At some point, if you’re sexually active, odds are you’ll come across common sexual health problems. It could be something you are experiencing physically, or it could be something that affects your mental well-being. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more common sexual health problems seen in sexually active adults.
What is Sexual Health?
Let’s start here, shall we? According to the World Health Organization, sexual health is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”
Sexual health does not fit into one category, and everyone’s experiences are different, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental.
Sexual Dysfunction Disorders
Everyone is prone to experiencing sexual health problems at some point in their sexual journey. Some may have physical problems or medical conditions that may affect being intimate, or others could face psychological dilemmas such as depression or anxiety. According to Beaumont, there are four main categories of sexual dysfunction:
- Desire Disorders: Also known as “libido disorders or low libido,” this can affect one’s overall interest in sex. Things such as hormonal changes, low estrogen or testosterone levels, relationship issues, medical conditions, and more can impact one’s sexual appetite.
- Arousal Disorders: A person may be interested in sexual activity but is unable to perform, making it physically impossible to be aroused during sex. The most common type of arousal disorder is erectile dysfunction in those born with a penis.
- Pain Disorders: Pain could be from physical damage to the penis, genital herpes or other STIs, infections, and more. Another type of pain can be experienced during intercourse due to urinary tract infections, vaginal dryness, hormonal changes, and much more.
- Orgasm Disorders: More commonly found in those assigned female at birth, pain, stress, hormonal changes, and more can lead to a delayed or lack of orgasm during sexual activity.
Common Symptoms of Sexual Dysfunction
Although both men and women can experience similar symptoms, such as pain or a total lack of interest in sex, some are more gender specific.
The most common symptoms for men are:
- Erectile Dysfunction: “Inability to achieve or maintain an erection (hard penis) suitable for intercourse.”
- Absent or delayed ejaculation
- Premature ejaculation
And for Women:
- Vaginismus: “Inability to relax the vaginal muscles enough to allow intercourse”
- Unable to achieve orgasm
- Difficulties reaching and maintaining vaginal lubrication before and during sex
Why Does This Happen?
People experience sexual health problems for various reasons–physical and psychological reasons. Physically, men and women could experience hormonal imbalances, have diabetes, heart disease or deal with alcohol or substance abuse disorders. They could also experience side effects from prescription drugs, which can all contribute to sexual health difficulties.
For those assigned female at birth, hormonal changes such as pregnancy, perimenopause, or menopause could significantly affect one’s sexual health. Psychologically, these causes are more due to stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, past sexual traumas, body appearances, and more.
Treatments for Common Sexual Health Problems
A lot of the time, you can identify your own or your partner’s sexual dysfunctions without any previous knowledge. However, if the disorder continues, it is essential to see a medical professional who will examine you based on a variety of factors, physically and psychologically.
Depending on the outcome, professionals could suggest the following:
- Medication: If medication is the source of the problem, altering a prescription can help. For men, medications such as Viagra, Stendra, or Cialis could be a great way to help increase sexual function, which allows blood flow to the penis. For premenopausal women, Addyi and Vyleesi are recommended to treat low sexual desire.
- Sex Therapy: For those not looking for a medical solution, look no further! Sex therapists are a great alternative for couples or individuals who are experiencing sexual health dilemmas that go beyond the needs of their primary doctor. Sex therapists are licensed professionals who focus more on the emotional or mental factors of sex-related issues.
- Mechanical Aids: Penile implants and vacuum devices are excellent choices for men who struggle with erectile dysfunction. Although a vacuum device is FDA approved for women, dilators are recommended for those experiencing “narrowing of the vagina.” However, sexual aid devices like vibrators are suggested to lead women towards climax and enjoy intercourse.
- Psychotherapy: For those who would prefer to seek help from a certified counselor, visiting therapy can be an excellent source to find the root behind the feelings of anxiety, fear, trauma, etc., that all can connect to sexual dilemmas.
- Education and communication: Keep things open! Constant, clear communication with your partner is crucial when keeping your sex life healthy and alive. The more you talk about it, the more you can get down to the bottom of things.
It’s important to note that these treatments may not fix all sexual health problems, and the most powerful tool you have in these situations is talking with yourself and your partner!
Sexual health is a complex and multi-faceted aspect of overall well-being, encompassing physical, emotional, and mental dimensions. As sexually active individuals, we may encounter common sexual health problems along our journey, facing a range of potential challenges that affect us all.
Understanding sexual dysfunction disorders, their symptoms, and the underlying reasons is crucial in addressing these concerns effectively. The diverse array of available treatments, including medical interventions, therapy, and communication strategies, highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to sexual health.
Seeking professional guidance is essential to conduct a thorough examination, taking into account both physical and psychological factors. Medications, sex therapy, mechanical aids, psychotherapy, and education provide a spectrum of options tailored to individual needs and circumstances.