Many people view sexual dysfunction as a disorder that primarily affects older men and the problem is often associated with the widely advertised prescription drugs that are used to treat the disorder.
Sexual dysfunction is an important public health concern for women in America. According to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association[*], up to 63% of women suffer from sexual dysfunction and 30-50% of American couples are affected by the disorder.
Female sexual dysfunction is described as a lack of sexual desire, decreased arousal, inability to have an orgasm, and pain during sexual activity. Sexual dysfunction most often affects younger women but can affect women of all ages.
There are many physical causes for female sexual dysfunction and those include diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, liver failure, urinary tract infections, and hormonal imbalances. Substance abuse, heavy smoking, and drug side effects can also greatly contribute to sexual problems.
There are also a variety of psychological causes that are associated with sexual dysfunction like stress, anxiety, relationship problems, depression or sexual trauma.
The study surprisingly revealed that factors such as marital status, educational level and ethnicity are associated with a higher risk of sexual disorders. Single women are more likely to experience difficulties achieving orgasm, black women report more incidents of low sexual desire and white women are the most likely to experience painful intercourse.
Women with lower educational achievements are likely to have issues relating to sexual satisfaction and suffer from sexual anxiety. Overall, women with college degrees and Hispanic women are the two groups least likely to report sexual problems.
The study also points out that those women who have endured traumatic sexual events such as child sexual abuse or those who have experienced a rape are more likely to be living with an arousal disorder. It is not uncommon for women to suffer the consequences of sexual abuse for decades after the event took place.
Having an open and honest discussion with your partner about your sexual concerns is often the most important step in seeking treatment. Communicate with your partner about your feelings about sexual intimacy and ask for his support in resolving the issues that affect both of you.
Many women are reluctant to discuss concerns about their sexuality with their family doctor but sexual health is an essential part of your well-being and there are many medical and non medical treatments for female sexual dysfunction. Being able to openly discuss matters of sexuality with your doctor will greatly increase your chances of finding a successful treatment plan.
Some doctors are recommending pelvic floor exercises for some arousal and orgasm problems. These exercises strengthen the muscles used to produce pleasurable sensations and can help many women. In addition, doctors may suggest vaginal weights to tone muscles in the pelvic floor.
Many women have experienced improvements with hormone therapy. Hormone therapies come in a variety of forms including tablets, vaginal rings, creams, patches and often resolve issues that are not caused by emotional or social factors.
When sexual dysfunction is related to psychological causes, talking to a counselor or therapist often improves sexual responses. Therapists can often help women work through negative sexual experiences relating to cultural or religious beliefs, prior sexual experiences and their own personal emotions and feelings that play a role in the ability to have a pleasurable sexual experience.
[*] Edward O. Laumann, Anthony Paik, and Raymond C. Rosen
Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and Predictors
JAMA, Feb 1999; 281: 537 – 544.