Mental Health Implications of Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual Dysfunction. Most people probably get a little antsy if the topic comes up. Maybe some of you are glancing around now to see if anyone notices you reading this.

It's a taboo subject - no one wants to admit they have problems in the bedroom, but sexual dysfunction is more common than is often thought and it can have psychiatric causes and implications as well as links to other health problems.

Today we'll take the mystery out of it for the sake of some open discussion on the subject.

Sexual dysfunction can occur in both men and women and can refer to a number of different things. Some of the most common types of sexual dysfunction are delayed or premature ejaculation, inability to have an orgasm, inability to sustain an erection or the loss of libido or interest in sex.

Experiencing sexual dysfunction should not be a reason for shame. There are many different causes of these symptoms. First, sexual dysfunction is a common by-product of aging as the body produces less testosterone (in men) and estrogen (in women).

Sometimes, this can be treated simply with hormone replacement therapy or the existing medications tailored to sexual function.

However, aging is not the only reason people experience sexual dysfunction. Sometimes, these symptoms can be early warning signs of heart trouble or other physical ailments or they can result as symptoms of a psychiatric illness such as depression or anxiety. When a person is experiencing these illnesses, it is very common to lose interest in sex.

Sexual dysfunction can also occur as a side effect of certain medications. Many of the commonly used SSRI antidepressants cause delayed ejaculation as a side effect. Due to this side effect, these medications are sometimes used as a treatment for premature ejaculation.

Another common reason for sexual dysfunction is simple performance anxiety. This could occur as situational anxiety about the act of sexual intercourse or the relationship or could be an extension of an anxiety disorder.

Other contributing factors could include an unsatisfactory relationship, self doubt, low self esteem, fear, previous negative sexual experience such as rape, lack of knowledge about sexuality or fear of interruptions (such as children bursting into the room).

Feelings of guilt about the situation, physical discomfort, use of alcohol or drugs, difficulties because of physical illness, feeling run down or tired or recent childbirth are also all situations that could lead to problems in sexual function.

In order to effectively treat sexual dysfunction it is important to first determine its cause. There are several different medications on the market for both men and women that are designed to treat sexual dysfunction that is the result of physical barriers.

If the difficulties are the result of the use of a certain medication such as an SSRI there are a number of different strategies. Sometimes adding a second medication such as bupropion can help, but it may also be necessary to change antidepressant medications.

This is something that should be discussed with a physician as the strategy may be different for different individuals.

If sexual dysfunction is occurring as a symptom of an underlying psychiatric problem such as depression or anxiety, treating the psychiatric illness may help.

Generally, it is important to deal with relationship issues, co-existing mental or physical illnesses and any other secondary issues that may be contributing to sexual dysfunction. Sexual education may also be beneficial.

When sexual problems are not dealt with, they can lead to further relationship tensions as well as more serious problems such as depression or low self worth. Don't be afraid to seek help if you are suffering with sexual dysfunction.

At Okanagan Clinical Trials, we have an ongoing study of erectile dysfunction and depression. If you are man experiencing both erectile dysfunction and depression but are not on antidepressant medication, you may meet the criteria for this study. Contact our office at 862-8141 for more information.


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