The Complicated Problem of Sexual Dysfunction
The term sexual dysfunction describes various symptoms that affect the sexual experience in both men and women. One of the most common is Erectile dysfunction in men. It is estimated that three million men in Canada over the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction characterized by difficulty getting and maintaining an erection. A similar number of women in Canada experience reduced libido, vaginal dryness, dyspareunia (pain with intercourse) and difficulty reaching orgasm. These symptoms often appear after childbirth and can become more severe with age.
The physical characteristics of sexual dysfunction can lead to a complicated downward spiral of emotions, including anxiety and depression. These emotional symptoms and the notion that sexual dysfunction is an inevitable part of ageing can prevent people from seeking solutions.
A Chicken-and-Egg Sort of Problem
What makes the combination of sexual dysfunction and mental health issues even more convoluted is that the cause of either one is sometimes not clear or easy to diagnose. In fact, there is evidence that people experiencing depression and other mental health issues are 50–70% more likely to also develop sexual dysfunction in one of its many forms. Meanwhile, sexual dysfunction with a physical cause – such as poor pelvic health – can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders by 130–200%.
The lack of education on these subjects and their connection makes it much more difficult to solve them. We believe that a combined approach of educating patients and health care providers about the physical causes of sexual dysfunction and treatment options available can help clear the air and get more people on the road to recovery.
You don’t say…
While things are changing, few people talk about depression and even fewer talk about sexual dysfunction. So separating physical symptoms from the emotional is difficult. People experiencing erectile dysfunction, difficulty becoming aroused, or other problems are unaware of the connection. That complicates the process of finding solutions.
General practitioners are not always equipped to diagnose physical causes of sexual dysfunction. Many are more likely to assume mental health is the cause than the other way around.
Alternatively, if a patient chooses not to talk about their sexual symptoms and doctors don’t explicitly ask, we end up with a whole lot of people possibly not getting the care they really need.
Treating Mental Health Issues First
Opting to treat depression and anxiety rather than the physical dysfunction can be a conscious or unconscious outcome of a visit to the doctor. Patients who arrive ready to discuss their mental health can leave with a prescription for antidepressants without letting on any other concerns.
If the subject of sexual dysfunction does come up, there is an opportunity to talk about treatment options. However, doctors may suggest treating erectile dysfunction with drugs or injections. Womens’ issues may be treated with hormone therapy which has its own set of complications and risks.
As unsettling as sexual dysfunction can be, the perception about treatment maybe even worse. And the problem with treating the mental health issues first is that the physical symptoms remain untreated.
When Sexual Dysfunction is Caused by Pelvic Dysfunction
Living with sexual dysfunction without knowing about an acceptable solution can lead to a sense of hopelessness. It can wear you down and lead to depression, performance anxiety, poor body image and low self-esteem. But it could be different if people knew that there were treatment options that did not involve surgery or drugs, procedures that could be done discreetly without taking off your clothes or subjecting yourself to poking and prodding. Our approach to eliminating this conundrum is to educate and make people aware that there are treatments that meet those criteria.
In the absence of other factors, erectile dysfunction, dyspareunia, dryness and other symptoms are often caused by poor pelvic floor health. Treating depression and anxiety without treating the physical symptoms only solves half of the problem. But the more information patients and healthcare providers have about comfortable and non-invasive treatment options for sexual dysfunction, the better to make informed choices.
We have seen first-hand the effect that treating pelvic floor dysfunction can have on restoring confidence and quality of life. So we will keep on spreading the news and getting the word out that you don’t have to live with sexual dysfunction or rely on drugs for a temporary fix. Want to learn more? Get in touch with us, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Learn more about our workshops and services