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Why Many Women Don’t Seek Help for Sexual Dysfunction

 
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Too many women endure an unsatisfactory sex life and don’t look to their doctors for help, say researchers who study female sexual dysfunction. And apparently there are plenty of good reasons why.

Along with the explosion of awareness about male sexual dysfunction from Viagra’s debut in 1998 for erectile dysfunction, a growing interest has emerged in understanding the female sexual response. Many women, and multiple pharmaceutical companies, have longed for a female counterpart to Viagra to address sexual issues for women.

While that treatment goal has yet to be realized, a new appreciation has developed for the fact that women also experience clinical symptoms of sexual dysfunction and that sexual complaints among women are surprisingly common.

But studies show that multiple barriers still prevent women from asking for help or receiving the proper treatment they need for sexual dysfunction disorders. Up to 40 percent of women in one study, based on a web-based survey from the Department of Urology and Psychiatry at UCLA Medical School, reported that they did not try to get help for a sexual function complaint, although most of these women (54 percent) said that they would like to.

The most common reasons women refused to see a physician were that they were too embarrassed (22 percent), didn’t think that a physician could help them (17 percent), or it had never occurred to them to seek medical help for sexual dysfunction (12 percent). Older women in particular stated that feelings of shame, embarrassment, and fear were the reasons they didn’t seek professional treatment for sexual disorders.

The women in the study who had discussed their sexual issues with a physician expressed a “great deal of frustration and anxiety” about their treatments. Less than one half of the women felt that they were thoroughly examined by their physician, and less than one quarter thought their physician performed appropriate medical tests, made a diagnosis, developed a treatment plan, or followed up with the patient.

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