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27 April 2005

What is female sexual dysfunction?

We all know about impotence. But what are the sexual dysfunctions that women may suffer from?

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Female sexual dysfunction is considered the collective term for the various disorders of the sexual process in women.

Female sexual dysfunctions are currently classified as discrete individual disorders in one of the phases of the sexual response cycle – desire, arousal, orgasm, resolution/satisfaction, or pain related to sexual activity – however, it is seldom that one of these disorders occurs in isolation from another.

Different disorders:

Lack or loss of sexual desire
It is estimated that 30% of women with sexual dysfunction problems have no sex drive (the “biological” force which makes a person seek out or accept sex). Affected women have no need for sex (unless the wish to have a baby). New evidence indicates that lack of sex drive is likely to have biological or physical causes such as insufficient blood flow to the clitoris or vagina; neurological impairment (possible after pelvic or gynaecological surgery); low testosterone levels or maybe as a result of an organic disease such as raised blood pressure.

Inhibited sexual desire (ISD):
Reduced sexual desire is the most frequent complaint among women attending sex therapy clinics in the UK – affecting nearly 80% of women who seek help. Symptoms include: loss of sexual “spark”; little desire to initiate sex (although if stimulated sufficiently can still achieve orgasm); aversion to “sexual overtures”; pain on intercourse; emotional upset; inability to respond to stimulation or maintain lubrication. Possible causes can include: extreme tiredness, depression, use of antidepressants, psychological blocks, stress or general unhappiness in a relationship.

Female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD):
Female sexual arousal disorder can occur on its own or in conjunction with inhibited sexual desire and lack of sexual drive disorders. It is defined as the persistent or recurrent inability to attain, or to maintain until completion of sexual activity, an adequate lubrication – swelling response of sexual excitement. According to new research, FSAD may be due to factors such as vascular and clitoral erectile insufficiency syndrome which means there is insufficient blood flow to the female sexual tissues (clitoris, vagina, urethra) to enable the necessary lubrication and engorgement for satisfactory sexual activity. Possible causes can include: physiological complications such as impaired blood flow or nerve damage to the sexual tissue, or it may be secondary to a disease or may be lack of adequate stimulation from a partner.

Female orgasmic disorder (FOD):
Female orgasmic disorder is defined as the persistent (or recurrent) delay in, or absence of, orgasm following a normal sexual excitement phase. Women exhibit wide variability in the type or intensity of stimulation that triggers orgasm. The diagnosis of FOD should be based on the clinician’s judgement that woman’s orgasmic capacity is less than would be reasonable for her age, sexual experience and the adequacy of sexual stimulation she receives. There is probably a significant physiological element in orgasmic disorders.

Female androgen deficiency syndrome (FADS):
Testosterone (the male sex hormone) is an androgen hormone, which is also secreted in smaller amounts by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. It is thought to be the hormone of desire because of its positive influence on the sex drive. As women age, their levels of testosterone fall considerably (but not dramatically like oestrogen levels at menopause). Dr Susan Davies of the Jean Haile Research Institute in Australia has discovered that many older women who complain of a lack of sexual desire are in fact suffering from androgen deficiency.

 
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