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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 an individual 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 or sexual dysfunction 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 may 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 are 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 very difficult and embarrassing to talk about sexual dysfunction, even with your partner. Many people will go through periods where sex is not enjoyable and this can create a knock-on effect for further emotional feelings which can put a strain on your relationship with your partner and your overall mental wellbeing.

Who is affected by sexual dysfunction?

Anyone can be affected be sexual dysfunction problems. Adults who are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, married or single may be prone to issues regarding sexual performance and relationships.

Research in Europe has suggested that men in the UK are more likely to seek help for problems such as early ejaculation and erectile dysfunction than their European counterparts, whilst British women are more likely to experience a lack of interest in sex and a lack of pleasure.

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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 is 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 is 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 is 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.

What is sexual dysfunction?
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