Let’s talk about Sexual Functioning Difficulties

I am a big believer in the importance of the language we use when talking about challenging and difficult subjects. This is especially important when discussing sexual issues such as when our sexual functioning does not work the way we want or are used to.

The medical and psychological community certainly does not help us with this issue. Common terms like “sexual dysfunction” only tends to take what are extremely common issues and make them into medical and psychological “disorders.” And let’s face it, who wants to admit to having a disorder?!

It is important to realize that every sexually active person, regardless of gender, health, fitness or sexual experience and prowess, will experience some sexual functioning difficulties during their lifetime. Yes, that means you too. And yes, these things often happen more than once in your lifetime (unless of course, you stop having sex altogether after the first time it happens – and who wants to do that!).

Whether we like it or not, experiencing difficulties with our sexual functioning is part of life. And the shame, embarrassment, and guilt associated with these difficulties does not help improve them, in fact, it only makes them worse!

Let us examine the most common sexual functioning difficulties both genders experience. Some will occur no matter which gender you are or identify with, and others are specific to the genitals you possess.

Men/Penis owners:

Erection difficulties – Every penis owner will have trouble either achieving or maintaining an erection until the point of orgasm at some point in life. There are many reasons for erection challenges.

  • Physical problems due to lifestyle and age. Issues such as high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, overuse of alcohol, and lack of exercise can attribute to physical causes.
  • Hormonal issues. While lower testosterone is more common in men in their 40’s or 50’s, we are seeing more and more men in their 20’s and 30’s needing hormonal supplementation.
  • Psychological issues. Usually what we referred to as ‘performance anxiety’, this is related to the pressure men put on themselves, as well as the pressure from their partners, to have erections “on demand.”

Orgasm/Ejaculation difficulties – While orgasm is not necessarily the point of having sex, it is a very enjoyable and important part for many. Here the problems tend to fall into two areas:

  • Rapid ejaculation. When someone ejaculates sooner than they, and/or their partner want them to, it is considered rapid ejaculation. By clinical definition it is considered either before the point of penetration or within less than two minutes upon penetration. It is important to know that the average amount of time to point of ejaculation is 3-7 minutes and not the 15 to 30 minutes people often see in porn.
  • Delayed ejaculation. This is where a person will often have difficulty getting to the point of orgasm/ejaculation. It can take an exceptionally long time (45 to 60 minutes) or not happen at all. Some find this happens more with aging, it can also be a side effect of some medications, especially anti-depressants.

Low Desire – Losing one’s desire for sex is far more common than most people realize, especially in men. It can be a challenging issue to treat, partly because there are so many different factors involved, and because there is great shame and embarrassment to even admit it is happening. Some of the common factors can be medication side effects, depression, excessive stress, relationship distress, or embarrassment about other sexual functioning problems such as erection or ejaculation issues.

Women/Vulva-Vagina owners

Lack of lubrication – Vaginal lubrication is an issue that affects most women at some time. There is no exact standard for ‘how much’ lubrication there is supposed to be, and it varies from person to person. It can be affected by hormone fluctuations, mood, level of arousal, stress, medications, as well as individual differences. In the short term, it can be easily remedied with a high-quality lube, however if it is an on-going issue, there may need to be some medical or psychological assistance needed.

Orgasm difficulty – The ability to achieve orgasm, either consistently or at all, is a common problem. While some women think they are unable to have an orgasm, this is almost never the case. Lack of orgasm can have many different reasons. Medication side effects, strict childhood upbringing about sex, lack of sexual arousal, or an unskilled partner can be some of the more common causes. Orgasm difficulty also falls into one of two categories:

  • Primary – where a woman has never had an orgasm, neither by self-pleasuring nor with a partner
  • Secondary – this is usually when a woman has had an orgasm by self-pleasuring but not with a partner

Sexual pain – Pain with sex can happen with either gender, however it is far more common with women. The problem can be physical or psychological in nature. Sometimes it can be related to complications due to childbirth. Often, there is not a physical reason even though the pain is very real. Psychological reasons include heightened anxiety regarding sexual activity, overly tense muscles, past sexual trauma or abuse, and/or lack of lubrication or arousal.

Low Desire – While many people joke that a lack of desire for sex is “normal” for women, the truth is, it is not. Even though our society considers it that way, low sexual desire is a problem worth addressing. Common causes can be excessive stress, depression, hormonal fluctuations, medication side-effects, relationship problems, and lifestyle issues such as poor diet and lack of exercise.

The enjoyment of our sexuality is a wonderful part of life, and to ensure that sex functions at its best, we need to take care of our physical, mental, and relationship health. This will lessen the types of sexual functioning problems we experience, as well as the severity. We also need to accept that problems with sexual functioning are a natural part of life and nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Having difficulties with sexual functioning does not make you a failure, however, how you manage your emotions about them can cause you to feel like one.

Some sexual functioning problems will need medical intervention to overcome. Most will need a therapist/coach who is trained and skilled in working with sexual functioning issues. Sometimes you will need to work with both medical and psychological experts to find the best solution.

Do not be afraid or ashamed of your sexual functioning problems. Ask for help and get back to enjoying your sexual self again.

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