By Gila Brunner, Sex Therapist, Center for Sexual Medicine at Sheba Medical Center
Are you dissatisfied with your sexual function? Do you experience pain during sex, rapid ejaculation, or suffer from a lack of desire? Regardless of your specific problem, all of these concerns relate to dysfunctional sexual performance – and none of them will simply resolve on their own. Moreover, if left untreated, they can become permanent, causing personal stress and marital tension that will only intensify with time. So what should you do to improve your sexual performance?
The first step you should take when dealing with a sexual dysfunction is to acknowledge it. Recognize your problem and learn more about what causes it, be it emotional or physiological reasons. Sexual performance is associated with a wide range of factors, including health conditions, economic stress, life crises, family issues, medical history, and more.
Before seeking treatment, it is essential to do your homework. Identify the problem, understand whether it is emotional or physical, learn more about it and explore different treatment options. A good place to start with your research is professional websites where certified sexologists and sex therapists publish articles. In Israel, this includes reading articles by clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, and others who have been trained in sexual therapy and are registered with the ITAM (ISST) – Israeli Society of Sexual Therapy.
The root of any sexual problem is always personal and unique, but a typical cause is anything anxiety-provoking that occurred recently. Tension in your life can creep into bed with you, making it hard to keep your thoughts focused on sex. In sum, anxiety makes a bad partner to share a bed with, impairing sexual arousal, causing vaginal dryness or pain on penetration, and interfering with erection or orgasm. Some of the most common causes of stress that affects one’s sex life are a recent diagnosis of a medical condition or tension at work.
How do sexual problems affect a relationship? Often, they will cause the couple to avoid sex, pulling away from foreplay, even a hug and a kiss, like they would run from a fire. Naturally, this leads to distance and alienation.
For example, a man who suffers from rapid ejaculation may feel that he isn’t “fulfilling his role,” and is frustrating his partner. The shame of this dysfunction will keep him far away from her. On her part, she will respond by feeling unwanted and hurt, and possibly feel less love for him.
Instead of sinking into shame or settling into fear, now’s the time to get help from a certified sex therapist. This treatment helps individuals and couples solve problems in sexual function and intimate relationships. It addresses the physiological, psychological and interpersonal factors that may be causing sexual dysfunction.
Sex therapy is based on open sexual communication. By forging trust between the therapist and patient and between the patient and partner, problems that relate to both body and mind can be discussed and resolved. Different methods are generally used, such as enrichment with sexual information (videos, instruction books, pictures, etc.), behavioral exercises to improve sexual function (relaxation and self-control techniques), and sexuality-focused emotional therapy (exploring past experiences and previous relationships). If necessary, medical, gynecological or urological treatment can also be combined as a part of the therapy. You may be referred to a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floor conditions, or undergo therapy sessions to discuss any psychological background issues.
Until you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, it is not advisable to engage in sex that ends in frustration, disappointment and/or pain. Remember, it is possible and worthwhile to simply pamper your partner and be pampered. Any type of sexual activity that doesn’t end in negative feelings is encouraged.
Depending on the severity of your condition, sex therapy can be short and sweet – taking only one session to uncover the problem, get relevant information and recommendations, understand what changes are needed, and move on. In particular, the therapy process can be short when dealing with natural changes that occur to one’s sexuality, such as during menopause, pregnancy or after birth.
However, sex therapy usually lasts much longer and includes one to two sessions per week. In most cases, that’s because the problem arises from a backdrop of relationship difficulties or against a history of medical or mental health issues (such as past sexual trauma). But no matter how long it takes, the end result is a couple that comes out happy in body and mind.
It cannot be stressed enough that the best diagnosis and treatment for sexual problems is provided in reputable clinics or by qualified sex therapists. Check the ITAM website for a list of public clinics and qualified sex therapists.
At the Center for Sexual Medicine at Sheba Medical Center, the certified staff treats problems with desire, marital and sexual intimacy, difficulty with sexual arousal and orgasm, erectile dysfunction, sexual pain, rapid or delayed ejaculation and more. Contact us at: +972-3-5305970. Please leave a message on our 24/7 answering machine and we will get back to you on the next working day.