In many cultures, sex is a taboo topic so there is no open and non-judgmental communication around it. This gives rise to wrong information being transmitted around and stigma about seeking help.
This article aims to debunk some myths that all sexual problems are biological and to provide you with information and courage to seek help if you need it.
Sex is a part of everyone’s lives, yet so little is talked about it within families or with professionals. Most individuals get their information online from non-scientific sources or from friends with more experience or with more opinions. Is this a reliable source?
Something you can do to combat this is to advise your friend to seek professional help or talk openly with your kids about it. Let’s remove the shame from talking about sex and accept that it is normal, natural, and healthy (Pancake, 2012).
Sex is about pleasure and mutual connection between individuals (Leiblum, 2006). Let’s see what we can do if things do not go as smoothly as we want.
If you are experiencing any difficulties with having or keeping an erection, having an orgasm, pain, or lack of desire, please consult your local general practitioner. By doing this, you could rule out a biological cause of your concerns. Many of the above-mentioned issues could be signs of biological problems; thus, further investigation must be initiated.
If no biological cause was found, the concern is most likely of psychological nature. An example of how this could happen is the following: An individual diagnosed with depression has lost the ability to enjoy pleasurable activities such as hanging out with friends, and going on dates but also stopped masturbating or even thinking about sex. There are many reasons why this happens, such as negative thoughts and interpretations getting in the way or low self-confidence. Nevertheless, therapy could help with this. It can help the individual be more positive, think hopefully, be active again, and regain a sense of enjoyment and pleasure. The same could happen with other sex-related problems.
For which sexual problems can a psychologist help?
- Lack of desire, lack of sexual thoughts.
- Difficulty having an orgasm or reduced intensity of orgasmic sensations.
- Pain during sex or inability to have penetrative sex.
- Difficulty getting or keeping an erection (erectile dysfunction).
- Premature/delayed ejaculation or other ejaculation problems.
- Sexual aversion (fear, disgust when engaging in sexual contact with a partner or when anticipating it).
All these difficulties could either be acquired or lifelong. Acquired could be that after a normal sexual function, something changed and now you cannot perform as usual. Lifelong means that the disturbance has been present since the individual became sexually active. The concerns could either be situational, limited to certain situations, partners, or circumstances, or it could be generalized.
Therapy could also be of help for individuals who experienced sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. These experiences can be traumatic and might even prevent you from dating again, taking pleasure from sex, or approaching men/women. In that case, sex and trauma therapy could be integrated so individuals could process the unpleasant experience, move forward from it, and regain control of their sexual encounters (Barnes, 1995).
More than this, we could also help with providing scientific information on body anatomy, pleasure points, and how to get the best out of the experience. This is more about enhancing your experience and finding out more about the female/male body.
This article shows that a therapist could help with both alleviating some symptoms /concerns and with enhancing your experience. Regardless of which path you need, personalized therapy will be provided to tailor to your specific situation.
Is therapy effective?
According to research, therapy for sex-related problems is fairly effective in ameliorating the concerns (Hawton et al., 1992; Hawton et al., 1986; Frühauf et al., 2013).
If this article made you uncomfortable, this is already a sign that you internalized the shame about sex. What you can do is challenge yourself to talk about it and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I feel uncomfortable?
- What’s so bad about this topic?
- Have you always felt weird talking about it, or can you pinpoint it to a moment?
- Is there open communication in your household about it?
- What is stopping you from being more open about it?
The answer to these questions might surprise you and reveal new aspects about yourself and your thinking process.
If you identify with any of these concerns, please ask for help so you can reach your full potential, redesign your life and take control of it. No issue is too small; if it bothers you, it is worth changing it.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th ed.Arlington: American Psychiatric Association.
Barnes, M. F. (1995). Sex therapy in the couple’s context: Therapy issues of victims of sexual trauma. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 23(4), 351-360.
Frühauf, S., Gerger, H., Schmidt, H. M., Munder, T., & Barth, J. (2013). Efficacy of psychological interventions for sexual dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(6), 915-933.
Hawton, K., Catalan, J., Martin, P., & Fagg, J. (1986). Long-term outcome of sex therapy. Behavior research and therapy, 24(6), 665-675.
Hawton, K., Catalan, J., & Fagg, J. (1992). Sex therapy for erectile dysfunction: Characteristics of couples, treatment outcome, and prognostic factors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 21(2), 161-175.
Leiblum, S. R. (Ed.). (2006). Principles and practice of sex therapy. Guilford Press.
Pancake, R. (2012). Sex shame and pleasure (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Northridge).
About the Author
Andreea Pana is an adult clinical psychologist in training that has an affinity for a mindfulness-based approach to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a Rogerian counseling mindset, that emphasizes empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness as pillars of a therapeutic alliance.