Sexual dysfunction treatment

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This page was clinically reviewed by June Bruce (BACP), Therapist at Priory Wellbeing Centre Canterbury, in February 2022.

Sexual difficulties or sexual dysfunction problems are common, can be caused by a number of factors, and often prevent a person or couple from engaging in or experiencing satisfaction from sexual activity. Sexual dysfunction can be caused by physical, psychological and emotional issues, with difficulties associated with sex arising under certain circumstances, and often due to a combination of factors.

Priory offers unique treatment plans created around your specific situation and needs. Depending on the severity of your condition, you can take part in hourly sessions with a highly trained psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist, or have a more structured treatment approach involving group therapy as part of a day care programme.

If you're experiencing sexual dysfunction problems, it means that the usual sexual response cycles of either yourself or your partner have become disrupted. This refers to the physical and emotional changes that happen during sexual arousal and participation in sexually stimulating activities. The emotional triggers for each stage of the cycle are similar for men and women.

It can be difficult and embarrassing to talk about sexual dysfunction, even with your partner. Many people will go through periods where sex isn't enjoyable and this can create a knock-on effect for further emotional feelings. This can put a strain on your relationship with your partner and your overall mental wellbeing.

What is sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction refers to problems preventing you from desiring or enjoying sexual activity. It can happen to both men and women at any stage of their life, although the chances of developing sexually-related problems increases as you get older.

Despite a relatively small amount of men and women getting professional help for sexual issues and sexual dysfunction, it's a very common complaint. Research suggests that around 15% of men and 30% of women report problems with sexual function, including finding it difficult to reach climax in women and premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction in men.

If you're having sexual difficulties, it can often be related to underlying physical conditions or emotional problems associated with stress, anxiety or depression. Depending on the nature and the severity of the sexual dysfunction problem, it can usually be treated effectively with either therapy or sexual behaviour counselling, sometimes in combination with medication that's aimed at relieving specific physical complaints.

Many problems relating to sexual dysfunction, in either yourself or your partner, can relate to disruption to your normal sexual response cycle. This involves the physical and emotional changes that occur in your body when taking part in sexual activity.

Understanding how both you and your partner respond to sexual activity can be important to treating any sexual dysfunction problems and ultimately maintaining a positive sexual experience. Behavioural and therapeutic treatment for improving symptoms resulting from sexual trauma or underlying mental health conditions can help to reduce or remove their impact on sexual difficulties.

What causes sexual dysfunction?

Sexual dysfunction is believed to be caused by a combination of factors relating to physical and mental health. Finding out which has caused your problem during your initial assessment at Priory will help to form the basis of your treatment plan. Causes may include:

Physical causes - problems with sexual function can be caused by a range of physical health problems including diabetes, heart and vascular disease, kidney or liver damage, and adverse physical effects associated with alcoholism and drug abuse.

Certain medications used to treat other mental health conditions, including antidepressant drugs used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, can impact sexual function. If your sexual problems are related to physical complaints, changing your existing medication to a drug with reduced propensity for side effects of sexual dysfunction can help.

Psychological causes - the impact of your mental health on sexual performance can't be underestimated. If you've been diagnosed with, or are experiencing symptoms of depression, then this can contribute to sexual dysfunction problems. Experiencing sexual trauma can cause you to associate sexual activity as being negative, while worries over body image and unresolved relationship issues can also be factors.

At Priory, we understand that taking the first steps towards recovery for a sexual dysfunction problem can be difficult. There's no need to feel embarrassed, particularly as sexual health issues are so common. This is why we offer you an initial assessment within a compassionate environment, helping you to understand the extent of your problem and the options that are available to you, in order to help you to enjoy sexual experiences again.

What are the signs and symptoms of sexual dysfunction?

The symptoms linked with sexual difficulties often differ between men and women, yet there's also considerable overlap. Shared symptoms include a diminished interest in sexual activity and challenges in arousal or orgasm. These shared experiences point to common psychological and physiological factors influencing sexual health. Additionally, individual experiences can be influenced by age, health, and relationship dynamics.

  • Lack of desire for sex
  • Difficulty with erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Delayed or absent ejaculation, even with sufficient sexual stimulation
  • Premature ejaculation, or inability to control the timing of ejaculation
  • Lack of interest in or desire for sex
  • Arousal problems, including inadequate vaginal lubrication before and during intercourse
  • Difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Inability to relax the vaginal muscles enough to allow intercourse
  • General lack of sexual desire or interest
  • Arousal disorders – difficulty becoming physically aroused or excited during sexual activity
  • Orgasm disorders – delay or absence of orgasm
  • Pain disorders – experiencing pain during intercourse
  • Childhood issues relating to negative associations with sex

Treatment for sexual dysfunction

At Priory, we recognise that everyone's situation is different, and ensure that everyone has a unique treatment plan tailored to their needs.

The majority of sexual dysfunction problems can be effectively treated by addressing the underlying physical or psychological problems. Dysfunction that's related to stress, fear or anxiety is treatable through therapy and counselling sessions that are aimed at improving education around your sexual issues, and communication with your partner.

Some of the medical and therapeutic methods that are used at Priory to treat sexual dysfunction, particularly if it's caused by stress, anxiety or depression, include:

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Talking therapies such as CBT take place with specialist therapists who are used to treating sexual dysfunction problems. The aim of CBT is to talk through any associated feelings of anxiety, fear, guilt or low self-esteem, which may be contributing to problems with sexual performance.

Your therapist will teach you methods of turning negative thoughts into positive ones, focusing on constructive and action-based techniques to improve your situation.

CBT can also help you to address any sexual trauma in the past, which may be linked to negative connotations experienced during sexual intercourse in the present day.

Psychosexual therapy and counselling

Psychosexual therapy is a specialised therapeutic technique that's designed to help people who are struggling with difficulties that are of a psychological/sexual nature. This form of therapy incorporates key behavioural and cognitive techniques, helping people to develop an understanding of their sexual problems, better express their sexual needs, and broaden their choices of sexual expression.

Psychosexual therapy can take place on either an individual basis or as part of a couples therapy programme, and provides an outlet for people to talk about their issues with a trusted and supportive therapist who specialises in resolving all kinds of sexual problems.


Sometimes, medication for other illnesses and mental health conditions can cause side effects which may affect your sexual performance. Changing your medication can help, while men with erectile dysfunction may benefit from drugs which increase the blood flow to the penis such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and Staxyn.

Sexual dysfunction treatment near me

We have sexual dysfunction treatment centres located throughout the country, ensuring that you can access the support you need in a location that's convenient for you. To find your nearest treatment centre, please use the search form below.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

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