Sexual Arousal Disorder

Sexual arousal disorder is an aberration during any stage of the sexual response cycle (desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution) that prevents the experience of satisfaction through sexual activity. A person with this disorder may be interested in sexual intercourse but has difficulty becoming stimulated enough to go through with it.

Sexual arousal disorders were previously known as frigidity in women and impotence in men, though these have now been replaced with less judgmental terms. Impotence is now known as erectile dysfunction, and frigidity is now described as any of several specific problems with desire, arousal, or anxiety.

For both men and women, these conditions may appear as an aversion to, and avoidance of, sexual contact with a partner. In men, there may be partial or complete failure to attain or maintain an erection, or a lack of sexual excitement and pleasure in sexual activity. In women, there may be an inability to lubricate enough to complete the sex act.

Considerations

Occasional impotence occurs in approximately 50 percent of American adult men, and chronic impotence affects about 1 in 8 American men, with the chances increasing as a person ages. Between 2 and 30 million men in the United States are affected by impotence problems, according to recent estimates. About 52 percent of men between 40 and 70-years-old have some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED).

Impotence can be classified as primary or secondary. A man with primary impotence has never had an erection sufficient for intercourse. Secondary impotence involves loss of erectile function after a period of normal function. This tends to occur gradually, except in cases caused by injury or sudden illness.

Treatment of secondary impotence is usually more successful than that of primary impotence because the patient has some history of normal penile function in the past.

There are several components required for an erection:

  • A responsive emotional state of mind
  • A normally functioning pituitary
  • Adequate testosterone
  • Adequate penile blood supply

Premature ejaculation (when orgasm comes on too quickly) is different from impotence, and a couple should seek counseling for this problem.

Male infertility is quite different from impotence. A man who is unable to maintain an erection may be perfectly capable of siring a child. An infertile male may be able to have intercourse normally, but he may be unable to father a child.

Sexual Arousal Disorder. Last reviewed 12/31/1969
  • Journal of Men's Health and Gender
  • Journal of the American College of Cardiology
  • National Institutes of Health - National Library of Medicine