female sexual arousal disorder

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Related to female sexual arousal disorder: Hypoactive sexual desire disorder, Sexual aversion disorder

Female Sexual Arousal Disorder



Female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) occurs when a woman is continually unable to attain or maintain arousal and lubrication during intercourse, is unable to reach orgasm, or has no desire for sexual intercourse.


The disorder typically affects up to 25 percent of all American women, or an estimated 47 million women. Three-fourths of women with FSAD are postmenopausal. Women describe it as being "unable to get turned on," or being continually disinterested in sex. It is also called "frigidity." Other terms for the disorder include dyspareunia and vaginismus, both of which involve pain during intercourse.

Causes and symptoms

There are numerous causes of this disorder. They include:
  • physical problems, such as endometriosis, cystitis, or vaginitis
  • systemic problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or hypothyroidism. Even pregnancy or the postpartum period (time after delivery of a child) may affect desire. Menopause is also known to reduce sexual desire.
  • medications, including oral contraceptives, antidepressants, antihypertensives, and tranquilizers
  • surgery, such as mastectomy or hysterectomy which may affect how a woman feels about her sexual self.
  • stress
  • depression
  • use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarette smoking
Symptoms vary. A woman may have no desire for sex, or may not be able to maintain arousal, or may be unable to reach orgasm. She may also have pain during sex or orgasm, which interferes with her desire for intercourse.


To make a diagnosis, a woman's physician—either family doctor, gynecologist, or even urologist—takes a complete medical history to determine when the problem started, how it presents, how severe it is, and what the patient thinks may be causing it. The doctor will also conduct a complete physical examination, looking for any abnormalities in the genital region


The physician should start by providing education about the disorder and recommending various nonmedical treatment strategies. These include:
  • use of erotic materials, such as vibrators, books, magazines and videos
  • sensual massage, avoiding the genitals
  • position changes to reduce pain
  • use of lubricants to moisten the vagina and genital area
  • kegel exercises to strengthen the vagina and clitoris
  • therapy to overcome any relationship or sexual abuse issues
Medical treatments include:
  • estrogen replacement therapy, which may help with vaginal dryness, pain and arousal
  • testosterone therapy in women who have low levels of this male hormone (Side effects, however, may include deepening voice, hair growth, and acne)
  • the EROS clitoral therapy device (EROS-CTD), recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration; a small vacuum pump, placed over the clitoris and gently activated to provide a gentle suction designed to increase blood flow to the region, which, in turn, helps with arousal
  • using the herb yohimbine combined with nitric oxide has been found to increase vaginal blood flow in postmenopausal women and thus help with some forms of FSAD

Alternative treatment

Natural estrogens, such as those found in soy products and flax, may be effective. Herbal remedies include belladonna, gingko, and motherwort. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove these herbs actually help. Some women squirt vitamin E in their vagina to increase lubrication.
Women may also want to see a sexual therapist for additional help.


Generally, once women seek the appropriate help they are quite likely to find a way to resolve their problems. Often, a holistic approach, using physical as well as emotional therapies, is required for success.


Maintaining a close and open relationship with a partner is one way to avoid the emotional pain and isolation that can lead to sexual dysfunction. Additionally, women should learn if any medications they take affect sexual function, and should refrain from alcohol and drugs and quit smoking. Women who have anxieties and fears about sexual intercourse, whether because of earlier abuse, rape, or a prudish upbringing, should deal with those issues through therapy.



Berman M. D., Jennifer, Berman Phd, Laura, and Elisabeth Bumiller. For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction and Reclaiming Your Sex Life. Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 2001.
Rako, M. D., Susan The Hormone of Desire: The Truth About Testosterone, Sexuality, and Menopause. Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Reichman, Judith. I'm Not in the Mood: What EveryWoman Should Know About Improving Her Libido. Quill Publishing, 1999.


"Consumer Update: Female Sexual Problems." American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy June 14, 1999.
"Restoring Sexual Health." Consumer Reports On Health. March 2001: 8-10.


Female Sexual Medicine Center UCLA Medical Center. 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 520 Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310) 825-0025 www.newshe.com.
National Women's Health Resource Center. 120 Albany Street Suite 820 New Brunswick, NJ 08901. (877) 986-9472. www.healthywomen.org.

Key terms

Dyspareunia — pain in the pelvic area during or after sexual intercourse.
Vaginismus — An involuntary spasm of the muscles surrounding the vagina, making penetration painful or impossible.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. an individual of the sex that produces ova or bears young.
female orgasmic disorder persistently delayed or absent orgasm in a female after a normal sexual excitement phase of adequate focus, intensity, and duration. See also male orgasmic disorder.
female sexual arousal disorder a sexual dysfunction involving failure by a female either to attain or maintain the lubrication and swelling response of sexual excitement during sexual activity, after adequate stimulation, causing significant distress or interpersonal difficulty. Both physiological (such as endocrine) and psychological factors may be involved. Formerly called frigidity. See also male erectile disorder.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

female sexual arousal disorder

According to the DSM-IV, the essential feature of this condition is a persistent or recurrent inability to attain, or to maintain until completion of the sexual activity, an adequate vaginal lubrication-swelling response of sexual excitement. In order to establish this diagnosis, the disturbance must cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty, and the difficulty cannot be attributed to a medical condition, substance abuse, or medications.
See: male erectile disorder
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners
References in periodicals archive ?
Additionally, the company has been selected to present its results from a study entitled, "Use of Standardized Visual Sexual Stimulations (VSS) for in-Clinic Evaluation of Pharmacologic Treatment of Female Sexual Arousal Disorder," at the Western Sectional American Urological Association Meeting in Kauai, HI this October.
Dare Bioscience announced that it has met the funding requirement for obtaining an exclusive worldwide license to advance SST-6007, a potential treatment for Female Sexual Arousal Disorder, or FSAD.
The DSM-IV defines female sexual arousal disorder as persistent or recurrent inability to attain, or to maintain until completion of the sexual activity, an adequate physiologic response (lubrication, swelling) of sexual excitement.
Oral phentolamine and female sexual arousal disorder: A pilot study.
A thorough, time-consuming history will need to be taken to determine which of the common specific dysfunctions is involved: hypoactive sexual desire disorder, female sexual arousal disorder, female orgasmic disorder, dyspareunia, or vaginismus, William D.