Female sexual dysfunction is a term for any general disturbance or disorder that frequently or always prevents a woman from engaging in satisfactory sexual intercourse. It includes lack of libido (sex drive), problems with having sexual intercourse and lack of orgasms.
A woman’s sexuality is an important component of her physical, intellectual, psychological and social well-being. Her sexuality provides her with a way to express her feelings, demonstrate caring, and communicate and develop intimacy with another person. As such, sexual expression becomes a source of pleasure and fulfilment, and for couples this becomes a powerful form of communication. This central role of sexuality in the life of a woman can be affected by health or illness and by many psychological factors.
Concerns about sexual matters and sexual dysfunctions affect women of all ages. Therefore it is necessary that women in general nowadays should have a basic understanding of human sexuality and sexual dysfunctions. According to the results of a national survey published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, 43% of all women 18 to 59 years old, suffer from some type of female sexual dysfunction.
Current nomenclature when it relates to the diagnosis of sexual dysfunction either in women or men includes hypoactive sexual desire disorder, sexual aversion disorder, sexual arousal disorder, dyspareunia, vaginismus, premature ejaculation, erectile disorder, and male and female orgasmic disorders. In addition, each diagnosis is sub-typed into acquired or lifelong and global or situational.
However, it is very difficult to know what constitutes “normal” sexual function for women, which makes defining sexual dysfunction very difficult. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as “the state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction and infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive, 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. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
Therefore it is important that in order to be categorized as a disorder, any of the components of a sexual dysfunction needs to cause personal distress to the individual woman. For example, some women report having no sexual fantasies but their life circumstances are such that they are not agitated by it; under this circumstance, the low libido cannot be regarded as a disorder.
Issues including childhood events, cultural and religious messages, relationship issues, previous sexual experiences, life stressors, and physical health are factors that can take a toll on a woman’s sexuality. Some physical conditions which could result in female sexual dysfunctions include estrogen insufficiency, diabetes; thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary disorders.
Female Sexual dysfunctions can also be as a side effect of psychoactive drugs, especially with long term use, which can involve decreased or lost sexual desire, inability to get aroused, and delayed or blocked orgasm. This equally includes the use of certain medication such as Oral contraceptives and chemotherapy, blood pressure treatment (diuretics, beta-blockers, etc) which can cause reduced libido and difficulty in reaching orgasm. Also cancer therapy can cause vaginal dryness, reduced libido, and difficulty reaching orgasm.
There are many ways a woman’s body can fail to function sexually indicating various types of sexual dysfunction. A woman may experience lost of interest in sex or hate sex; feel her sex drive is excessive or compulsive; or she may find it difficult to lubricate or stay focused on her sexual feelings. She might also be unable to orgasm or can orgasm only in specific situations, like when she is alone or drinking. She may have pain before, during, or after sex and may have non-genital pain, such as cramps, headaches, or back pain that occurs during or after sex.
In general, most of these female sexual dysfunctions are rooted in one or more of four categorised sexual disorders specific to women and these include:
Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder
This is a situation where a woman is not interested in having sex or has less desire for sex than she used to. This is also referred to as a woman’s low Libido, that is, lack of interest in or desire to experience sexual relations.
Sexual Arousal Disorder
It is a condition where a woman has difficulty in becoming excited and achieving vaginal lubrication during sexual activity. She generally lacks a feeling of sexual response in her body and cannot stay sexually aroused.
A woman experiencing this disorder cannot have an orgasm or have pains during orgasm.
Sexual Pain Disorders
This condition causes a woman to have pain during or after sex.
Another female sexual dysfunction is Vaginismus, a condition where making penile penetration is difficult and painful, but this condition is much rarer than the other four dysfunctions.
If any of these female sexual dysfunctions is affecting you, there may be the need for you to get help before they damage your relationship. There are plenty of self-help books around, but it is best to seek professional psychosexual assistance along with your partner.