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Dealing with Sexual Dysfunction: How Sex Therapy Can Help

When was the last time you had a chat about sexual health? For most people, it’s a conversation they’d rather avoid. However, it’s important to understand that sexual health is a vital aspect of overall well-being, and ignoring issues such as sexual dysfunction can lead to significant emotional distress.

Understanding Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction is a broad term that encapsulates a range of issues that prevent an individual or couple from achieving satisfaction from sexual activity. It can affect any stage of the sexual response cycle, including desire, arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

Often times, the term is associated with physical problems, like erectile dysfunction in men or painful intercourse in women. However, it’s important to recognize that sexual dysfunction can encompass emotional or psychological issues as well. Lack of sexual desire, difficulty in becoming aroused, or inability to achieve orgasm despite significant stimulation, are instances of psychological sexual dysfunction.

Moreover, sexual dysfunction can be either lifelong or acquired. Lifelong sexual dysfunction is a problem that has been present since the person became sexually active. On the other hand, acquired sexual dysfunction is a problem that develops after a period of normal sexual functioning.

Furthermore, it’s also crucial to understand the difference between situational and generalized sexual dysfunction. Situational sexual dysfunction happens only in specific situations or with specific partners, while generalized sexual dysfunction happens in all situations and with all partners.

It’s worth noting that occasional difficulties in sexual performance are normal and might occur due to stress or other temporary influences. However, if these issues persist, they may indicate sexual dysfunction and seeking help becomes necessary. These problems are far more common than most people realize and there is absolutely no shame in acknowledging them and seeking professional help to improve one’s sexual health and overall quality of life.

Types of Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction can manifest in many different ways and impacts both men and women. Understanding the various types can help you gain better insight into this complex aspect of human health.

Erectile Dysfunction

One of the most commonly known types of sexual dysfunction in men is erectile dysfunction (ED). This condition is characterized by the persistent difficulty in achieving or maintaining an erection sufficient for sexual activity. The causes can be both psychological, such as stress or anxiety, or physical, such as heart disease or diabetes.

Premature Ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is another common issue faced by men. It’s characterized by ejaculation that happens sooner than desired, often within seconds or minutes of penetration. This can create significant distress and frustration. Causes can be psychological, such as anxiety or relationship problems, or biological, such as abnormal hormone levels or inherited traits.

Delayed or Absent Orgasms

Delayed or absent orgasms can affect both men and women. This dysfunction is defined by a consistent delay in, infrequency of, or absence of orgasm. For men, this is often referred to as delayed ejaculation. For women, it’s referred to as anorgasmia. Both conditions can be caused by a combination of physical, hormonal, and psychological factors.

Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder

Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is characterized by a lack or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity. This persistent or recurrent deficiency in sexual desire can cause significant distress. While it can affect both genders, it’s more commonly diagnosed in women. Factors such as hormonal imbalances, certain medications, and relationship issues can contribute to HSDD.

Pain During Intercourse

Pain during intercourse, or dyspareunia, can affect both men and women, but it’s more commonly reported by women. It can occur due to physical conditions, such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease in women, or due to psychological issues like anxiety or a history of sexual trauma.

Each of these types of sexual dysfunction can have profound impacts on an individual’s well-being and quality of life, making it essential to seek help and treatment when necessary.

The Impact of Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, affecting both their personal relationships and their self-esteem. Understanding these impacts is key to recognizing the importance of addressing and treating sexual dysfunction.

On Relationships

Sexual dysfunction can significantly strain relationships. It often leads to feelings of frustration, misunderstanding, and dissatisfaction for both partners. Intimacy is an important aspect of a relationship, and when sexual dysfunction interferes, it can create a gap between partners.

Feelings of disappointment or inadequacy can surface, creating a cycle of negative emotions that can impact the overall relationship dynamic. In some cases, this can even lead to the avoidance of sexual encounters altogether to prevent the associated distress.

Beyond the physical aspect, communication about the issue can also be a challenge. Conversations about sexual health can be difficult to navigate, often leading to further misunderstanding and isolation.

On Self-esteem

The effects of sexual dysfunction extend beyond relationship dynamics and can severely impact an individual’s self-esteem. When someone is unable to perform sexually as they wish, it can generate feelings of inadequacy and decrease their self-confidence.

For example, conditions like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation in men, and difficulties in arousal or achieving orgasm in women, can result in self-doubt and a negative self-image. These feelings can escalate, leading to anxiety or depression, which can further exacerbate the sexual dysfunction – forming a vicious cycle.

Moreover, these issues can spill over into other areas of life, affecting overall mental health and daily functioning. They can create a lingering sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and negatively impact one’s overall quality of life.

