
  • A decrease in the rigidity of the erection

Treatment

As there are many causes of erectile disorder, treatment is often individualized. In most cases, the disorder can be treated through a combination of psychotherapy, health communication practices, and devices to increase stimulation, such as vacuum pumps. Medication is often prescribed for effective treatment but should not be the sole form of treatment.

Premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is defined as the persistent pattern of ejaculation during partnered sex occurring within 1 minute of penetration or before the individual wishes for it to happen. It is thought to occur in approximately 8%-10% of men at some point in time. Premature ejaculation can be either present over a lifetime or recently acquired.

Causes

Many physiological and psychosocial causes can cause premature ejaculation, including:

  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Low self-esteem and body image
  • Anxiety about sexual performance
  • Poor relationship quality
  • Chronic prostatitis
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Erectile disorder

Diagnostic criteria

In order to meet the criteria for diagnosis, a man must experience a recurrent pattern of ejaculation occurring approximately 1 minute after vaginal penetration with a partner or before they would wish ejaculation to occur. Although the diagnosis states the period for vaginal penetration, premature ejaculation can occur for other sexual activities; however, an accurate timeframe for these activities has not yet been established. These symptoms must have been experienced for at least six months and cause significant distress.

Treatment

Treatment for premature ejaculation can include psychotherapy and methods to desensitize the penis, including edging excises and wearing a condom.

Conclusion

Key takeaways

For women, the most common sexual dysfunction experienced is female sexual interest/ arousal disorder, which is characterized by low sexual arousal, low sexual desire, or a combination of the two, affecting approximately 7.5% of the population.

For men, the most common sexual dysfunctions experienced are erectile disorder, affecting around 4.2% of men, and premature ejaculation affecting around 8%-10% of men.

Treatment for female sexual interest/ arousal disorder, erectile disorder, and premature ejaculation is individualized and is often treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and other interventions.

Resources

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - The American Psychiatric Association

Female sexual arousal disorder with and without a distress criterion: prevalence and correlates in a representative Czech sample - The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Estimating the Prevalence of Sexual Function Problems: The Impact of Morbidity Criteria - Journal of Sex Research

Definitions/epidemiology/risk factors for sexual dysfunction - The Journal of Sexual Medicine

The epidemiology of premature ejaculation - Translational Andrology and Urology

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