There are different types of problems - with both physical and psychological causes - that can affect a woman's ability to enjoy sex. Women of all ages experience sexual difficulties and occasional problems are common. But when these are persistent and cause emotional or physical distress, this is classified as female sexual dysfunction.
Problems that fall under the umbrella of female sexual dysfunction include:
Again, many women experience one or more of these problems at one point or another, from trouble reaching orgasm or just not feeling "in the mood." But for some women, these problems are ongoing and can affect a woman's sense of well being and relationships.
The good news is that these problems can be treated. While there's no magic bullet, no "female Viagra®" promising a quick and easy cure, there are ways to address sexual difficulties. The first step is to look at the possible causes.
Low sexual desire with distress is the most common form of sexual dysfucntion, affecting millions of women, yet it is often undiagnosed. Additionally, there is no treatment currently available for women.
Learn more about low sexual desire among women with this informative infographics which aim to outline the scope of the problem and demystify the subject of women's sexual desire.
Physical/biological: There are a number of physicial conditions that can affect a woman's sexual response and reduce pleasure and satisfaction. For example, conditions such as thyroid disease and diabetes can result in reduced vaginal lubrication which can make sex uncomfortable and less satisfying. Hormonal issues, such low estrogen levels, can also reduce lubrication and thin the vaginal lining, while lowered testosterone levels can lower the sex drive.
A decreased sex drive can also be the result of certain medications, including drugs to control blood pressure and some antidepressants, and can make it difficult for a woman to reach orgasm. Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or vaginitis can all make sex uncomfortable or even painful, as can vaginal infections, pelvic surgery or bowel difficulties.
Psychological/emotional: A woman's sexual response involves not just the body but the mind, of course, and emotional factors play a role in sexual satisfaction. Anxiety, depression, and simply the stresses of everyday life can contribute to sexual problems, as can problems in a relationship. Issues with body image as well as religious and/or cultural factors can also contribute.
Sometimes the issues that lead to sexual problems are temporary - such as stress or medication use - and can be resolved easily. But when does the occasional difficulty become a real problem? If difficulties are ongoing and causing distress, then it may be time to seek help.
A healthcare provider can help you figure out what might be behind the difficulties you're experiencing and find ways to resolve the problem. Your provider will likely ask you about:
Depending on your symptoms and concerns, she or he may do a pelvic exam to look for signs of infection or irritation or perhaps a pelvic ultrsound to identify any anatomical issues. If psychological issues seem to be the principle cause of the problem, your provider may offer a referral to a counselor.
If your problem has a hormonal cause, such as low estrogen or a thyroid deficiency, the provider may suggest a medical treatment option. She or he might also suggest adjusting or changing your current medication whose side effects may be causing your symptoms. But there are also non-medical options that can help.
Women's Low Sexual Desire Is No Medical Myth
American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT)
Search for a counselor or therapist in your area
The Sinclair Institute offers sexual health products for adults