In conclusion, the impact of sexual dysfunction is multifaceted and profound, affecting not just the individuals involved but also their relationships. Recognizing and addressing these impacts is a critical step towards managing and overcoming sexual dysfunction.

The Role of Therapy in Addressing Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction can be a challenging issue to navigate on one’s own. It involves complex physical and psychological factors that require professional understanding and intervention. That’s where therapy comes in, providing a comprehensive approach to managing and treating sexual dysfunction.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) plays a crucial role in addressing the psychological aspects of sexual dysfunction. CBT is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. In the context of sexual dysfunction, it helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to sexual problems.

For example, some people may experience performance anxiety, which creates a cycle of failure and increased anxiety. CBT can help break this cycle by teaching individuals to reframe their thinking and focus on pleasure rather than performance.

Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is a specialized type of therapy that focuses on addressing the physical and psychological aspects of sexual dysfunction. It often involves open discussions about sexual behaviors, beliefs, and experiences to identify areas of improvement.

Sex therapists can provide a variety of strategies and techniques to help individuals or couples enhance sexual experiences. These can include behavioral exercises, education about sexual response and techniques, and communication training to improve the expression of sexual needs and desires.

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy can be particularly beneficial when sexual dysfunction is affecting a relationship. It provides a safe space for couples to express their feelings, fears, and frustrations about their sexual issues. Couples therapy can help improve communication, increase sexual satisfaction, and strengthen the overall relationship.

A therapist can guide couples through exercises and discussions to enhance understanding, intimacy, and mutual satisfaction. The focus is not just on resolving sexual problems, but also on promoting a deeper emotional connection and overall relationship satisfaction.

In essence, therapy plays a multifaceted role in addressing sexual dysfunction. It provides the necessary tools, techniques, and understanding to manage and overcome sexual problems, with the ultimate goal of enhancing sexual health and overall well-being.

Benefits of Therapy

Seeking therapy for sexual dysfunction can offer a host of benefits. It can facilitate open conversation, foster understanding, and provide practical strategies to overcome challenges. Here are some of the key benefits of engaging in therapy for sexual dysfunction:

Improved Communication

One of the significant benefits of therapy is the enhancement of communication skills. Therapy provides a safe and open environment for individuals and couples to express their concerns, fears, and desires related to their sexual life. It encourages honest conversation and teaches effective ways to communicate needs and wants.

Increased Understanding

Therapy can increase understanding of sexual health, responses, and behaviors. It helps individuals and couples gain insights into the factors contributing to sexual dysfunction, be it psychological, physiological, or relational. This knowledge is essential for effective treatment and management of sexual issues.

Overcoming Negative Beliefs

Therapy, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, helps to identify and challenge negative beliefs and thought patterns related to sexual performance and satisfaction. This can be particularly beneficial for those dealing with performance anxiety or low self-esteem due to their sexual dysfunction.

Enhanced Intimacy

Therapy can help enhance intimacy between partners. By improving communication and understanding, therapy can help to rebuild trust, mutual satisfaction, and emotional closeness. It can lead to a more satisfying sexual relationship and overall relationship dynamic.

Better Coping Strategies

Therapy can provide practical strategies to cope with and overcome sexual dysfunction. Techniques can vary from relaxation exercises, mindfulness techniques, to behavior modification strategies. These tools can be invaluable for managing stress and anxiety related to sexual performance.

Increased Self-esteem

By addressing sexual concerns and enhancing sexual satisfaction, therapy can help boost self-esteem. As individuals see improvements in their sexual health, it can positively impact their overall confidence and self-image.

In summary, the benefits of therapy extend beyond improving sexual dysfunction. It can enhance communication, increase understanding, foster intimacy, and boost self-esteem, significantly improving quality of life.


In conclusion, sexual dysfunction can be a difficult issue to deal with. But remember, it’s okay to seek help and therapy can be a valuable tool in addressing these problems. Sexual health is a vital aspect of overall well-being and it’s important not to ignore any issues you may be facing.


Is sexual dysfunction a common problem?

Yes, it affects both men and women, and is more common than most people think.

Can therapy really help with sexual dysfunction?

Absolutely. Therapy can address both the physical and psychological aspects of sexual dysfunction.

What types of therapy can help with sexual dysfunction?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, sex therapy, and couples therapy can all be beneficial.

Can sexual dysfunction affect my overall well-being?

Yes, sexual dysfunction can impact your mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life.

Angelica Jackson a therapist at Denver Couples and Sex Therapy

I’m Angelica Jackson, From Denver Couples & Sex Therapy PLLC. I graduated with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate also involved at the local and national level of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. I have dedicated myself to building a practice committed to providing extraordinary, expert client care.