Effects Of Psychologic Factors on Female Sexual Function

Content Written By: Sandra Leiblum, Ph.D.

Although ideally women would enjoy problem-free, easily arousing, gratifying sex, far too many women complain of an array of sexual inhibitions, from concerns about being seen naked to worries about their smells, sounds or sensations during sex. There are usually a variety of factors at play here. Typically, a host of past and present contributions, or what we sometimes think of as predisposing, precipitating, maintaining, and contextual factors, are responsible for sexual discontents and difficulties.

Predisposing factors that may set the stage for later sexual problems include: constitutional (e.g., illness, anatomical deformities) and early life experiences, such as negative, neglectful or critical parents; an upbringing that invests sex with negative messages about sex or men,; untrustworthy or disappointing relationships; or past experiences of sexual, physical or emotional abuse or violence.
Precipitating factors are the immediate triggers for sexual problems. Although they vary enormously, they may include such experiences as an unwanted or traumatic first sexual experience, repeated criticisms from a spouse, the discovery of a partner’s infidelity or even a single episode of sexual humiliation. Repetitive or traumatic sexual experiences challenge or damage self-confidence and may be pathonomic for sexual dysfunction, even in reasonably resilient individuals.

Finally, maintaining factors such as relationship distress, performance anxiety, guilt, inadequate sexual information or stimulation, psychiatric disorders (especially high anxiety and depression), loss of attraction for a partner, impaired self-image or self-esteem, restricted foreplay, poor communication, and lack of privacy may prolong and exacerbate problems, irrespective of the original predisposing or precipitating conditions. Maintaining factors also include contextual factors that can interfere or interrupt sexual activity, such as environmental constraints or anger/resentment towards a partner.

Should predisposing or precipitating psychologic factors cause you distress, please consider consulting the sexual medicine healthcare professional.

References:

Althof SE, Leiblum SR, Chevert-Measson M, Hartman U, Levine SB, McCabe M, Plaut M, Rodrigues O, Wylie K. Psychological and Interpersonal Contributions to Male and Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction. In TF Lue, R Basson, R Rosen, F Giuliano, S Khoury, F Montorsi (eds), Sexual Dysfunctions in Men and Women (2004) Health Publications, Paris, pp. 73-116.

Leiblum S, Wiegel M. Psychotherapeutic interventions for treating female sexual dysfunction. World J Urol. 2002;20:127–136.

Titta M, Tavolini IM, Moro FD, Cisternino A, Bassi P. Sexual counseling improved erectile rehabilitation after non-nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomy or cystectomy—results of a randomized prospective study. J Sex Med. 2006;3:267–73.

diagnostic tool teaser

Share your Story

shareDo you have a personal health story that you would like to share with others? Many people, especially when newly diagnosed, find comfort in knowing that others are having a similar experience. Our story areas are a place to share experiences about living with and treating sexual health issues.

Join the Forums

joinDo you have a question, want to share medical advice, or just need to discuss your situation with someone else having a similar experience?

The forums are a resource for everyone to share and discuss their health and medical needs with others, and get answers to medical questions from the leading experts in the field of sexual medicine

Stay updated with our monthly newsletter

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter—Get updates about advances in the field, new products and medical trials in your area. Your information will never be shared without your consent.

Leave this field empty