Psychosexual Dysfunction



Psychosexual dysfunction is the inability to become sexually aroused or achieve sexual satisfaction in the appropriate situations because of mental or emotional reasons.

Although psychosexual dysfunction is not life threatening, it can have a major effect on your relationships and self-esteem.


Psychosexual dysfunction is a sexual dysfunction that is due to psychological causes rather than physical problems, medical illnesses, or the side effects of medication.

Some of the psychological conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Traumatic sexual experience, such as abuse or rape
  • Guilty feelings
  • Stress
  • Negative body image
Isolated Brain
Brain in silhouette
In psychosexual dysfunction physical problems have been ruled out. Mental or emotional problems are at the center of the dysfunction.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Reduced sexual desire or activity is common among women and men. Before treatment can begin, it is necessary to determine whether the dysfunction may be caused by physical causes like diabetes, heart disease , alcohol use disorder , heavy smoking, side effects of medications, or hormonal problems. Only sexual dysfunction due to psychological factors is called psychosexual dysfunction.

Factors that may increase your chances of developing psychosexual dysfunction include:

  • Stress or anxiety from work or social situations
  • Recent pregnancy—This can result from the changes in hormone levels that occur after pregnancy, from postpartum depression, or from stress and fatigue that follow pregnancy because of adjusting to a new baby.
  • Depression
  • Uncertainty about your sexual orientation
  • Worry about how you are able to perform sexually
  • Fear due to previous disturbing or painful sexual experiences or encounters
  • Conflict with your spouse
  • Religious, social, or cultural restrictions
  • Guilt
  • Financial worries
  • Family problems
  • Abusive relationship with partner
  • Negative body image



Symptoms of psychosexual disorder may differ for men and women.

Symptoms for men include:

  • Not able to maintain an erection
  • Ejaculations occur too soon
  • Ejaculations do not occur
  • Not able to become aroused when appropriately stimulated
  • Not able to achieve orgasm
  • Inhibited sexual desire

Symptoms for women include:

  • Not able to become aroused when appropriately stimulated
  • Not able to achieve orgasm
  • Inhibited sexual desire
  • An unconscious spasm or tightening of the muscles around the vagina that interferes with sexual intercourse— vaginismus
  • Experiencing pain during sex
  • Dry vagina


You will be asked about your symptoms, your medical history, and your sexual history. A physical exam will be done. Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are currently taking. Your doctor may also ask questions about your partner.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

You may have a psychological assessment. This can be done with:

  • A depression scale
  • A mini-mental state examination (MMSE)

If your doctor does not find anything significant from the examination or these tests, your doctor may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist.



Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. The most appropriate treatment will depend on the cause of the psychosexual dysfunction.

Some medications can alleviate the symptoms. However, to successfully manage psychosexual dysfunction, it is important to treat and manage mental and emotional issues.

Treatment options for psychosexual dysfunction include the following:


Medications may be prescribed to treat the symptoms, such as hormone therapy or medications used to treat psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression.


Psychotherapy allows you to talk and work with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or licensed counselor to figure out ways to deals with stressful or painful issues.

Sex Therapy

Sex therapists assist you by encouraging communication, teaching you about sexual fantasies, and helping you focus on sexual stimuli.

Behavioral Therapy

A psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or licensed counselor works with you to unlearn automatic behaviors.

Marriage or Relationship Counseling

Couples meet with a psychologist, social worker, or other type of mental health professional to discuss issues, including communications problems.


There are no known ways to prevent psychosexual dysfunction.

To help reduce your chances of developing psychosexual dysfunction:

  • Stay aware of your psychological or emotional health. Call your doctor or mental health provider if you feel any problems surfacing again, you are experiencing excessive stress, or you anticipate a stressful situation in the near future.
  • Spend time alone with your partner often, especially nonsexual intimate time, to help maintain the relationship. This will most likely lead to increased sexual interest.
  • Continue to communicate openly with your partner about intimacy and sexual issues.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Sexual Aversion; Sexual Apathy; Hypoactive Sexual Desire)


American Psychological Association 

Mental Health America 


Canadian Psychological Association 

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada 


AACE male sexual dysfunction task force. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of male sexual dysfunction: A couple’s problem—2003 update. Endocrine Practice. 2003; 9(1):77-94.

Erectile dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated February 29, 2016. Accessed June 16, 2016.

Female sexual dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated June 27, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2016.

Female sexual problems. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. Available at: Accessed May 13, 2015.

Premature ejaculation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated August 17, 2015. Accessed June 16, 2016.