Female sexual dysfunction involves persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response or desire that distress or strain the relationship with the partner.

Many women experience sexual dysfunction problems at some point in their lives. Female sexual dysfunction can occur at any stage of life and it may be ongoing or occur once in a while.

There are more than one type of female sexual dysfunction, including:


  • Low sexual desire: Diminished libido or lack of sex drive
  • Sexual arousal disorder: Difficulty becoming aroused or maintain arousal during sexual activity
  • Orgasmic disorder: Persistent or recurrent difficulty in achieving an orgasm
  • Sexual pain disorder: Pain associated with sexual stimulation or vaginal contact


Sexual response is associated with a complex interaction of physiology, emotions, beliefs, experiences, lifestyle and relationships. Disruption of any of these factors can interfere with sexual drive, arousal or satisfaction. However, female sexual dysfunction is treatable.



Female sexual dysfunction can occur at any age. Sexual problems often occur when the hormones are in flux. Sexual problems can also occur due to major illness such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.


Symptoms of female sexual dysfunction include one or more of the following:


  • Low or absent sexual desire
  • Inability to maintain arousal during sexual activity or inability to become aroused despite a sexual desire
  • Inability to experience an orgasm
  • Pain during sexual contact or intercourse



Factors that contribute to sexual dissatisfaction or dysfunction include:


  • Physical: Physical conditions that may contribute to sexual problems include arthritis, urinary or bowel difficulties, fatigue, headache, pelvic surgery and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Certain medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines and chemotherapy drugs can decrease sex drive and impact the body’s ability to experience an orgasm.
  • Hormonal: Menopause causes lower estrogen levels that may lead to changes in genital tissues and sexual responsiveness. The skin that covers the genital area (labia) can become thinner, exposing more of the clitoris. The increased exposure can sometimes reduce the sensitivity of the clitoris. The vaginal lining also becomes thinner and less elastic requiring more stimulation to relax and lubricate. These factors can cause painful intercourse and delay orgasms.
  • Psychological and social: Untreated anxiety or depression as well as long-term stress can lead to sexual dysfunction. Long-term conflicts with the partner can also diminish sexual responsiveness.


Emotional distress can be both a cause and a result of sexual dysfunction.


Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of sexual dysfunction include:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Neurological conditions
  • Emotional or psychological stress
  • Certain medication such as antidepressants or high blood pressure medications