What is Sexual Healing?

1.jpgSexual dysfunction is an issue (or issues) that prevents you from being able to enjoy sexual activity to any degree. They not only interfere with the sexual cycle and response, but can harm what would normally be a healthy relationship. Men and women can both suffer from them, and the likelihood of having some sort of sexual disorder increases as you age. With over 31% of men and 43% of women experience varying degrees of trouble in the bedroom, sexual dysfunction has been found to be a common problem, which is especially true for those over the age of 40.

There are numerous causes of the various types of sexual dysfunction. It can be psychological, which includes work-related stress, anxiety, marital or relationship issues, depression, guilt, concerns with body image, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. It may even be a physical problem, possibly heart disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, even liver failure. As well, substance abuse can cause these issues, or certain medications may have it as a side effect of using it.

Disorders in Women

Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is a woman’s continuous lack of interest in sex, to the point that it causes great or heightened personal distress. It’s normal for a woman to not always be in the mood, as the libido will have a natural fluctuation to it, however HSDD is when a lack of desire causes personal distress. If a woman does not express concern for her sex drive or libido, then more than likely it does not indicate HSDD.

All age groups are susceptible, and in the U.S. about 1 in 10 women experience HSDD, making it the most common female sexual dysfunction. The Mayo Clinic found that around 15% of women will continuously experience HSDD, and 40% will, at some point, experience it, though not so constantly.

There are several causes of HSDD, and often they will work together. While the most common physical cause is menopause, it could also be from coronary artery disease, arthritis, and cancer. Menopause causes a drop in both testosterone and estrogen in women, both of which are hormones that normally boost the libido. HSDD may also result from the hormonal changes that occur during and after pregnancy.

Emotional and psychological stress can also bring about HSDD. Women who suffer from depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem are able to develop HSDD. However, in more serious cases, HSDD can be a direct result from trauma, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse or rape.

HSDD is difficult to diagnose. Since it’s categorized by a lack of sexual drive and that every woman is different, there is no official threshold or diagnostic test that completely confirms if a woman has HSDD or not. It’s often diagnosed through psychiatric assessment, where doctors assess whether or not a woman is distressed about her sex life. Once they determine that, they will try to pinpoint the direct cause of that distress and treat that condition. While she may only need a different prescription, she might also have to go and visit a counselor who actually specializes in sexual disorders. Some women may need to undergo hormonal therapy in order to restore their libido.

Sexual Arousal Disorder

Sexual arousal disorder should not be confused with other desire disorders, as it is a biological condition. It’s defined as an inability to maintain arousal, or the lack of sexual fantasies and desires in situations that would normally cause some level of stimulation. The idea is that most romantic activities do not trigger a genital response in those with sexual arousal disorder, such as kissing, or dancing, or even direct physical stimulation.

Symptoms may include:

  • A lack of lubrication in the vagina
  • Lacking in vaginal dilation
  • Decreased genital swelling
  • Decreased genital sensation
  • Decreased nipple sensation

Physical factors are far more likely to be a cause of sexual arousal disorder than emotional factors are, though they are possible. The most common causes include nerve damage, reduced blood flow due to a cardiovascular disease, and hormone depletion.

In order to properly diagnose sexual arousal disorder, women must report, for at least six months, three or more symptoms, including reduced interest in sexual activity, significantly fewer sexual fantasies and desires, lack of initiation of sex, lack of receptiveness to sexual activities, lack of excitement or pleasure during sex, reduced responsiveness to erotic cues, and lack of genital response to sexual activity.

Though a doctor might recommend a blood-flow enhancing medication to help encourage genital response, the most common treatment is hormone therapy. As well, its recommended that those who suffer from it should see a sex therapist or counselor in order to track the treatment and ensure there are no emotional restrictions.

Female Orgasmic Disorder

Female orgasmic disorder (FOD) is the constant inability of a woman to achieve orgasm. Unlike sexual arousal disorder, most of a woman’s sexual functions on unhindered. They still experience arousal from either emotional or physical stimuli, but are unable or have extreme difficulty reaching climax and releasing tension. It is a constant state of stimulation with no final release. This can be extremely frustrating for romantic partners.

Both psychological and physical issues can cause FOD. FOD is a primary, or lifelong disorder, and most often the women who have it have never achieved orgasm, no matter what type of stimulation they received. Almost all of these women are born with this problem, and the physiological conditions can include, though are not limited to:

  • Damage to the blood vessels of the pelvic region
  • Spinal cord lesions or damage to the nerves in the pelvic area
  • Removed clitoris (known as female genital mutilation, this is a cultural practice in areas such as the Middle East, Asia, and Africa)

There are some medications that are able to cause FOD as well, including antipsychotics and narcotics.

