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Female Sexual Dysfunction
Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert
We Are Here For You
Having sexual issues can be physically challenging, but it can be pretty emotional as well. Our sexuality often affects our sense of self, our relationship and can cause a great deal of stress when things are not going smoothly. In this guide, we will be reviewing the leading causes of female sexual dysfunction and provide you with resources and products that may be able to assist you.
We encourage you to review this information with a healthcare provider so that you can address any physical issues as well as answer questions about whether or not a sexual product is suitable for any medical conditions you may have. If you feel hesitant to talk to your healthcare provider about sex, check out our helpful guide on How to Talk To Your Doctor About Sex.
We want you to know that we genuinely care and work with many who struggle with female sexual dysfunction. We understand how hard this can be, and we are here for you.
Types Of Female Sexual Dysfunction
There are different areas of female sexual dysfunction, so let's break it down into some of the major categories:
Anorgasmia (Female Orgasmic Disorder or Orgasmic Dysfunction)
This is the inability to have an orgasm even when you are fully aroused and feel that you should be able to climax. There are mental, emotional, physical, and relationship-related reasons that cause this. The four types of anorgasmia are:
- Primary anorgasmia (lifelong anorgasmia), which means one has never experienced an orgasm.
- Secondary anorgasmia (acquired anorgasmia) when one has had orgasms in the past but now has difficulty having them.
- Situational anorgasmia is when you can have an orgasm but only under certain circumstances, such as using a specific sex toy, alone, with a particular partner, etc. This is not considered an issue unless one wants to be able to orgasm under different circumstances or it is causing harm.
- Generalized anorgasmia is when you cannot orgasm under any circumstance.
Sexual Aversion Disorder (SAD)
This is when you have a psychological aversion to sexual activity. Often in these cases, one may also have extreme stress, PTSD, an anxiety-based disorder, panic disorder or experienced sexual trauma. Even if sexual stimulation is sought, a woman with this disorder would not be able to progress through the normal stages of arousal or climax. SAD is often treated using anxiety-reduction techniques such as systematic desensitization with small exposures to sexuality, medical treatments such as anti-anxiety medications, and psychological therapies.
There are two types of sexual aversion disorders:
- Lifelong: This is when no matter who they are in a relationship with or the experience, they avoid sexual contact.
- Acquired: This refers to one who avoids sexual contact in certain relationships or situations.
Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSIAD)
This is a chronic inability to become sexually aroused through proper natural lubrication, engorgement, blood flow, and other arousal indicators. It can include pain during intercourse, an inability to orgasm, and lack of sexual desire. To be diagnosed with this, you will be asked a series of questions about your sexual and mental health, provided with a pelvic exam to rule out physical causes, and you may receive a complete blood count test. As many as 40 percent of women experience sexual dysfunction, such as FSIAD.
Most with this condition find that they have decreased sexual desire and rarely think about it. They also tend to initiate sex less, and when they do have sex, they have less excitement and arousal during it, with a decrease in sexual sensation.
Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)
This is a lack of sex drive to the point where you have such little interest that you do not want even to try to have sex for an extended period of time (at least six months). This type of sexual dysfunction is frustrating to women because they want to have sex but can't feel desire to experience it. This is a prevalent side effect of medications, including birth control.
This is a general medical term for painful sex, which means that there is genital pain experienced before, during, or after intercourse. There are many causes of painful sex, including vaginal dryness, hormonal imbalances, menopause, childbirth, breastfeeding, STDs, UTIs, medications, and many others. Resources and more education are below.
This is the involuntary contraction of the perineal muscles around the vagina due to attempted penetration. Contraction makes vaginal penetration difficult or impossible. This is an involuntary muscular reaction to the fear of vaginal penetration.
Examples Of Physical Causes
- Deep Thrusting, Rough Sex
- Cervical Pain
- Constipation, Irritable Bowels
- Autoimmune Disease & Sex
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Cancer Treatments
- Scarring & Adhesions
- Vaginal Dryness
- Cuts, Tears, Cysts
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Imbalanced Hormone Levels From Menopause, Birth Control Pills, Pregnancy
- Labia Pain
- Vaginal Septum
- Yeast Infections
- Imperforate Hymen
- MRKH Syndrome
- Vaginal Hypoplasia (Hypoplasia Of The Introitus)
- Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus
- Nerve Damage
- Circulatory Issues
- Inadequate Sexual Stimulation
- Sexual Trauma
Examples Of Medications That Cause Low Sex Drive
The following are medication types that can contribute to low libido: anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, antidepressants, benign prostatic, heart and blood pressure, hormonal contraceptives, opioids, steroids as well as cancer, hyperplasia treatments.
Examples Of Mental Causes
- Negative Thoughts
- Low Self Esteem
- Poor Body Image
- Relationship Issues
Fear & Anxiety
There may be anxious feelings from past trauma about being poorly perceived, promiscuous, sexually inadequate, as well as concerns about being violated, becoming pregnant, and having guilt or shame.
