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Female Sexual Dysfunction

Female sexual dysfunction refers to the inability to perform or reach an orgasm, a strong repulsion of sexual activity, painful sexual intercourse, or increased sexual interest. About 50 percent of women report issues of sexual dysfunction. Often there is a medical cause for sexual dysfunction, such as medication, infections, and menopause. However, some women experience problems of sexual dysfunction that are rooted in psychological concerns and hinder their ability to maintain relationships.

Anxiety or depression can cause or contribute to sexual dysfunction, as can intimate partner violence and on-going strife in personal relationships. It is also common for new mothers and pregnant women to experience similar issues with sexual dysfunction. Sexual difficulties and dysfunctions are extremely common.  Sexuality is an integral part of one’s life and sexual problems can have a negative impact on one’s life and relationship.  Women’s sexual problems are usually characterized by a disturbance in the ability to respond sexually or to experience sexual pleasure. 

These problems include:

  • Low sexual desire or interest
  • Loss of sexual arousal
  • Difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Inability to have intercourse because of vaginal muscle tightening
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Fear/anxiety over sexual activity or contact
  • Changes in sexual function associated with menopause, cancer, diabetes, depression, medication use, or other medical conditions

In couples:

  • Discrepant sexual desire
  • Difficulties in the relationship associated with sexual difficulties

The etiology can be multiclausal and can include medical, psychological, and psychiatric problems.  Depression and anxiety can cause or contribute to sexual problems.

How We Diagnose Sexual Problems

A thorough assessment by a professional trained in sexuality is important to guide treatment.  Usually, a multidimensional approach is used and may include:

  • Medical screening
  • Psychiatric/psychological assessment
  • Assessment of current sexual functioning by a detailed sexual history (obtained by self-report), which includes onset, course, expectation, and goals
  • Assessment of the relationship

Diagnoses for sexual dysfunction include:

  • Female Orgasmic Disorder
  • Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder
  • Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder

How We Treat Female Sexual Problems

If you are concerned about issues of sexual dysfunction, the behavioral health specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian are here to help. We offer individual evaluation and psychotherapy, as well as couples therapy, when needed, to help address sexual dysfunction.

Sex Therapy

Many of our board-certified psychiatrists and psychologists provide sex therapy. Oftentimes sexual problems are compounded by problems with communication between partners. Sex therapy addresses the underlying emotional issues causing and communication difficulties that are associated with sexual problems.  Sex therapy consists of discussions with a therapist as well as and behavioral tasks (structured exercises), which are used to overcome anxiety about physical intimacy and pleasure, heighten sensuality, and increase communication. Such tasks are done in the privacy of your home. Our therapists also work with other specialists, including neurologists, urologists, surgeons, obstetricians and gynecologists, and physical medicine specialists.

Couples therapy

Couples therapy to address couple’s problems and enhance communication regarding sexual interactions is another important component of therapy that can be used.

Appointments & Referrals

For more than 15 years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital among the top five hospitals for psychiatry in the United States. This high distinction is based on our reputation as leaders in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions. As leaders in the field, we are dedicated to providing high-quality care to patients with the most challenging disorders in our communities, clinics, inpatient units, and hospital day programs. 

If you think you or a loved one might benefit from the psychiatric services we offer for people with psychotic disorders, get in touch with us. Please note, if this is an emergency, please dial 9-1-1.

Refer a patient

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we treat a diverse patient population with conditions ranging from the most common to the rarest and most complex. Clinicians in private practice or at other hospitals are welcome to refer their patient to NewYork-Presbyterian. Please call 88-694-5700 to arrange a referral.