Female sexual dysfunction

Alternative names
Frigidity; Sexual dysfunction - female


Sexual dysfunction in women may involve a reduction in sex drive, aversion to sexual activity, difficulty becoming aroused, inability to achieve orgasm, or pain with sexual activity or intercourse.

Traditionally, sexual dysfunction in women was thought to be largely due to psychologic problems. Recent research is beginning to uncover many organic causes for sexual problems in women. While many sexual problems have an underlying psychologic component, possible organic causes must be ruled out in the initial investigation.

Common Causes

  • Communication problems with partner  
  • Anxiety or depression  
  • Feelings of guilt and shame about sex  
  • Fear of pain, infection, or being pregnant  
  • History of sexual abuse  
  • Lack of appropriate stimulation  
  • Lack of lubrication  
  • Changes related to menopause  
  • Damage to nerves due to surgery or trauma  
  • Medication  
  • Infection or gynecological disease

Home Care

Home Care depends on the cause. Family planning and birth control may be helpful for problems caused by a fear of pregnancy.

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider if the problem is persistent or accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, which may include a pelvic exam. Your provider may ask detailed questions about relationships, current sexual practices, attitudes towards sex, medications you may be taking, and other possible symptoms.


Treatment for sexual dysfunction will depend on the cause. It may include changes in your current sexual activities, stopping or changing medications where possible, adding a new medication, or surgery. Referral to a specialist with expertise in treating sexual dysfunction may be necessary. Psychological counseling may be recommended.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.