Sexual arousal disorder is often referred to as male erectile disorder and female sexual arousal disorder. Male sexual arousal disorder is more commonly known in Australia as erectile dysfunction. People with sexual arousal disorder may experience frequent sexual urges, fantasises and a strong desire to engage in sex. But their problem is the difficulty in becoming sexually aroused. Males have difficulty getting and retaining an erection. While females cannot achieve or maintain adequate lubrication.

The old derogatory terms for male and female sexual arousal disorder were impotence and frigidity. Men who suffer from sexual arousal disorder generally experience increased levels of anxiety. Women normally do not experience the same increased levels of anxiety with sexual arousal disorder as men. Men who are unable to achieve or maintain an adequate erection for penetration may become anxious and avoid any form of sexual encounter. Women who experience sexual arousal disorder can choose to use a commercial lubricant. A woman’s arousal may decrease at any time, but men generally experience erectile dysfunction as they grow older.

It is unusual for a man never to achieve an erection. In many cases men are able to achieve a full erection when masturbating. It may only be when they attempt penetration that the problem occurs. The statistics of erectile dysfunction are surprisingly high and the potential for erectile dysfunction increases as a man ages. Approximately 5% of the male population aged between 18 and 59 experience erectile dysfunction. While approximately 60% of men over 60 experience erectile dysfunction. Male erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual problem men seek help for from their GP or sexual health clinic.

It is harder to estimate the number of women who are experiencing female sexual arousal disorder. Currently there still appears to be a strong belief among women that the absence of arousal is not a problem. If women do not acknowledge sexual arousal disorder as a problem, then they are less likely to consider it a condition and seek appropriate help.

There are many reasons why a man may experience erectile dysfunction. Commonly prescribed medications for anxiety, depression, and hypertension can lead to erectile dysfunction. Abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs can also be a common cause. Neurological and vascular disease may contribute to erectile dysfunction. Reports have indicated that 28% of men with diabetes experience complete erectile failure. Chronic illness can also be a contributing factor to erectile dysfunction. Men who have had heart surgery may avoid sexual intercourse under the belief that sexual exertion may lead to a heart attack.

For many years anxiety was considered the main cause for psychological erectile dysfunction. But recent research has challenged this belief. For many men and women anxiety can actually increase performance. If anxiety does not generally decrease performance, then what does? A partial answer is distraction. Men are less likely to achieve a satisfactory erection if they are distracted. For instance, if you are thinking about work issues or relationship problems you are distracted and not fully engaged in the sexual experience. Other research has indicated that men who may have had several negative sexual experiences are likely to avoid sexual cues. A man may also experience negative self talk for example; “I’m going to make a fool of myself because I will never be able to get aroused.” Research has shown that arousal increases a person’s attention to focus more intently and consistently. But for some men the focus is on their negative self talk which makes it nearly impossible to become sexually aroused.

If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, then arranging to visit a sexual health specialist may assist.

Christopher Swane - Counselling And Psychotherapy For Men - Wellington New Zealand