tips and resources for dealing with sexual dysfunction
It’s pretty safe to say that sexual dysfunction is not something people like to talk about. Quite often when we do, it’s usually just to make a joke about some infamous commercial. But the truth is, sexual dysfunction is a lot more common than you might think, affecting about 43% of women and 31% of men.
Additionally, sexual dysfunction can be devastating to a relationship. The quote, “when sex is good, it’s only 2% of a marriage, but when it’s bad, it’s 98%” is not literally, but figuratively, very realistic. While these aren’t actual statistics, it does illustrate how struggles around sex and intimacy can feel like a trial you just cannot overcome. A couple dealing with sexual dysfunction may also be dealing with an extra strain on their relationship, the fear of infidelity, and an overall lack of intimacy.
So, if we can get past feeling uncomfortable about it, maybe we should start with the obvious question: what is sexual dysfunction? And what can you do about it?
What is Sexual Dysfunction?
The Cleveland Clinic defines sexual dysfunction as “… any problems that prevent a person or couple from experiencing satisfaction from sexual activity.” That’s a pretty broad explanation! Using that sexual dysfunction definition, there can be a LOT of different causes, like:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Nerve Damage
- Relationship problems
- Any number of medical diagnoses
Don’t let that last one scare you into searching WebMD endlessly—please see a doctor if you feel your sexual dysfunction may have an underlying medical cause. However, stress around sexual dysfunction can cause it to become worse when it’s all we focus on! It’s a vicious cycle. So let’s focus instead on what we can do to help.
The Sexual Response cyCle
In learning about sexual dysfunction, it’s helpful to understand the sexual response cycle. Both men and women go through these four phases when they participate in sexually stimulating activities. The phases are:
- Desire (also referred to as libido)
- Arousal (feelings of excitement)
- Resolution (basically, returning back to your “normal” phase before desire)
Sexual dysfunction can occur at any of these four stages. The timing in each phase is totally different for each person, as well as the intensity. Many women won’t even go through the stages in this specific order!
Basically, there is a lot going on—both physically and emotionally, and all it takes is one little wrench of the gears to cause some level of sexual dysfunction.
Keeping in mind the sexual response cycle, we can now discuss the different disorders that may be causing sexual dysfunction. The Cleveland Clinic describes these disorders as:
- Desire disorders: lack of sexual desire or interest in sex. Some common disorders in this category include hypoactive sexual desire disorder or sexual aversion disorder.
- Arousal disorders: inability to become physically aroused or excited during sexual activity. You can find more in-depth information on arousal disorders here.
- Orgasm disorders: delay or absence of orgasm (climax). This is actually one of the most common disorders, especially in women.
- Pain disorders: pain during intercourse. A really common disorder in this category is is dyspareunia. The article Understanding dyspareunia: Why does it hurt when I have sex? dives deep into the definition and treatment options for dyspareunia.
Obviously, any of these disorders (or a combination of them) could wreak some serious havoc on your sex life. But there is hope! Sexual dysfunction isn’t just something you have to learn to live with. So let’s talk about some helpful options.
treating sexual dysfunction
Understanding the underlying causes of sexual dysfunction is extremely helpful when seeking treatment. Here we will discuss a few of the main types and treatments for sexual dysfunction:
- Medical: Sexual dysfunction caused by nerve damage, medication, chronic illness, or any medical diagnosis is best treated by a medical professional. Doctors can help with a hormonal imbalance, prescribe medications that can help, and offer you peace of mind that what you’re going through is normal and fixable.
- Mechanical aids: There are devices for both men and women that can help eliminate sexual dysfunction at different levels of the response cycle. These can be a great cure when the issue is purely physical, and many are often available online.
- Therapy: If you believe the cause of your sexual dysfunction is psychological, seeing a therapist can be incredibly helpful. A counselor or a specialized sex therapist can help determine what changes need to happen to overcome the disorder. And more importantly, they are used to listening to these topics, so there is no need to feel embarrassed.
Sometimes, the solution to a desire or arousal disorder can be solved by trying new things that you are excited about. If you are open to trying ideas that might help, check out our Sexy Bedroom Games for Couples, The Ultimate Intimacy Pack, or consider signing up for Sexy Texty, a program that sends sexy ideas to couples to help stimulate their sex life.
These resources can improve intimacy and connection even as you deal with sexual dysfunction in your relationship.
Talking about sexual dysfunction does not have to be an uncomfortable topic. Being able to answer the question, “what is sexual dysfunction?” specific to you is the first step to finding a solution.
Still feeling a little overwhelmed? Here are a few more helpful resources to get you started:
Lastly, remember that it may require taking time to find the underlying cause and a treatment that helps. Don’t give up or feel discouraged—putting effort into your relationship will always be worth it.