There are women who experience a secondary, or acquired FOD. While they initially were able to orgasm, they have lost that ability as the result of surgery or medication, emotional trauma, or illness. Typically acquired FOD is temporary and treatable, unlike primary FOD. Usually theses cases are caused by psychological influence, including:

  • Past sexual abuse, rape, incest, or other traumatic sexual experience
  • Abuse emotionally
  • Fearful that she’ll become pregnant
  • Fearful her partner will reject her
  • Fear of loss of control during orgasm
  • Issues with self-image
  • Issues between her and her partner
  • Life related stress, like job loss, divorce, or financial fears
  • Guilt over sex or sexual pleasure
  • Religious or cultural beliefs about sex
  • Other mental health disorders such as major depression

Just like other sexual dysfunctions, FOD is treated case by case. If the cause is physical, then those issues are treated medicinally and are encouraged to get more exercise with focus on kegel exercises, which improve the strength and tone of muscles in the genital area. For those who have FOD due to an emotional problem they may use a combination of sex therapy, psychotherapy, and full sexual education.

Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder

GPPD (Genito-Pelvic Penetration/Pain Disorder) is when a woman has extreme difficulty during intercourse due to painful penetration. The severity of the pain is dependent on the individual’s pain tolerance. Some may only experience it during vaginal intercourse, but others may experience it in something like inserting a tampon. While dyspareunia and vaginismus were two separate conditions originally, the American Psychiatric Association combined them together into GPPD, as they typically appear together and are hard to distinguish between in real life.

Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent problems with having intercourse
  • Pain in the genital or pelvic area during vaginal intercourse or attempts at penetration.
  • Significant fear or anxiety associated with the pain of intercourse. This fear can be present before, during, or after the vaginal penetration.
  • Attempts at vaginal intercourse results in the tensing or tightening of pelvic floor muscles.

What causes GPPD exactly is still relatively unknown. Currently specifics are unknown, however the thought is that it is similar to other sexual dysfunctions. While the most commonly accepted idea is that infections of the pelvic region can cause this genital pain, leading to GPPD, there have also been cases of women who were born with it. Only a doctor can determine is genital pain might be expected.

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Disorders in Men

Premature Ejaculation

Premature ejaculation (PE) is when ejaculation occurs with minimal stimulation before, during, or quickly after penetration. Men with PE will have almost no, if any control over it, as it is an involuntary response. It’s the most common sexual dysfunction, with about 30% of men in the U.S. having it, though it’s thought this number is actually higher since it’s considered a taboo in American culture. All age groups are susceptible to PE.

We currently don’t know exactly what causes PE. Originally it was thought to be psychological, however studies have found changes in receptor sensitivity in the brain or chemical imbalances may also be a problem. While it’s most common in older men, those who has just finished puberty have also reported it.

Despite the causes still being unknown, there are several methods to treat PE. Doctors can prescribe desensitization treatments or ointments, or may simply recommend that the patient masturbates before having intercourse. There also have been studies showing that therapy can be beneficial to those suffering from PE.

Delayed Ejaculation

When a man has a firm erection and enough stimulation, yet still struggles to ejaculate they have delayed ejaculation, the opposite of PE. It’s not as common as PE, but it does occur in almost 5 percent of men in the U.S.

Generally speaking, delayed ejaculation is considered to be psychological in nature. 85 percent of men who struggle with it are able to achieve orgasm with self stimulation. Some other possible causes are drug use, alcohol, medicinal side effects, and even neurological damage.

Due to its major psychological component, sex therapy is a top treatment. If a medication is causing the issue then men should speak with a doctor and look for possible alternative options before they try to cut the medication out.

Retrograde Ejaculation

Retrograde ejaculation is when semen enters the bladder rather than leave via the penis during ejaculation. Relatively speaking, retrograde ejaculation isn’t harmful but it does make fertilization difficult since it affects the delivery of sperm to the vagina during intercourse. There’s no sign that it affects other healthy sexual functions, like having an erection or reaching orgasm. It can occur partially or entirely, in which case it is referred to as a “dry orgasm”, where no semen is released upon orgasm. Possible causes of retrograde ejaculation include:

  • Damage to the bladder’s muscles or nerve controlling muscles after surgery.
  • Nerve damage resulting from a medical illness, such as multiple sclerosis or diabetes.
  • Certain medications, such as alpha-blockers used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
  • Radiation therapy to the pelvic area.
  • A side effect of psychiatric drugs and medications for prostate enlargement and high blood pressure.

As retrograde ejaculation isn’t harmful it normally won’t need treatment, unless it is interfering with fertilization. The issue will be permanent if it’s a result of surgery or diabetes. It is possible for a urologist to extract sperm from a man’s urine shortly after orgasm if the patient wishes to use it for artificial insemination. It is still possible to impregnate someone with retrograde ejaculation.

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when men have a consistent inability to get or maintain an erection, preventing them from fulfilling sexual needs and desires. Its biological in nature and completely involuntary, as men with ED still retain desire for sex. This primarily affects 40 to 70 year olds, and is currently the most common sexual dysfunction in men, affecting about 100 million Americans.

In almost all cases, ED is caused by physical ailments, including age, obesity, diabetes, injury and cardiovascular issues such as heart disease. While it is possible to cause ED with psychological issues, like depression or stress, but it is most often caused by a physical condition, and should be discussed with a doctor. In most cases, doctors will simply recommend performance enhancing medications, such as Cialis or Viagra, provided that the patient doesn’t suffer from any sort of cardiovascular issue.