What Is Sexual Dysfunction? / by Dr. Natalia P Zhikhareva

Sexual dysfunction sounds scary!  It suggests a lasting state.  It implies something is broken.  While sexual dysfunction can mean a problem it is not always a permanent one!

Sexual dysfunction refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual activity. 

Phew that’s quite a sentence!  Simply put; sexual dysfunction prevents you from wanting or enjoying sexual activities.

Here are some of the most common sexual dysfunctions:

  • Desire disorders – the lack of sexual desire or interest in sex
  • Arousal disorders – the inability to become physically aroused during sexual activity
  • Orgasm disorders – the delay or absence of orgasm
  • Pain disorders – pain during intercourse

Still thinking of sexual dysfunction as scary?  Let me give you some numbers to demonstrate just how common sexual dysfunction is:

  • The prevalence of sexual dysfunction is 43% for women
  • 31% for men
  • Erectile dysfunction increases as men age with 52% of men

Sadly, while most sexual dysfunctions are highly treatable, it is a topic that many people are hesitant to discuss. 

Sexual dysfunction can affect any age.  What causes sexual dysfunction?


Sexual dysfunction can often be caused by many physical or medical conditions.  Some of these conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart and vascular (blood vessel) disease
  • Neurological disorders
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Chronic disease (kidney or liver failure)
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug abuse

Additionally, the side effects of some medications - including some antidepressant drugs – can affect sexual function.


  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Depression
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Body image issues
  • Effects of past sexual trauma

Including many other psychological factors preventing you from wanting or enjoying a sexual activity.

Don't sweat it!  As mentioned before, sexual dysfunction is both very common and often highly treatable.  Addressing the underlying physical or psychological problems treats most types of sexual dysfunctions.  Treatments may include:


Sex therapists are highly trained professionals.  And I am not referring to a marriage and family therapist.  A qualified sex therapist is a person certified by The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).  Certified sex therapists by AASECT are trained at assessing and diagnosing sexual dysfunctions.  They are also trained at assessing physiological vs psychological causes and can often refer to a medical doctor. 


Men and women with hormone deficiencies may benefit from hormone shots, pills, or creams.  For men, drugs may help improve sexual function by increasing blood flow to the penis.  If a side effect of taken medication is the cause, a change in the medication can help.


Often, education about sex and sexual behaviors and responses can be incredibly helpful.  Understanding our bodies at different stages of development and the effects of sexual response cycle are vital.  Trained sex therapist are also equipped at providing needed education.


Sexual Dysfunction.  www.sexualityandu.ca/health-care-professionals/sexual-dysfunction

An Overview of Sexual Dysfunction.  Cleveland Clinic.  http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_An_Overview_of_Sexual_Dysfunction

Sex & Sexuality.  Planned Parenthood.  http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexuality

What other psychological factors, apart from the ones listed, may cause sexual dysfunction?