Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Psychological Causes of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Depression spreads its tentacles into every area of your life, from getting up in the morning to eating habits to social interaction. It's no surprise that one of the first casualties of depression is your sex life. Lack of energy, low self-esteem, and even guilt about not feeling "normal" can all rob you of desire.

Shame, guilt, and conflicted emotions about your body and sexuality, commonly due to early childhood experiences and teaching, can lead to vaginismus, as can sexual abuse, rape, and bad sexual experiences.

In vaginismus, the muscles in the lower vagina involuntarily contract so painfully tight that it's impossible to engage in intercourse. Vaginismus is reversible with relaxation techniques that allow the woman, in stages, to untense enough to insert her own finger, then the man's finger, and finally his penis. Talk to your gynecologist for more information and instruction in these techniques.


For many women, sexual desire and sexual response require intimacy -- and this is a fundamental difference between male and female sexual response. Ruth Jacobowitz, health advocate and columnist, explains that, "Men give love to get sex; women give sex to get love."

Although that generality may not hold true for all men and women, it is commonly believed that if you don't have a good relationship with your partner, you won't have a good sex life either. Self-esteem, self-confidence, feeling attractive, feeling loved and cared for -- these are often essential ingredients for arousal in a woman.


The categories of physical and psychological causes of sexual problems can be further broken down into those that are simply due to differences between men and women. For example, disparities in sexual drive are unfortunately a common source of frustration, blame placing, and, sometimes, hostility.

The truth is, it's rare for a couple to share the exact same desire at the exact same time. Negotiation and compromise are usually necessary. A man's cycle of arousal is generally faster than a woman's, which explains why the mutual orgasm, so sought after, isn't easy to achieve. It isn't a lack of compatibility, as many couples may decide, but a difference of about 3 minutes -- the man's cycle of arousal takes about 10 minutes versus 13 or so for the woman.

Again, communication is crucial. Couples can try extending foreplay to allow the woman time to catch up to her partner. Another option is for the woman to train herself through focused fantasy or other means to climax sooner or, alternatively, the man, finishing first, can concentrate on the woman's desires. Couples also need to experiment to find what's enjoyable and what's not. It's easy for a couple to get into a monotonous routine. Remember, variety is important.

Someday soon, medications might exist that could help women solve their sexual problems. Go to the next page to learn more about these potential breakthroughs.