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What Is a Psychosexual Disorder?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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A psychosexual disorder is defined as any form of sexual dysfunction that is caused by a psychological issue and does not stem from an actual physical illness. Factors such as stress, anxiety, or feelings of guilt can sometimes contribute to the development of a psychosexual disorder. Symptoms vary widely from person to person and from one gender to another and may include inability to climax, loss of libido, or even physical pain when attempting to engage in intercourse. Anyone who suspects the presence of any type of psychosexual disorder is encouraged to visit a doctor or licensed counselor for further evaluation and individualized treatment.

Some issues that are widely thought of as sexual perversions are often the result of some sort of psychosexual disorder. These issues may include sexual sadism, exhibitionism, or fetishism. In many of these cases, an underlying mental illness is diagnosed when the affected person undergoes a complete psychological evaluation. As some of these disorders can lead to potential illegal behavior or impulses, inpatient treatment in a medical or psychological facility is often needed.

Physical or emotional trauma may cause some people to develop a psychosexual disorder. Abuse or any type of sexual trauma can lead a person to have conflicting feelings concerning the physical and emotional aspects of a sexual relationship. Feelings of misplaced guilt are prevalent, sometimes causing the affected person to become confused or experience extreme anxiety at the thought of receiving pleasure from an activity that once caused pain and fear.

Gender identity confusion is still believed to be a psychosexual disorder by some medical professionals, although research has begun to suggest that this issue may actually have a physical or biological cause. Many doctors and therapists have moved away from referring to gender issues as a disorder. Those with what is sometimes termed gender identity disorder do not identify with the gender assigned at birth, instead choosing to live as a member of the opposite sex.

In order to be effectively diagnosed with a psychosexual disorder, a variety of medical tests are typically performed in order to make sure there are no physical reasons for the sexual dysfunction. If no medical issues are found, the doctor will usually refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist for a complete evaluation. Prescription medications coupled with some type of psychological therapy are the usual treatment options for this type of disorder. If the patient is involved in a relationship, couples counseling may be recommended as a part of the treatment process.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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