An Integrative Health Approach to Common Sexual Problems

A well-balanced, happy, and wholesome life has many important components, including having emotionally and physically satisfying relationships with ourselves and with our partners.

When sexual problems arise, individuals often find themselves struggling with complex emotional responses: anger, frustration, depression, and embarrassment. A sense of failure and profound grief are common, potentially hurting many others areas of life.

A deep sense of shame may keep one from reaching out and asking for help, making it quite difficult to estimate the number of those impacted by various sexual dysfunctions. Statistics suggest that over 40% of women and a third of men admit experiencing various sexual problems during their sexually active years, and the actual numbers may be even higher.  This silence is tragic, leading to unnecessary suffering.

Common Sexual Problems

Men and women encounter gender-specific physical difficulties that create different symptoms based on their physiological differences, yet the essential anatomy of male and female sexual response cycle is similar, and the cause of the disorders may be the same as well.

Based on this, each gender's sexual problems can be differentiated by either the time of occurrence or the cause of the physical difficulty.

1. The Problem's Timing

The sexual response cycle is built of 4 components, with dysfunctions possible during any or all of these, preventing individuals or couples from having a satisfying sexual experience.

Excitement Phase

Problems in the excitement phase for both genders can manifest as lack or significant decrease of libido — the desire or interest in sexual intercourse.

Plateau Phase

In the plateau phase the desire for sexual intercourse exists, but there is a problem with experiencing adequate physical arousal and excitement. This difficulty can translate as an inability to achieve or maintain an erection for men, or lack of proper lubrication for women, leading to problems with the relaxation of vaginal muscles to allow penetration.

Orgasm Phase

During the organsm phase, the problems are related to not being able to reach climax at all, or only with great difficulty. For men, this can mean delayed or missed ejaculation versus the lack of conscious control of the timing of the ejaculation. Women may also have problems with not experiencing orgasms.

Resolution Phase

Problems are still possible in the final resolution stage, immediately after sexual intercourse which cause regular, mutually satisfying sexual encounters difficult.  Instant pain or prolonged discomfort may be experienced. For men, the refractory period (the time of recovery from sexual excitement, when no further physical arousal is possible) may be longer than ideal.

2. The Problem's Cause

Sexual problems of both genders can also be categorized based on the physical or psychological origin of the dysfunction.

Physical Causes

Various medical conditions are known to cause sexual dysfunctions. Some of these may be:

Certain medications are also known to cause side effects that negatively affect sexual function.

Psychological Causes

Stress and emotional problems experienced in virtually any area of life may easily lead to prolonged and serious sexual dysfunction. Some of these are:

Integrative Medicine in the Treatment of Sexual Problems

The good news to all those who suffer from various sexual disorders is that most of these conditions are relatively easy to treat. It is, however, crucial to seek the expert advice of a highly trained professional as early as possible.

The primary focus of integrative health care should always be to uncover the root of the problem and to develop a personalized treatment plan that is effective for each individual's unique needs. Your integrative physician will work with you to find real-life solutions for both physical and psychological dysfunctions.

The first step is a thorough evaluation since a definite diagnosis is usually required to set up a treatment regimen. The goal is always the overall improvement of health, which can be accomplished by making desirable lifestyle changes which may result in losing weight, normalizing blood sugar, decreasing cardiovascular disease, and/or rebalancing hormones. Supplementation may be necessary to optimize physical well-being and enable the body to support the recovery of optimal sexual function as well.

Integrative health care has an equally important role in aiding stress relief, mental health improvement, and finding lasting emotional balance; all of which are essential components in experiencing a general enhancement of health and betterment of sexual problems alike. It is imperative to develop a trusting and honest relationship with your integrative physician. Shame and embarrassment about these disorders may be difficult to overcome.  Since you deserve to enjoy a satisfying and wholesome sex life, make sure to mention any concerns during your regularly scheduled doctor’s visit.

Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D is happy to offer her highly personalized assistance if you or your loved ones are experiencing problems of sexual nature. Her professional skills as an integrative physician and her genuine care for her patients help to ensure that you receive outstanding and compassionate medical care.

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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