Although we often associate ‘sexual problems’ with issues pertinent to male physiology, women can also experience a range of detrimental physical conditions that can hinder or reduce sexual performance, health and pleasure. It is currently estimated that over 40% of women experience some form of sexual problem during their lifetime, ranging from a loss of desire to pain during intercourse.
What are the Causes of Sexual Problems in Women?
Female sexual problems can occur as a result of a wide variety of physical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances experienced during menopause, as well less tangible psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression or lack of intimacy. Unlike their male counterparts, a woman’s sexual health is more directly affected by age, as the body’s hormone levels fluctuate greatly during middle age as a result of menopause. These issues cannot be avoided, and should be expected as a part of the aging process.
What are the Symptoms?
Women who may be suffering from sexual problems can experience an extensive range of physical symptoms. Some of the more common physical reflections of inherent sexual problems are a reduced desire for sex, an inability to achieve a level of arousal sufficient for intercourse, the inability to reach a climax and subsequent orgasm, defined as anorgasmia, as well as experiencing sharp or uncomfortable pains during vaginal intercourse.
For women experiencing physical discomfort or pain during sex, this could be caused by a number of medical issues, such as inadequate lubrication, endometriosis, scar tissue or the previous contraction of a sexually transmitted disease. Women who are frightened or intimidated by sexual intimacy may develop vaginismus, which results in involuntary spasms of the muscles surrounding the vagina. These contractions will result in pain during penetration.
How are Female Sexual Problems Different than Male Problems?
Although it may be easy to group sexual problems experienced by men and women into one large collection, in truth, the issues related to each gender are quite unique. Unlike problems experienced by men, women do not require an ‘erection’ to successfully engage in sex. Because of this, women may feel pressured to engage in intercourse with their partner while still experiencing pain or genital discomfort. These experiences can lead to an increased phobia related to intercourse and serve to perpetuate problems such as vaginismus over time.
Although men can experience one of several sexual problems, issues such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation do not result in pain, in direct contrast to many of women’s sexual health issues.
How Can They be Prevented and Treated?
A wide range of treatment options are available for women suffering from sexual problems. In order to determine the appropriate treatment method, women should first consult with their doctor, providing them with a thorough description of symptoms as well as any relevant information related to personal or career experiences, such as increased stress or emotional trauma resulting from interpersonal tension.
For women experiencing reduced sexual performance abilities as a result of aging or menopause, hormone therapy is a possible solution. If the source of sexual problems is deemed to be psychological, therapy or counseling sessions are a positive and powerful tool for resolving internal conflicts that may be inhibiting healthy, pleasurable sex. For women who may have been a victim or sexual or emotional trauma, it can be difficult to restore a level of confidence and trust necessary for healthy, pleasurable sex. Therapists can offer an invaluable and compassionate ear for those whose former experiences have negatively affected their current life. Doctors may offer simple solutions for sexual problems, such as the use of external lubricants in order to facilitate penetration and augment physical stimulation.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of sexual problems is the resulting insecurity and guilt experienced by both men and women suffering from these issues. Developing open channels of communication with sexual partners will help individuals address, confront and remedy their problems at a much faster rate. Women who experience pain during sex may feel insecure addressing this issue with their partners, as the desire to provide physical pleasure for their companion during sex may outweigh the nagging discomfort experienced. That being said, only through addressing and acknowledging one’s medical issues can an appropriate treatment solution be created. For women experiencing sexual problems, eliminating the negative psychological stigma associated with these issues is the first step towards resolving the issue.