Understanding Sexual Dysfunction

Understanding Sexual Dysfunction

Sex has become a topic discussed with serious intent. While situations and cultures vary, contention surrounding sex has been voiced openly by all sides. Women and men are embracing their sexual identity and preferences with a renewed vigor. The dark side of sex has also been exposed, with the emergence of social movements representing communities who have been victims of sexual assault and unwanted sexual advances. Sex, in general, has become a constant conversation however, there are hardly any discussions concerning people who for various reasons, have trouble or difficulty with sex. Conversations involving sexual dysfunction often target men struggling with impotence, plights commonly turned into jokes driven by stigma and sensationalism. Ignorance hinders people from addressing topics that are important. Furthermore, a large population is excluded from the conversation frequently due to embarrassment.

Sexual dysfunction is referred to as “a problem occurring during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual activity,” (Cleveland Clinic, n.d., para. 1). The sexual response cycle has four stages: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).  Excitement involves elevated heart rate, increased genital blood flow and secretion of a lubricating substance (MedicineNet, n.d.). Excitement is different for every person and can range from minutes to hours (MedicineNet, n.d.). Plateau suggests intensification of excitement stage characteristics, lasting seconds to minutes (SexInfo, n.d.). Orgasm, the shortest stage, usually lasts seconds (SexInfo, n.d.). Orgasm involves reproductive organ contractions and ejaculation of semen in men. Resolution, the final stage is commonly associated with fatigue and intimacy (SexInfo, n.d.). Resolution in men includes a refractory period preventing subsequent arousal lasting seconds to days increasing with age (SexInfo, n.d.).

Sexual dysfunction can be present at any age displaying a negative correlated with health, with people over 40 more likely to experience dysfunction (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Sexual dysfunction consists of four diagnostic categories: desire disorders, arousal disorders, orgasm disorders, and pain disorders (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Desire disorders deal with lack of desire or interest in sex. Arousal disorders imply inability to become excited or physically aroused during sexual activity. Orgasm disorders involve inability to climax or delay orgasm, whereas pain disorders suggest pain during intercourse.

Causes of sexual dysfunction vary. Physical causes include diabetes, hormonal imbalance, drug side effects and chronic disease (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Psychological causes include trauma, anxiety, depression, body image concerns and relationship problems (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Mood disorders, psychotic disorders, and anxiety are often comorbid with sexual dysfunction (Ciocca, Ochoa, & Jannini, 2018). Research suggests sexual dysfunction is common but insufficiently recorded (Ciocca et al., 2018), with) “43% of woman and 31% of men report some degree of sexual difficulty (Cleveland Clinic, n.d., para. 2). Mental health and sexual dysfunction are negatively correlated with higher rates of dysfunction exhibited in people with mental illness (Ciocca et al., 2018). Men experiencing psychological stress display higher prevalence of sexual dysfunction (Gürtler, Brunner, Dürsteler-MacFarland, & Weisbeck, 2019).

“Despite growing research investigating sexual desire disorders, little is known or understood about the impact on individuals, their partners, and relationship functioning” (Frost, & Donovan, 2019, para. 1). Sexual dysfunction may affect relationships and confidence but it’s important to acknowledge it’s common and often natural (SexInfo, n.d.). Sexual dysfunction can be managed by medication, psychoeducation, mechanical aids, behavioral treatments, psychotherapy and sex therapy (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.). Mindfully discussing sexual dysfunction will aid in others feeling more comfortable and inclined to seek treatment, no one should be judged or ridiculed for something they cannot control.


Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Sexual Dysfunction. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9121-sexual-dysfunction

MedicineNet. (n.d.). Sexual Response Cycle (Phases of Sexual Response). Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/sexual_response_cycle_phases_of_sexual_response/article.htm

SexInfo. (n.d.). The Sexual Response Cycle. Retrieved from http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/sexual-response-cycle

Jannini, E. A., & Siracusano, A. (2018). Epidemiology of sexual dysfunctions in persons suffering from psychiatric disorders. In Sexual dysfunctions in mentally ill patients (pp. 41-51). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Gürtler, M. A., Brunner, P., Dürsteler-MacFarland, K. M., & Weisbeck, G. A. (2019). Sexual dysfunction in primary health care [Abstract]. Praxis, 108(1), 23-30. doi:10.1024/1661-8157/a003172

Frost, R., & Donovan, C. (2019). A qualitative exploration of the distress experienced by long-term heterosexual couples when women have low sexual desire [Abstract]. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 1-24. doi:10.1080/14681994.2018.1549360

Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Sexual Dysfunction: Management and Treatment. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9121-sexual-dysfunction/management-and-treatment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

[ Back To Top ]