Sexual Dysfunction

Disorders of orgasm/sexual pain

What is This Disorder?

Sexual dysfunctions include a man or woman’s inability to reach orgasm, women experiencing dryness during intercourse, and men who experience premature ejaculation or are unable to maintain an erection (Medline Plus, 2016). Individuals can desire to have sex, become aroused during sexual activity, but not experience an orgasm. In addition, women can experience pain or tightening of the pelvic muscles upon penetration. Women with female orgasmic disorder experience a delay or absence of orgasms in at least 75% of sexual encounters (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

For males sexual dysfunction may present itself through early or premature ejaculation. Men with this disorder continually have instances where they ejaculate with minimal sexual stimulation. Must occur within 1 minute of penetration, in 75% of sexual encounters, for at least 6 months. (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

In addition men may experience delayed ejaculation, which is a marked delay or absence of orgasm following the excitement phase of the sexual response cycle, in at least 75% of sexual encounters. This is typically men who cannot ejaculate during intercourse, but are able to ejaculate through oral or manual stimulation. Sexual dysfunctions can be life long issues or they may be acquired (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

When sex is not enjoyable, the intimate experience for both men and women can greatly decline. Sexual dysfunction often leads to conflict in a relationship (Medline Plus, 2016).

If you or your partner are experiencing any of these symptoms, please talk with your physician about treatment options!

Causes of Sexual Dysfunction

There are several biological, mental, interpersonal and aging factors that may cause sexual dysfunctions. Medical factors such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure and spinal cord injury can lead to sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Different medical conditions can lower sexual drive, arousal, enjoyment and satisfaction (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Other biological factors include hormone imbalances, such as a man with low testosterone or a woman with low estrogen. Imbalances in these hormones can affect sexual performance, such as a man’s ability to maintain his erection. Woman can also experience severe vaginal dryness from low estrogen, which often leads to pain during intercourse. This issue is common among menopausal women (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Several drugs can cause sexual dysfunction, such as antidepressants, alcohol and blood pressure medications, as they often impact a person’s libido (Medline Plus, 2016).

Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety can affect an individual’s sex drive and ability to perform (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Performance anxiety also plays a role in performance and reaching orgasm, over worrying can lead to sexual dysfunction. Communication between sexual partners is important to minimize nervousness during sexual activity. Sexual response involve the mind and body working together to maintain arousal and achieve orgasm, both need to function properly in order to work together (Medline Plus, 2016).

Stress and traumatic events can also lower a person’s sexual desire (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). A history of sexual abuse and rape or a negative attitude toward sex may cause sexual dysfunction (Medline Plus, 2016).

Sexual dysfunction’s are more common as a person ages, but they can be experiences at any age.

Treatment Options

A complete medical history and physical examination should be conducted in order to find the source of an individuals dysfunction (Medline Plus, 2016).

If the sexual dysfunction is related to a medical condition, treating the medical condition will often help improve or get rid of the symptoms of the sexual dysfunction.

If medications are causing the dysfunction, changing medications or adjusting the dosage may help the dysfunction (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Men who experience erectile dysfunction can try medications such as Viagra and Cialis to help them maintain erections. Men with low testosterone may receive testosterone injections (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

For men who suffer with premature ejaculation certain antidepressants can actually be helpful, such as Prozac and Zoloft. Studies show they greatly reduce the occurrence of premature ejaculation.

Women who experience dryness may try lubricants to make the sexual experience more pleasurable.

One may also see a therapist, who can use behavioral therapies to help individuals overcome anxieties when it comes to sexual activity. This may be helpful for those who are unable to reach orgasm. A therapist can help work with you to see where your anxieties or insecurities lie, and help you to focus on what arouses you and reach orgasm (ARHP, 2016). Therapy will help the person achieve a healthy attitude toward sex, and how to clearly communicate one’s sexual needs (Medline Plus, 2016).

If you feel you are experiencing sexual dysfunction, it is important to be open and honest with your physician. They may be able to recommend medication or help you find a therapists who will work with you to take back control of your sex life. You may also go to the following link for more information about sex therapy

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Myths and Misconceptions

A women who cannot become lubricated on her own is not sexually interested or aroused. This is simply not true, there are many additional factors that can lead to a woman’s dryness (Medline Plus, 2016).

A man who cannot maintain an erection is less of a man. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Just as a woman may experience sexual dysfunction, a man may experience it also. There are often additional factors as to why a man cannot maintain an erection.

A person should be embarrassed by their sexual desires. Communication and openness with one’s partner is key. Vocalizing your needs and working on them together is a huge step in reaching desired outcome.

You are not “good in bed” if you cannot make your partner reach an orgasm. Once again, outside factors may be affecting your partner. It is important to communicate with them and understand each other’s needs, and rule out any medical issues (Medline Plus, 2016).

Credentials for a Sexual Dysfunction Therapist

A therapist should have vast knowledge and understanding of sexual dysfunction in order to treat clients. A qualified sex therapist must be skilled in providing counseling as well as psychotherapy, and any therapist you see for sexual dysfunction should have a sound background in psychology, with their major focused on the treatment of sexual disorders (AASECT, 2016). The therapist should present themselves in a highly professional manor and make you as a client feel welcome and safe. Sex therapists are mental health professionals trained to meet your needs (ARHP, 2016).

Someone treating these disorders should have either an associates or a bachelor’s degree in psychology or human relations. This person will have spent many hours working in clinicals directly related to sexual dysfunction, as well as completed a minimum of 300 supervised counseling hours with clients. They should also be a certified sex therapist, and there are organizations such as that can help you find a qualified therapist (AASECT, 2016).

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AASECT. 2016. AASECT requirements for sex therapist certification. Retrieved from

ARHP. 2016. Sex Therapy. Retrieved from

Medline Plus. 2016. Sexual Dysfunctions. Retrieved from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Briana Vargo

Abnormal Psychology