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What is Female Sexual Dysfunction?

Female sexual dysfunction refers to continuous problems with sexual desire and response in women. This condition may impact a woman's ability to reach an orgasm. Female sexual dysfunction may also lead to pain during intercourse.

Female sexual dysfunction may occur for only a limited period of time or may impact a woman for her entire life. This condition may also be present only in certain sexual circumstances, such as sexual activity with a new partner. For some women, sexual dysfunction may occur in all sexual situations.

Female sexual dysfunction shows a disorder in an area of a woman’s life that contributes to sexual response. This can include emotional health, physical health, day-to-day experiences, and relationships, just to name a few of the many factors that contribute to sexuality. Female sexual dysfunction may be accompanied by anxiety, depression, and/or stress.

Signs of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Signs of female sexual dysfunction may vary from woman to woman. The main symptoms associated with this condition include:

Lack of sexual desire

A lack of sexual desire (or “low libido”) refers to low interest in sexual activity. A woman with female sexual dysfunction may have a lack of sexual fantasies and general feelings of sexual desire.

Lack of arousal during sexual activity

While a woman with female sexual dysfunction may have sexual desire, she may struggle to become aroused or stay aroused during sexual activity.

Difficulty reaching an orgasm

A common sign of female sexual dysfunction is the inability to reach an orgasm despite sufficient stimulation. Difficulty reaching an orgasm can disrupt the ability of a woman to feel sexually satisfied.

Pain and discomfort during intercourse

Sexual stimulation and penetration may cause pain or discomfort in women with female sexual dysfunction.

Lessened vaginal lubrication during intercourse

The lessened arousal and sexual desire that often accompanies female sexual dysfunction may lead to reduced vaginal lubrication during sex. This may increase the chances for pain or discomfort during intercourse.

How is Female Sexual Dysfunction Treated?

Unfortunately, a small portion of women who are impacted by female sexual dysfunction seek out treatment. There are effective treatment options for this condition that may help women achieve sexual satisfaction. Treatment options can include simple doctor-recommended strategies or more intensive methods like hormone therapy.

Common treatment strategies for female sexual dysfunction include:

  • Counseling
  • Increased communication with your partner
  • Devices to increase stimulation, such as vibrators
  • Lubrication to increase comfort during sex

More intensive treatment options include:

  • Estrogen therapy to aid sexual function
  • Androgen therapy to supplement testosterone levels, which may improve sexual function

Female sexual dysfunction caused by stress, anxiety, and/or depression may require a specialized treatment strategy. Therapy may be especially helpful in managing anxiety and depression.


Mental health issues are real, common, and treatable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 20% of those are considered serious. 17% of 6-17 year olds experience a mental health disorder. So the first thing to remember is this: You are not alone.

If you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, and particularly if those issues are preventing you from living life to the full or feeling yourself, you may want to consider professional help which can make an enormous difference.

And to be clear, you don't need to be going through a crisis in order to justify getting help. In fact, it can be advantageous from a treatment perspective to identify and deal with issues early and before they have a major impact on your life. Either way you should feel encouraged and able to seek help however you are feeling.

Mental health professionals such as licensed therapist can help in a range of ways including:

  • Help you identify where, when, and how issues arise
  • Develop coping strategies for specific symptoms and issues
  • Encourage resilience and self-management
  • Identify and change negative behaviors
  • Identify and encourage positive behaviors
  • Heal pain from past trauma
  • Figure out goals and waypoints
  • Build self-confidence

Treatment for mental health issues, and psychotherapy (sometimes known as 'talk therapy') in particular, frequently helps people to feel better, manage, and even get rid of their symptoms. For example, did you know that over 80% of people treated for depression materially improve? Or that treatment for panic disorder has a 90% success rate?

Other treatment options include medication which, in some cases, can be highly effective when administered in combination with psychotherapy.

So what is psychotherapy? It involves talking about your problems and concerns with a mental health professional. It can take lots of forms, including individual, group, couples and family sessions. Often, people see their therapists once a week for 50 minutes to start with and then reducing frequency as time goes on and issues subside. Treatment can be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few years depending on your particular situation and response.

Never think that getting help is a sign of weakness. It isn't. In fact, it can be a sign of strength and maturity to take the steps necessary to becoming you again and getting your life back on track.


Are you in distress? If so, or if you think that you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your mental health specialist.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.

If a loved one or friend is in danger of attempting suicide or has made an attempt:

  • Make sure someone stays with that person.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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