Sexual dysfunction can take many forms — it’s not limited to erectile dysfunction or lack of interest in sex, often referred to as a low libido. Sexual dysfunction can involve pain during intercourse, an inability to maintain an erection, or difficulty experiencing an orgasm.
Though there are many causes of diminished libido and sexual dysfunction in men and women, there are also many ways to increase libido and rekindle the joy of sex once you identify the problem.
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Sexual dysfunction in women is grouped into different disorders: sexual pain, problems with desire, arousal problems, and orgasm difficulty. Changes in hormone levels, medical conditions, and other factors can contribute to low libido and other forms of sexual dysfunction in women.
Specifically, sexual dysfunction in women may be due to:
This can lead to low libido and problems with arousal and desire, as sex can be painful when the vagina isn't properly lubricated. Vaginal dryness can result from hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause or while breastfeeding, for example. Psychological issues, like anxiety about sex, can also cause vaginal dryness. And anticipation of painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness may, in turn, decrease a woman’s desire for sex.
Lack of sexual desire can also be caused by lower levels of the hormone estrogen. Fatigue, depression, and anxiety can also lead to low libido, as can certain medications, including some antidepressants.
Difficulty Achieving Orgasm:
Orgasm disorders, such as delayed orgasms or inability to have one at all, can affect both men and women. Again, some antidepressant medications can also cause these problems.
Pain During Sex:
Pain is sometimes from a known cause, such as vaginal dryness or endometriosis. But sometimes the cause of painful sex is elusive. Known as vulvodynia or vulvar vestibulitis, experts don't know what’s behind this mysterious type of chronic, painful intercourse. A burning sensation may accompany pain during sex.
Sexual Dysfunction in Men
The types of sexual dysfunction men may experience include:
Erectile Dysfunction (ED):
ED can be caused by medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or by anxiety about having sex. Depression, fatigue, and stress can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
These include premature ejaculation (ejaculation that occurs too early during intercourse) and the inability to ejaculate at all. Causes include medications, like some antidepressants, anxiety about sex, a history of sexual trauma (such as a partner being unfaithful), and strict religious beliefs.
Psychological issues like stress and depression, as well as anxiety about having sex also can lead to a decreased or no sexual desire. Decreased hormone levels (particularly if testosterone is low), physical illnesses, and medication side effects may also diminish libido in men.
All couples should be able to enjoy a healthy sex life — an important part of a relationship. If you are experiencing sexual dysfunction, bring up your concerns with your doctor. You can often correct your problem by:
Getting an accurate diagnosis and the proper treatment of any underlying medical condition
Talking to your partner openly about your sexual relationship
Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and drug use
Managing stress, anxiety, and depression
Getting creative and re-energizing your sexual routine
Good communication can unlock closed doors in the bedroom, so start by talking to your partner about physical and emotional intimacy. And, if you suspect a medical condition, talk to your doctor about what could be going on with your body.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Sexual Health Center.