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The 411 on Dysfunction With Physical Intimacy

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

An unhappy couple in bed dealing with physical intimacy issues

Solving intimacy issues might be easier than you think

Key takeaways:

  • Physical intimacy dysfunctions happen to men and women of all ages

  • There are physical and psychological intimacy disorders

  • Health problems such as diabetes and nerve damage can interfere with intimacy

  • Emotional issues such as depression and poor body image can contribute to intimacy dysfunctions

Lovemaking can be a vibrant, healthy part of a relationship. While it isn’t absolutely necessary, it can be very important to many couples. That’s why when something goes wrong with it, it can feel like a horrible thing.

Physical intimacy disorders are natural and can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. Even so, dealing with this type of issue can be physically and emotionally taxing.

Fortunately, there are many effective ways to deal with this common problem. We’ll discuss the details of intimacy dysfunctions, what causes them, and what you can do to improve things.

Intimacy dysfunctions defined

Physical intimacy dysfunctions are any issues that stop a person from enjoying intimate activities. Almost 45% of women and 31% of men report some form of dysfunction with coital relations.

These dysfunctions typically fit into four categories:

  • Arousal problems: The inability to achieve physical arousal during intimate activity

  • Desire disorders: A lack of interest in intimate acts

  • Issues with climaxing: A delay or absence of climax

  • Pain issues: Pain during intercourse

People may experience one or more issues in these categories. There are a variety of specific disorders under this umbrella, including:

  • Vulvodynia

  • Genital Arousal Disorder

  • Premature Ejaculation

  • Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder

  • Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

  • Orgasm Disorder

There is a misconception that people (men in particular) don’t experience any of these issues until later in life, but dysfunctions of this sort can happen at any age. While age can be a factor, there are several other causes as well.

Physical intimacy dysfunction causes

There are many reasons someone might experience issues with physical intimacy. Healthcare professionals divide them into two categories: physical and psychological. For most people, there is more than one cause.

Physical causes

Physical issues that happen in the body can prevent the usual enjoyment of intimate pleasures. They can include:


A major injury such as head trauma, organ failure, or broken bone can cause a lapse in desire.

Nerve damage

Damage to nerves from trauma or fever can result in intimacy problems when the nerves aren’t firing as they should.

Hormonal imbalance

An imbalance of hormones can wreak havoc on all parts of your life, including intimacy. Most people think of menopausal women as having this problem, but it can happen to men, also.


Vascular issues, nerve problems, and a host of accompanying health issues make diabetes an intimacy killer in many cases.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure reduces blood flow to erotic organs and diminishes desire.

Menopause and pregnancy

As she ages, changes in a woman’s body can cause temporary glitches in her erotic desires. Menopause and pregnancy cause hormonal changes and myriad emotional issues that interfere with passion and desire.

Most of these causes also require medication, which often makes things worse. Physical causes of intimacy disorders can also exacerbate psychological ones.

Psychological causes

Sometimes, these types of dysfunctions are psychologically induced. Relationship issues, body image concerns, performance worries, and other mental anguish concerns can cause problems with intimacy.

Traumatic life experiences like rape and abuse can also be causes. Not all reasons are related to intimacy. Work-related stress and worries about bills and finances can also be the culprit.

Solutions for intimacy dysfunctions

The first step to successful treatment is a proper diagnosis, which begins with a physical and a set of health history questions. Diagnostic tests can show if a medical issue is an instigating factor.

Once all of the pertinent information is revealed, a doctor can recommend the best treatment based on the underlying cause. There are several options:

Education and communication

Talking openly with your partner about your needs and concerns goes a long way in helping with intimacy issues. Educate yourself about what’s worrying you and discuss it with your healthcare professional to find the best way to address the situation.


Medication can cause this dysfunction, but it can also be the solution. Some medications increase blood flow to erotic organs and treat dips in hormones that tamper desire.

Mechanical aids

Penile implants, vacuum pumps, and other devices can help stimulate eroticism. Mechanical aids are usually used when the problem is not medical and will eventually disappear.

Psychotherapy for related issues

Since many intimacy dysfunctions are caused by previous trauma, psychotherapy is often the best treatment. Patients can address the root causes of their dysfunction and mentally heal to have a better relationship with intimacy.

Couples therapy

Couples therapy is a type of talk therapy that addresses intimacy, infidelity, and other hotspots in romantic relationships. During these talk therapy sessions, couples are encouraged to talk about their beliefs and concerns to find a way to solve their problems.

These topics aren’t always easy to discuss. The most important part of any solution is open and honest conversation.

Sexual dysfunction doesn’t have to be a taboo topic. It can happen to anyone for all sorts of reasons. A quick chat with your healthcare provider could be all it takes to solve the problem.

Physical intimacy dysfunction isn’t a hopeless issue

Physical intimacy dysfunction isn’t a death sentence for your love life. There are many solutions. The Love Discovery Institute is an elite emotional and cognitive wellness center that offers therapy for those experiencing distressing issues.

Our therapists understand relationships well and help people develop significant and authentic relationships. If you are having challenges with physical intimacy, we can help.

The team at Love Discovery is ready to welcome you with open arms. If you’re ready to start therapy to help improve your relationship, make an appointment with any of our therapists today. Feeling hesitant about how we can help? Call 305.605.LOVE (5683).

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