Anger & Resentment
There may be anger or resentment stemming from previous trauma, being neglected, taken for granted, abused, objectified, or forced into submission.
If there are feelings around not being physically compatible with the right sexual chemistry and level of attraction, it can drastically affect sexual arousal. In addition, if a lover is inconsiderate, selfish, or not providing the proper sexual stimulation, it may cause a woman to be unable to climax.
Lack Of Adequate Sexual Stimulation
Many women struggle with communicating or understanding their sexual needs. In addition, there is a great deal of misinformation about female sexuality, including what it requires for arousal and orgasm. We have put together helpful guides to help you better understand the need for direct clitoral stimulation as well as other aspects in our helpful sex guides:
- Clitoral & Vaginal Orgasm Guide
- Understanding The Importance Of The Clitoris
- Find The G-Spot & Stimulate It
- Female Masturbation Tips
Kegel exercises to increase blood flow to the genitals.
- Using vibrators and air pulse clitoral stimulators to increase blood flow.
- Communication with partner about sexual needs and preferences.
- Exploring adult entertainment, erotic stories, etc.
- Masturbating to determine preferences and to explore sexual fantasies.
- Reducing stress through proper sleep, exercise, meditation, etc.
- Eliminating smoking, alcohol or the use of recreational drugs.
- Reviewing medications for a possible reduction in sex drive.
- Being examined by an OB-GYN to rule out physical factors.
- Getting therapy to explore emotional and mental blockages.
Helpful Sexual Products
It is essential to understand that using sex toys containing toxins (toxicants) can cause sexual health issues. This is why we specialize in body-safe sex toys. Learn more about these issues through our guides: Toxic Sex Toys, Sex Toy Scams, and Silicone Sex Toys: Is Yours Real & Safe?
Lubricants can prevent the chafing, pulling, and tearing of vaginal tissue to avoid a penis or dildo from causing damage. Learn more about lubricants through our educational guide: The Ultimate Personal Lubricant Guide and see our paraben-free Moisturizing Lubricants.
A dilator comes in a set of two or more dildos ranging in small to large sizes and is one of the most effective tools for helping to gently stretch vaginal tissue to ease pain during penetration. See our body-safe dilator section.
There is a reason that over 80% of women own a vibrator in the US, and that is because they are so efficient at bringing about orgasms. They can increase blood circulation, which can help increase vaginal lubrication. Make sure to review any sex toy you use with your healthcare provider if you have health issues to ensure that you choose the best one for your personal needs. Please see our educational guide: How To Use A Vibrator. Also, see our body-safe vibrators.
Air Pulse Stimulators (Clitoral Suction Vibrators)
Clitoral suction vibrators (air pulse sex toys) are different than vibrators as they provide air pulsing that stimulates the clitoris directly. They have an opening that encircles the clitoris and are quite helpful for women who have issues with orgasming because they do not create the desensitization (numbing) that vibrators do when they are used for long periods. As always, discuss this with your physician before using it regarding your specific health needs. See our body-safe Clitoral Suction Vibrators.
Bumpers & Buffers
A bumper, sometimes called a buffer, is usually made of silicone or an elastomer like TPE that is put onto the base of a penis or dildo to shorten the insertable length. It is particularly helpful in the case of cervical pain during sex. You can add however many rings you prefer to make a penis or dildo as short as you like to avoid painful sex. See our selection of body-safe bumpers.
Certain sexual positions may help ease sexual penetration. These can be especially helpful if one is disabled, plus-sized, has had genital surgery, and has scarring or an adhesion (where the tissues have healed together). The pillows are firm yet comfortable, providing support and creativity for more comfortable sex. Explore our sex pillows for the right shape for you.
We have a variety of articles that provide additional information and resources for you related to female sexual dysfunction:
The Importance Of Using Body Safe Sex Toys
- Vaginal Pain Resources
- Cervical Pain Guide
- Autoimmune Disease & Sexual Resources
- Cancer Treatment & Sex Support
- Vaginal Dryness Remedies
- Natural Urinary Tract Infection Remedies
- Labia Pain & Labiaplasty
- Yeast Infection Natural Remedies
- STD Guide
- How To Ask For Better Sex
- Improving Relationships
If you would like to explore sex therapy, there are a few different types of counselors and therapeutic approaches. For more information, please see our helpful guide: Sex Therapy & Counseling.
Sexual dysfunction can be stressful and significantly impact our sense of self-worth, relationship with a significant other, and overall mental health. We want you to know that you are not alone; we care and are happy to help provide you with the best resources and products available. If you are working with a healthcare provider, they are often unaware of the latest sexual wellness products available, so feel free to encourage them to reach out to us if they have questions. We frequently work with physicians to help their patients find helpful solutions for sexual health issues.