Sexual Health, Arousal disorder

One of the great things about women is that they tend to have brains that are oriented toward coping with multiple tasks. Historically, when men were single-minded hunters, women were the gathers. Women had other responsibilities, too, such as caring for their babies and children and tending the home environment. While these skills have many great applications in both past and modern day, they may contribute to the difficulties that many women experience in having satisfying sexual relationships.

Because women tend to be focused on many different activities it also can influence their ability to zone in on one particular activity such as sexual arousal. While it may seem funny to think that the dryer full of clothes or children's difficulty with homework might be distracting for women when sexual stimuli are present, there is some evidence to support how very different men and women are in this arena.

Until recently, understanding sexual dysfunction in women has not taken into consideration the unique aspects of how women process information and situations. For example, men tend to be more focused in their approach, and thus, are less likely to have psychic distractions interfere with their sexual function. In fact only 10% of men have erectile dysfunction caused by psychic issues. Even when these men are given a medical intervention, e.g., Viagra (which increases blood flow), 80 % of these psychically distracted men no longer had erectile dysfunction. The problem appears to be more complex for women. While contrasting men and women in these extreme ways may be a somewhat of a simplified view, it points out the need to study women's sexual response and dysfunction from a different perspective than has been applied to men.

A current model for women sees sexual function complaints as a complex interaction between emotional, medical (physical) and relationship concerns and thus need to be assessed and addressed at all of these levels. Sexual dysfunction is defined as a persistent and pervasive problem that affects the sexuality of an individual and is bothersome to the individual.

For women with cancer, sexual function can be affected in a variety of ways. Cancer and its treatments can disrupt the physical aspect of sexual function, relationship issues and the psychological well-being of the woman, including her self image and body image. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration and are potentially interactive. For example, a woman who is struggling with the psychological impact of the disease may feel less sexual as she is overwhelmed by anxiety associated with the treatment and diagnosis.

Her partner may be acutely aware of this and may pull back from sexual contact. When a partner pulls a way, a message may be sent to the patient that the partner is not interested, which could be interpreted to mean that the patient is no longer physically attractive or desirable to the partner. These thoughts can then contribute to feelings of loss, which increases the depression and psychological impact. While this is just one scenario, it points out how sexual feelings and activity may decrease as a result of many factors and can become rather complicated quickly once a cancer diagnosis is made.