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Female Sexual Dysfunction

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A sexual problem, or sexual dysfunction, refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual or couple from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual activity. The sexual response cycle has four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common (43% of women and 31% of men report some degree of difficulty), it is a topic that many people are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Fortunately, most cases of sexual dysfunction are treatable, so it is important to share your concerns with your partner and doctor.

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What Causes Sexual Dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction can be a result of a physical or psychological problem.

  • Physical causes. Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause problems with sexual function. These conditions include diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases, hormonal imbalances, menopause plus such chronic diseases as kidney disease or liver failure, and alcoholism or drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function.
  • Psychological causes. These include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, or the effects of a past sexual trauma.

Who Is Affected by Sexual Dysfunction?

Both men and women are affected by sexual dysfunction. Sexual problems occur in adults of all ages. Among those commonly affected are older adults, and they may be related to a decline in health associated with aging.

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