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Sexual dysfunction refers to the presence of any recurring problem which hinders an individual or a couple from experiencing satisfaction during sexual activity. The problem has to be recurring before it is tagged sexual dysfunction, it can occur during any phase of the sexual response cycle. The sexual response cycle has four phases namely; excitement (includes desire and arousal), plateau, orgasm, and resolution.


According to research, 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men report to have had some degree of sexual dysfunction at some point in time. While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common, it is a topic that many people are unwilling to discuss. It is important to share your concerns with your partner and healthcare provider as treatment options are available.


Sexual dysfunction can affect any age group; however, it is more common in people over 40 years because aging is often related with a decline in overall health including sexual health.

Sexual dysfunction is generally classified into four categories:

  1. Desire disorders: This is characterized by lack of sexual desire or interest in sex; it is also referred to as low libido disorder or low libido. Desire disorders can occur as result of low estrogen and testosterone level, hormonal level changes, medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease), relationship problems, sexual inhibitions, fatigue, fear, depression, as well as anxiety amongst others.


  1. Arousal disorders: In this disorder, it is difficult or impossible for the said individual to become physically aroused during sexual activity despite having the desire to have sex. This can occur in both genders, the most common type occurs in men, it is called erectile dysfunction. In erectile dysfunction, a man who has desire to have sex finds it difficult to attain or maintain an erection.


  1. Orgasm disorders: This is associated with the absence of orgasm or delayed orgasm, this is more common in women; however, it also occurs in men. This could be as a result of pain during sexual activity, stress, fatigue or some drugs.


  1. Pain disorders: As the name implies this involves pain during sexual intercourse, this can be experienced by both gender, however, it is commoner in women. It can be as a result of vaginal dryness, vaginismus (a condition that affects the vaginal muscles), urinary tract infections (UTIs), and hormonal changes during menopausal as well as other conditions. In men it can be as a result of Peyronie’s disease (physical damage of the penis), also, infections like UTIs, prostatitis and yeast infections, genital herpes as well as some skin conditions.


In men:

  1. Inability to attain or maintain an erection suitable for intercourse (erectile dysfunction)
  2. Absent or delayed ejaculation despite adequate sexual stimulation
  3. Inability to control the timing of ejaculation (early or premature ejaculation)


In women:

  1. Inability to achieve orgasm
  2. Inadequate vaginal lubrication before and during intercourse
  3. Inability to relax the vaginal muscles enough to allow intercourse


In men and women:

  1. Lack of interest in or desire for sex
  2. Inability to become aroused
  3. Painful  intercourse


Causes of sexual dysfunction

  1. Physical causes: Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause problems with sexual function. These conditions include diabetes, heart and vascular (blood vessel) diseases, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, chronic diseases such as kidney or liver failure, and alcoholism and drug abuse as well as the side effects of some medications, including some antidepressants.
  2. Psychological causes: These include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, concerns about body image, as well as effects of a past sexual experience.


The management of sexual dysfunction is varied as it depends on the cause. Visit your physician if you have noticed any of the symptoms mentioned in this article.


Image Credit: Above Whispers