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Female Sexual Dysfunctions

Many women have problems with sex at some stage in their life and it becomes more common as women get older. Having covered male sexual dysfunctions in a previous piece, let’s move onto the types of female sexual problems.

Female sexual dysfunction refers to one or more of the following issues: loss of sexual desire, loss of arousal, problems with orgasm and pain during sex.

1. Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder

The opposite end of the spectrum form hyperactive sexual desire disorder, women with this condition avoid sexual feelings, sexual thoughts and fantasies. They do not initiate sexual activity and are not responsive to their partner’s initiation of sexual activities. Causes include fatigue, hormonal changes, relationship conflict, body image issues, a history of sexual abuse, or being with an unskilled lover or partner.

2. Sexual Aversion Disorder

Women with this condition persistently or recurrently have a phobic aversion to, and an avoidance of, sexual contact with a sexual partner. The disturbance causes marked personal difficulty such as panic attacks (feelings of terror, faintness, nausea, palpitations). The woman might also avoid sexual situations or potential sex partners by covert strategies.

3. Sexual Arousal Disorder

There are four types of female arousal disorders, which can occur alone or in combination with other disorders:

  • Subjective sexual arousal disorders mean that no matter how much the woman is stimulated, whether genitally or non-genitally, and despite the occurrence of physical genital response (this means her vagina may exhibit increased lubrication), she doesn’t feel aroused.
  • Genital sexual arousal disorder means that a woman has little or no vaginal lubrication or swelling of the vulva. She might respond to nongenital stimulation, for instance an erotic video, but not to genital stimulation. This typically affects postmenopausal women.
  • Combined genital and subjective arousal disorder refers to lacking or feeling little sexual and genital arousal.
  • With persistent genital arousal disorders, women have excessive unwanted unprovoked genital arousal. Arousal is unrelieved by orgasms. The feelings persist for hours or days.

4. Orgasmic disorder

Orgasm is the moment of most intense pleasure in sexual intercourse. Women with this condition are unable to to reach a climax or orgasm. This occurs even despite high levels of subjective arousal. This is not to be confused with women who are able to attain orgasm through clitoral stimulation.

Factors associated include: distraction; performance anxiety; negative sexual beliefs or misconception; ignorance about genital sensitivity or poor technique; anxiety about letting go of control; lack of trust; history of sexual abuse or trauma; current relationship dissatisfaction; or partner-related difficulties.

5. Vaginal Pain Disorders

There are three types of vaginal pain disorders: Dyspareunia, Vaginismus and Vulvodynia. Dyspareunia is pain during attempted or completed vaginal penetration.

This can be lifelong (primary) or acquired (secondary).

Vaginismus is another pain disorder characterized by reflexive tightening around the vagina when vaginal entry is attempted or completed that can block entry of the penis. This is despite the woman’s expressed desire for penetration and when no structural or other physical abnormalities are present. Vaginismus is actually very treatable by focusing on sex education, counselling and progressive desensitization. A third pain disorder is known as vulvodynia, which is chronic vulvar itching, burning, and pain that leads to physical, sexual and psychological distress.

When a woman experiences sexual difficulties, it is useful to seek support from a trusted medical professional such as a gynaecologist or an urologist. Sex therapists and psychotherapists may also be helpful. It is always useful to bring your partner into the discussion. Treatment varies depending on the disorder and cause. If the type of disorder overlap, more than one treatment might be required.

Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email drmarthalee@eroscoaching.com.

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