If you are experiencing sex problems, you will probably be feeling very alone and helpless. Shame, fear and embarrassment are other common emotions felt by people living with sexual dysfunction, and many will suffer for months, even years in silence - too afraid to discuss their concerns with anyone.
What are sex problems?
A sex problem, or sexual dysfunction refers to a difficulty that occurs during any phase of the sexual response cycle. The sexual response cycle is the sequence of emotional and physical changes that take place when a person becomes sexually aroused and engages in a sexually stimulating activity, such as intercourse or masturbation. There are four stages to this cycle - excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution - and if the body fails to respond during one or all of these, it may signify a sex problem.
What causes sex problems?
Physical factors - Disabilities and illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism and drug abuse can contribute to sexual dysfunction. Individuals who have experienced major surgery, pregnancy and the menopause are also more likely to develop sex problems.
Psychological - Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can have a negative impact on sexual responses.
Emotional - Unresolved grief, betrayal, unhappiness in a relationship, and low self-esteem can take a toll on how people feel sexually. For example, if someone has experienced trauma such as sexual abuse, they may feel unable to fully participate during sexual intimacy.
Situational - A change in circumstances or living in a stressful situation (i.e. moving in with the in-laws, having a baby, or financial problems) can contribute to the development of sex problems.
Relationship counselling, or couples counselling is effective for helping couples to explore their physical communication and their understanding of what sex means to them. Sex may have become mechanical and a way to maintain a safe distance for one person. In such cases, the partner may mourn the lack of intimacy and trust which would allow them to feel safe and enjoy sex. Withdrawal of sex can happen when a person has no alternative way to express their anger and disappointment – so the forbidden feelings are acted out in the bedroom. These are just some of the issues that may be addressed in relationship counselling to help couples become more aware of each other's needs and desires and thus be able to reach a solution that works best for both of them.