Although there are not many health issues that come to mind that people find comfortable and open speaking about, some ailments carry a more significant stigma and feelings of shame than others. One such issue is sexual dysfunction.
Experienced by both men and women, sexual dysfunction can be uncomfortable to talk about. Learning about the symptoms, possible causes, and treatments can empower you to start the dialogue for yourself and with your sexual partner.
Sexual dysfunction, as isolating as it can feel, is experienced by a large part of the population in an array of signs and symptoms. Here, we will explore some of the common ways sexual dysfunction presents itself, along with some possible causes and treatments. First and foremost, if you feel you might be experiencing some sexual dysfunction, you should visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to you.
What is Sexual Dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction is typically defined as a disruption of any point of the sexual response cycle. The response cycle consists of arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution though not always in that order.
Though it varies for many, sexual dysfunction can be categorized into four types based on the point at which it occurs in the sexual response cycle. It is important to note that these disorders are subjective in that they are considered disorders when they are bothersome to you and do not occur when you wish them to.
Desire disorders are classified by a lack of sexual desire or interest. This is one of the most common forms of sexual dysfunction and can persist over a long ebb and flow based on various potential causes.
This occurs when there is an inability to become physically aroused or excited during sexual activity. Just like desire disorder, there are several reasons you might experience arousal disorder, such as anxiety, certain medications, or underlying health problems.
This one is a bit self-explanatory. However, an orgasm disorder occurs when you fail to achieve orgasm, take a long time to orgasm, or your orgasms are not as intense as you would like. Orgasm disorders can also have many onset triggers.
More common in women than men, pain disorders typically consist of pain during intercourse. A specific example of a pain disorder is Vulvodynia, in which case a person with a vulva may experience pain that is not from an infection or other known medical problem, persisting for more than three months.
Why is it Important to Talk About Sexual Dysfunction?
In North American culture, sexual virility and ability are placed on a pedestal of an individuals’ perceived worth. In Western cultures that value youth, it can be easy to see why there is a stigma associated with talking openly about sexual dysfunction, which can become prevalent with age. However, not talking about it can have worse, long-lasting consequences than facing the temporary feelings of shame or worry of talking about it with your doctor or sexual partner.
If you are worried you might be experiencing sexual dysfunction, talking about it to your doctor can give you peace of mind and insight into the causes, allowing for an effective treatment. Because treatment options are so widely available for sexual dysfunction now, there is no need to suffer in silence and endure the shame and worry you place on yourself.
If you have a sexual partner, it is worth sharing your concerns with them as it can increase your emotional bond, and they can provide the emotional support you may need. At the same time, you determine the cause and treatment of your sexual dysfunction alongside your doctor.
As with many stigmatized body issues, the more it is spoken about, the better the insight and support systems become. It makes it easier to see that sexual dysfunction is experienced by many people at various stages of life and can reduce feelings of hopelessness and isolation.
Because sexual dysfunction can vary based on sex (male or female), it is easier to break it down into the types of sexual dysfunction, symptoms, causes, and treatment for both. Please note that transgender men and women can also experience sexual dysfunction and the causes and treatments are still applicable.
Men: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Sexual dysfunction can be further stratified based on the disorder types and define how the symptoms manifest. Desire disorder in men can look like low libido or sexual interest. Arousal disorder can look like erectile dysfunction making it challenging to attain and keep an erection. Orgasm disorder in men can look like premature, delayed, or inhibited ejaculation.
While sexual dysfunction is common in many men, the chances of experiencing sexual dysfunction increase with age and typically stem from physical or psychological problems. The causes vary, and sometimes multiple causes work synchronously, leading to the dysfunction. It is essential to talk to your doctor and therapist about the cause to lead you to the best treatment path.
- Low testosterone levels
- Medications (antidepressants or blood pressure medications)
- Nerve damage from surgery
- Alcoholism and drug use
- Anxiety and depression
- Excessive stress
- Relationship problems
- Past sexual trauma
Though this list is not exhaustive, those are some of the contributing factors to male sexual dysfunction, and luckily treatment is readily available and accessible.
- Medications: Drugs that work by increasing blood flow to the penis such as Tadalafil (Cialis) and Sildenafil (Viagra).
- Hormone therapy: Raising testosterone levels through hormone replacement methods, including injections, patches, or gels.
- Psychological therapy: Addressing emotional or relationship concerns that could be contributing to sexual dysfunction.
- Sex therapy: Addressing any sex-related issues with informed guidance.
- Mechanical aids: In the case of sexual dysfunction caused by nerve damage, vacuum devices and penile implants can assist an erection.
Women: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Sexual dysfunction in women has many similar underlying causes as in men; however, symptoms manifest differently and treatment options. Desire disorders show up as low libido or sexual interest. Arousal disorder manifests as the inability to become or remain aroused during the excitement or plateau phase.
Orgasm disorder can be difficult to achieve orgasm. However, women can orgasm in multiple ways. Sometimes, difficulty achieving orgasm can be caused by a lack of familiarity with how one’s body can achieve orgasm and ineffective communication with a sexual partner instead of being a disorder.
More commonly experienced by women than men, pain disorder can manifest as pain from sexual stimulation and vaginal contact without a known infection or other medical affliction.
Causes for sexual dysfunction in women can also be interrelated and can vary vastly through different stages and hormonal life events.
- Hormone fluctuation (menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, etc.)
- Medical conditions like heart disease, blood pressure, or MS
- Medications (antidepressants, birth control, antihistamines, etc.)
- Relationship conflict
- Excessive stress
- Depression and anxiety
- Past sexual trauma
Again, those are just some of the causes for female sexual dysfunction, and treatment options are available.
- Medications and hormone therapy: Estrogen and testosterone to balance hormone function.
- Mechanical aid: Dilators for conditions like Vaginismus, vibrators, clitoral stimulating toys to help learn about and achieve orgasm.
- Psychological therapy: Addressing emotional and relationship issues that may be affecting preferred sexual performance.
- Sex therapy: Addressing any sexual issue with informed guidance.
Final Thoughts & Treatment with BHRT
Though it can be hard to talk about, it is worthwhile to address the causes and concerns of sexual dysfunction. Discussing these concerns can benefit your sense of self-worth and relationships with sexual partners and flag any underlying health concerns.
As mentioned above, sexual dysfunction can be caused by various factors, and a hormonal imbalance is a very common cause. Luckily, when it comes to keeping up with your hormone health, there are also a variety of available effective treatments. Hormone medication is prescribed for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) and helps balance sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
Before starting BHRT, your physician may require a full male/female hormone panel to prescribe proper medication. This hormone blood test can be quickly scheduled at a conveniently located lab. Results from your blood test are then analyzed by a qualified hormone professional such as EVOLVE. Your levels, health history, and sexual wellness symptoms are considered when creating your personalized treatment plan.
Are you ready to get that spark back in the bedroom? Contact EVOLVE patient care to get started with your sexual wellness treatment!