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How To Know If You Or Your Partner Are Dealing With A Sexual Dysfunction
At Modern Intimacy, we’re not huge fans of the word normal. Each person has their own relationship with sexuality, sexual wants, needs, and limits. Instead, if you think you or your partner might be struggling with a sexual dysfunction, try asking yourself if what you’re experiencing is negatively impacting your relationship and intimacy with your partner. If the answer is yes, you might be dealing with sexual dysfunction or desire disorder.
A sexual dysfunction essentially means that there is some aspect of the sexual experience that is not happening in the way a person might want or believe is possible for their body.
If you feel as if you or your partner is encountering issues around sexual dysfunction, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a second opinion from a professional. Many couples therapists and Certified Sex Therapists can assist couples in navigating any issues pertaining to sex and intimacy.
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Common Intimacy & Sexual Dysfunction Concerns
There are a few common concerns that people of all genders have, regarding sexual arousal and function. People experience various types of sexual dysfunction, whether they are single, dating or in a committed relationship. Difficulties with arousal disorders sexual function can be born out of past trauma, fear of vulnerability, intimacy or commitment, shame or feelings of inadequacy. They can also come from insufficient communication, stress, lack of sex education, unrealistic expectations, biological or medical causes, medication side effects, etc.
Difficulty or Inability Reaching Orgasm
Reaching an orgasm is not the end-all be-all of the sexual experience. It unrealistic to expect an orgasm in every sexual experience. However, when it is difficult to reach or non-existent, its absence can bring about tremendous frustration. There are myriad reasons an orgasm be not feasible or may take more time than you’d like.A lack of proper stimulation, biological or medical concerns, untreated mental health or psychological problems, desensitization due to excessive masturbation, shame, previous trauma, etc. can play a roll. Whatever the cause, a Certified Sex Therapist can help you find solutions.
Low libido can be caused by many factors and can impact people of every gender. A low libido can be characterized by a noticable decrease in a person’s sex drive that may be impacting their relationship or individual sexual health or satisfaction.
It can be difficult for couples to address the issue of low libido as partners may find the topic difficult to discuss as they wish to avoid embarrassment, shame, guilt, or awkwardness. However, talking through these issues as opposed to ignoring them can make a huge difference. It’s important to address these concerns with empathy and non-judgement.
Low libido can be caused or exacerbated by co-occurring mental illness such as depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), performance anxiety, certain medications, natural aging, low testosterone, chronic illness, life stressors, chronic illness, lack of sleep, and many other factors. It can help to connect with a physician to rule out any underlying medical issues.
After medical issues have been ruled out, if the problem still persists, working with a Certified Sex Therapist (CST) can be a helpful next step. CSTs can help you pinpoint the root cause of their issues and help develop a course of action as to how to improve your sex life, either indiviudally or with a partner.
Partners experiencing mismatched libidos is a common intimacy concern for couples. Humans are nuanced individuals, and everyone has different needs, turn ons, fantasies, expectations and fears, etc., that factor into libido. There is no objective right or wrong, when it comes to sex drive and libido. When people in a relationship have differences, it can create feelings of sexual and emotional disconnection.
It can be tricky deciding how to navigate different libidos. Loving partners don’t want to see their partner unhappy. Healthy, pro-relationship communication is needed to reach an understanding. Working with a couples’ therapist, specifically a Certified Sex Therapist, can help couples start, and safety move through, these conversations. Together, you can preserve each other’s needs, and co-create a hot and healthy sex life.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) can be characterized by an inability to maintain an erection during sexual intimacy. It can happen when a person is sexual with others or with themselves. An inability to remain erect can happen as a result of certain medications, heart disease, mental health concerns, or substances like alcohol.
People who experience ED may experience shame, embarrassment, and may even isolate themselves from romantic relationships to avoid the issue. However, ED is very common and can be treated both medically and psychologically.
It can be helpful to meet with a physician to rule out any medical issues or medication interference that could be impacting your libido or erection capacity. Working with a Certified Sex Therapists to address any psychological aspects that can impact erectile function.
Premature Ejaculation (Early Ejaculation)
According to The Mayo Clinic, as many as 1 in 3 men report having experienced early ejaculation (EE). Previously referred to as premature ejaculation, this sexual dysfunction involves a person with a penis ejaculating sooner than they would like during sexual activity.
This can happen during masturbation or during sexual activity with a partner(s). Early ejaculation may not be a concern if it occurs once in a blue moon. However, it may be more concerning if it occurs frequently enough that you believe it negatively impacts your relationship or sex life.
Pain During Sex Including Dyspareunia & Vaginismus
Two common sexual dysfunctions or challenges people with vaginas can experience are related to painful intercourse. Dyspareunia and Vaginismus are conditions that can be treated with this type of therapy, the help of a treatment team, including reproductive and mental health practitioners.
There are many physical, relational and psychological factors that can cause these sexual dysfunctions, including:
- Vaginal dryness
- Injury from pelvic surgery
- Certain skin disorders that cause
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Pelvic floor concerns
- Stress and anxiety
- Guilt or shame about sex
- Body image and self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- History of trauma
When treating conditions that cause pain during sex, it’s common to work with a gynecologist as well as a mental health professional in order to attune to both the physical and psychological impacts to your sexual health. While reproductive health professional can diagnose the condition, working with a therapist can help navigate the emotional or relational factors in order to help improve sexual functioning.
Dyspareunia refers to a condition in which one experiences recurring pain to their genital area before, during, or after sexual intercourse. While all genders can experience this condition, it’s most commonly seen in women.
The pain one experiences can manifest itself in various ways. It can look like extreme cramping before, after, or during sex, deep pain in the pelvis area, pain during certain sexual circumstances, frequent pain with tampon use, and extreme cramping that might feel like acute menstrual cramps.
Another form of pain one can experience that can impact their sex life is Vaginismus, or the involuntary tightening of vaginal muscles during sex. The tightening often occurs when penetration is attempted and can make sexual intercourse extremely uncomfortable when one doesn’t know what they are experiencing.
A person with a vagina can also experience this pain when they attempt to insert a tampon or any kind of touch in or around the vaginal area. While there is sometimes not a clear reason why one experiences vaginismus, there is often a connection between the condition and a history of sexual abuse and/or trauma.
Finding A Sex Therapist Near Me
Treatment for sexual issues can vary from person to person. The best strategy depends on your individual needs, lifestyle, medical and mental health considerations. One way to develop an inclusive sex therapy treatment plan can be by collaborating with a Physician and Certified Sex Therapist or sex-positive mental health professional.
Working with a doctor can be helpful to address and/or rule out any medical conditions that could be contributing to intimacy issues or sexual behavior, such as chronic illnesses or medication management. Working with a sex therapist or sex-positive mental health professional for individual therapy, couple’s therapy sessions, can help address any psychological components that may be preventing you from having the sex life you want.