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What Is Sexual Arousal Disorder?

Physicians might recommend medication or therapy to treat sexual arousal disorder.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Sexual arousal disorder is a condition typically identified as an inability by a person to effectively respond to stimuli and situations that should otherwise evoke sexual arousal. This disorder can stem from both physiological and psychological foundations and may manifest in a number of different ways. Though the term may be applied to both men and women, it is used more commonly for women while erectile dysfunction (ED) is usually used in describing men. Sexual arousal disorder is typically classified in one of four ways: sexual desire disorders, arousal disorders, sexual pain disorders, and orgasm disorders.

In the past, sexual arousal disorder was typically referred to in women with the disparaging term “frigidity”, which often bore the connotation that a woman was cold or simply unwilling to be sexually active. The reality of sexual arousal disorder, however, is that it can stem from a number of different sources and may often affect women who wish to have a healthy sexual relationship with a partner, but are simply unable to do so. Sexual desire disorders often manifest as behavior in a woman indicating a lack of what are considered to be typical sexual desires.

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This may be due to being with a partner she finds unattractive or does not trust, or due to other psychological factors such as previous sexual trauma. Sexual arousal disorder is more commonly identified when a woman has sexual desires for her partner, however she does not physically respond in a way to make sexual intercourse possible. This often takes the form of inadequate vaginal lubrication which can lead to painful sexual experiences and similar physiological manifestations.

Sexual pain disorders are often similar to some of the physical manifestations of sexual arousal disorder. These may lead to painful experiences or uncontrollable muscle spasms making sexual activity physically unpleasant or otherwise impossible. Orgasm disorders are commonly identified as a woman who has sexual desires and is able to have healthy, comfortable intercourse but is unable to achieve orgasm during such activity.

All of these types of sexual disorders can often be treated through psychological, sexual, and medical methods of diagnosis and treatment. Psychological professionals often look for previous experiences that may have established unhealthy sexual attitudes in a woman, and such treatment can often involve couples counseling, especially if a lack of trust may have contributed to the disorder. Sexual therapists tend to investigate previous sexual experiences or trauma that may have caused a woman to be unable to have a healthy sexual relationship with a partner. Medical professionals typically look for physical issues that may be affecting a woman, such as hormone imbalances and drug or alcohol use.

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