8 Surprising Facts About Female Sexual Dysfunction

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on August 26, 2020
  • man and woman holding each half of a ripped sign with the word 'sex' on it
    Female Sexual Dysfunction Information
    There’s a lot of information out there about male sexual problems like erectile dysfunction (ED). Commercials and advertisements for ED solutions are plentiful. But you may not have even heard of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). Maybe it’s because women are less likely to discuss the issue. Whatever the reason, female sexual health is an important topic, especially for women who are having problems with sexual satisfaction. Here’s an open look at some interesting and perhaps surprising facts about FSD.
  • heterosexual couple in bed, woman with upset expression on face sitting on edge of bed with male partner blurred in background
    1. Female sexual dysfunction has both physical and psychological elements.
    Normal sexual function involves a complex mind-body connection. To physically respond, the woman’s nervous, circulatory and endocrine systems must work together. To mentally respond, your mind must deal with thoughts, emotions, experiences, attitudes and beliefs about sex. The mind-body connection is dysfunctional when either physical or mental issues, or both, interfere with a woman’s ability to enjoy sex.
  • man gazing at partner while she reads a book in bed
    2. Low sex drive (libido) is only one of several types of female sexual disorders.
    FSD can affect any of the phases of sexual function—desire, arousal and orgasm. Women with sexual desire disorder have low or no interest in sex. Basically, it’s a problem with libido. Sexual arousal disorder results in women having difficulty becoming physically or subjectively excited. A woman with orgasmic disorder can’t have an orgasm or has difficulty reaching orgasm despite adequate arousal. There is also a sexual pain disorder that causes pain with sex or genital stimulation.
  • woman laying on couch
    3. Having one female sexual disorder often leads to another one.
    In print, it’s easy to separate sexual dysfunction into different buckets. In reality, having difficulty in one phase of sexual function commonly spawns problems in another. It’s fairly easy to see how difficulty with arousal can lead to problems having an orgasm. Or how painful sex can lead to a lack of desire.

    But the interplay of dysfunction can be more complex. For example, the frustration of becoming aroused but not being able to reach orgasm can squash desire. And wanting sex, but not being able to become aroused can eventually kill desire too. As a result, it’s often difficult to tease out the baseline problem. It can be more helpful to focus on overall sexual function and satisfaction.
  • Women walking together
    4. Female sexual dysfunction is common.
    If any of this information hits close to home, you aren’t alone. Research suggests up to 50% of women will experience some type of sexual dysfunction during their lifetime. Low sexual drive or desire seems to be the most common one women report. But not all women are bothered by a lack of desire. And most women go through phases when they have some sort of problem with sexual function. It can be normal. It becomes a dysfunction when it is persistent or recurrent and causes distress or interferes with your relationships.
  • Middle aged Caucasian woman having hot flash during menopause
    6. There are risk factors for female sexual disorders.
    FSD becomes more common as women age. Usually, physical or hormonal factors are to blame with aging. Falling estrogen levels can cause havoc with a woman's ability to become aroused and have intercourse comfortably. FSD is also more common in women with mood disorders, such as depression, or who have a history of sexual abuse. Even previous negative sexual experiences can increase the likelihood of FSD. Having a major life stressor, such as the death of a loved one or a serious illness, makes experiencing FSD more likely as well.
  • Hand of woman holding vibrator in bed
    7. Female sexual dysfunction treatment involves multiple approaches.
    Some women may simply need estrogen replacement to solve their sexual problems. However, this option isn’t right for every postmenopausal woman and low estrogen isn’t always the cause. Usually, there is no single treatment for FSD. In most cases, you have to address both the physical and mental aspects of normal sexual function. Typically, this involves counseling that may include your partner and other non-medical treatments, such as devices. There are two approved medications for FSD—one for painful intercourse and the other for low desire. If you suspect you have FSD, talk with your healthcare provider about medications that might help you.
  • heart-risk-women-alcohol
    8. Drinking and smoking are known to inhibit sexual function.
    There are several lifestyle habits that can either blunt your sexual response or support a healthy sex life. Those that have a negative effect on sexual function include drinking alcohol and smoking. Limiting or avoiding them can increase your sexual response. On the other hand, regular exercise, relaxation, and leisure time can all have a positive effect on your sexual function. Exercise increases stamina and elevates mood. It can also help you see your body more positively. Relaxation and leisure time helps reduce stress and frees your mind to focus on sex.
8 Surprising Facts About Female Sexual Dysfunction

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Female Sexual Dysfunction. Endocrine Society. https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/female-sexual-dysfunction
  2. Female Sexual Dysfunction. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-sexual-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20372549
  3. Lightner DJ. Female sexual dysfunction. Mayo Clin Proc. 2002;77(7):698-702.
  4. Overview of Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/sexual-dysfunction-in-women/overview-of-female-sexual-function-and-dysfunction?query=Overview%20of%20Sexual%20Dysfunction%20in%20Women
  5. Phillips NA. Female sexual dysfunction: evaluation and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jul 1;62(1):127-136.
  6. Sexual Dysfunction. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9121-sexual-dysfunction

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 25
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.