Why do people have sex? To reproduce? To express their love toward their partner? Or to simply be satisfied? Whatever your reason is, sex exists as a basic physical need.
It’s healthy to have sex. However, sex can be a behavior or an activity that’s problematic if not controlled. When engaging in sexual behavior becomes a problem, you may be dealing with sexual disorders.
Both men and women can experience sexual dysfunction, and when treatment options are not addressed immediately, this may lead to the loss of intimacy and other relationship concerns. This is why 10% of men in the United States are diagnosed with sex addiction.
Sexual disorders are defined as recurrent and persistent problems about enjoying sexual activities.
Can’t get the ‘thing’ to stand up? There’s something wrong with your sexual functioning. Can’t seem to get aroused even after long foreplay? Then you may need to look into hormonal or neurotransmitter imbalances, or determine if you’re suffering from a sexual disorder or mental illness like depression or anhedonia.
In case you’re not aware, there are four phases of sexual response: excitement phase, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Sexual dysfunction can occur in any part of this sexual response cycle in both men and women.
There are four types of sexual disorders: desire disorder, arousal disorder, orgasm disorder, and pain disorder. Read each sexual dysfunction, recall how you and your partner had sex last few months, and see if there’s an issue in your sex life.
People with sexual desire disorders lose their sexual desire or simply lose interest in having sex. The most common desire disorders are low libido, sexual aversion disorder, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
Hormonal changes like decreased estrogen or testosterone levels may affect sexual desire in both men and women. Other causes of sexual desire disorders are medical conditions, mental health problems, or psychological problems.
In arousal disorder, the person has the sexual desire or wants to have sex, but regardless of the arousal and stimulation, they cannot achieve sexual satisfaction. The best example of arousal disorder is erectile dysfunction in men.
Orgasm disorders occur both in men and women. There may be a delay or absence of orgasm. Orgasm disorders may be caused by pain during sex, fatigue, stress, hormonal changes, and decreased libido.
Both men and women can experience pain disorders during sex. Women may experience vaginal dryness that will cause pain during intercourse. Other conditions are urinary tract infection (UTI), vaginismus (the vaginal muscles tighten up when there is penetration), menopause, or hormonal changes.
Painful sexual dysfunction in men may be caused by Peyronie’s disease (curved penis with painful erections), UTI, yeast infections, genital herpes, prostatitis, or skin conditions.
Any sexual disorder can affect any age, race, nationality, or gender, although sexual dysfunctions are more common for people aged 40 and above due to aging. Here are the most common causes of sexual disorders:
- Medical conditions: Illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, hormonal imbalance, kidney disease, alcoholism, or drug addiction may interfere with a person’s sexual function.
- Medications: The side effects of some medications may cause problems with one’s sexual function. Examples of these medications are antidepressant drugs, antihistamines, and decongestants (which may cause erectile dysfunction). When you experience these side effects, consult with your primary health care provider.
- Psychological problems: These include stress, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, concern or worry about sexual performance, body image concerns, history of sexual trauma, and feelings of guilt during sexual activity.
Some sexual dysfunctions can be prevented, and some may not. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Prevention measures are mostly focused on a healthy lifestyle, such as:
- Not smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a balanced and healthy diet
- Not using illegal drugs.
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Erectile dysfunction or impotence: Inability to achieve a hard penis or keep an erection due to decreased blood flow in the penis
- Retarded ejaculation: Delayed or absent ejaculation (takes a long time to come, or can’t come at all despite enough sexual stimulation)
- Early or premature ejaculation: Inability to control ejaculation (i.e., ejaculation comes quickly)
- Most common sexual dysfunction in women: Inability to achieve orgasm
- Inadequate vaginal lubrication while having a sexual activity
- Inability to relax vaginal muscles before or during sex (vaginismus)
- Painful intercourse
- Lack of sexual desire or low libido
- Inability to get aroused
Treatment options for sexual dysfunction usually focus on addressing the underlying cause. If the reason is a physical problem, such as the side effects of medications, you can talk to your physician about this. However, if this cause is mental or psychological problems, counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy are recommended to address the issues.
When it comes to issues that affect sexual activities, psychotherapy and sex therapy with a mental health professional can help. Together with a counselor, you can work through what’s bothering you and why it is affecting your sexual activity. It may stem from stress, anxiety, trauma, fear, or body image issues that hinder you from enjoying the pleasures of having sex.
You and your partner can attend couples therapy to be educated about communication and behavioral treatment options to address what’s affecting your sex life. Most married couples experience this because of the demands from work, at home, and with the kids. The counselor will help you explore your thoughts and feelings and guide you in finding the best techniques to have a better sex life.
Be wise enough to save your relationship, and do not let sexual conditions get in the way of enjoying the pleasures of having sex and fulfilling your partner’s needs.
If you or your partner have a sexual concern, talk to a counselor immediately. Soon enough, it’ll be like the honeymoon stage all over again. Talk to us here at Kentucky Counseling Center, and let us help you and your partner achieve the sex life you deserve to enjoy.