Alcoholism and Sexual Dysfunction
Understand how alcohol leads to sexual dysfunction in both women and men. See how an alcohol treatment program provides the help needed to achieve sobriety.
Sexual dysfunction is a condition that is caused by many different factors. Emotional troubles such as stress can impede a persons’ ability to feel satisfaction and desire which can lead to problems in the bedroom. Medical problems like diabetes or hypertension can also affect sexual function, as can certain medications. Substance abuse, particularly alcoholism is known to be a factor for both men and women who are suffering from sexual dysfunction. Alcoholism is known to cause severe damage to the liver. A damaged liver can impact on the body’s ability to regulate hormone distribution. In males, this can cause testicular atrophy, impotence and sterility. Women alcoholics can suffer from ovarian functionality issues, menstrual abnormalities and changes to sexuality.
Alcohol increases sexual desire but inhibits sexual performance. Many people describe the dis-inhibiting properties of alcohol and how when under the influence of this substance they feel more sexual, more willing and have a stronger desire to seek out a sexual experience. In low doses, alcohol may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety about sexual performance and sexuality. However, when alcohol is chronically consumed over a long period, it can impact on a person’s sexual function. This can impact on both the person experiencing the dysfunction but also on the partner.
Cognitive interference has been found to be a factor in sexual dysfunction in people who suffer from alcoholism. Alcohol affects a person’s sexual arousal, control of arousal and rate of distractibility during sexual stimulation. They will fumble, have trouble focusing and may anger a partner during a sexual experience. This may lead to further problems with sexuality and a person may begin to medicate their concerns with more alcohol.
Four Categories of Sexual Dysfunction
There are four main categories of sexual dysfunction. These are sexual desire, sexual arousal, orgasm or sexual pain disorders. Frustration, depression, feelings of anxiety, desperation and inadequacy are often reported secondary symptoms of sexual dysfunction. These emotional and physical problems can cause irreversible relationship problems, leading to more severe emotional problems and further sexual issues.
* A sexual desire disorder is more commonly referred to as a loss or decrease in libido. A person’s libido, energy levels and excitement levels are affected by alcoholism. Alcohol can fatigue a person, especially if a person binge drinks, which reduces their desire to be involved intimately with a person. The lack of sex drive can affect a person’s relationships with other as well as on their own mental health.
* Sexual arousal issues are the most commonly reported problems that alcoholics experience. Alcohol affects a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection, affects his concentration levels, reduces the ability to maintain arousal during intercourse and increases fatigue levels.
* Orgasm disorders are characterized by the inability to reach orgasm, which is often the case for people who are intoxicated. Women are particularly sensitive to the affects of alcohol on their sexual function, and men may experience premature or delayed ejaculation. Orgasm disorders can also be caused by chronic fatigue and anxiety, which are magnified by the use of alcohol.
* Sexual pain disorders are almost only experienced by women and are characterized by intense pain and discomfort during intercourse and sexual interactions. Some women may use alcohol as a way to try and resolve the problems, but this simply makes the issue worse. It is believed to be caused by anxieties and fears about sexual contact with others.
Alcoholic Men and Sex
Male alcoholics often suffer from severe sexual problems as a result of their drinking. Erectile dysfunction is a commonly reported side effect that has been found to be affected by age, mental health and physical health. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, diabetes and hypertension can all affect a man’s ability to maintain an erection. Alcohol is known to cause men to suffer from problems achieving and maintaining an erection, because alcohol can prevent blood vessels in the penis from closing, inhibiting the penis’ ability to remain erect. In a healthy, non-alcoholic man, the penis becomes erect when aroused because it fills with blood and the vessels close, preventing back-flow. Chronic consumption of alcohol damages blood vessels which cause problems in the heart and also in the penis.
The psychological effect of alcohol should not be underestimated for its ability affect a man’s sexual functioning. Men often have high levels of guilt associated with poor relationships with partners, an inability to perform in the bedroom and from not meeting expectations. Some men will medicate these feelings with more alcohol, which simply compounds the problems and leads to further feelings of inadequacy.
Women, Alcohol and Sex
Women’s sexual desires and experiences are known to be significantly impacted by alcohol. Many women state that they use alcohol to reduce their inhibitions, anxieties and fears about sex. If this continues regularly, a woman may become dependent on alcohol to initiate or even be involved in a sexual experience. Initially alcohol can help a woman to be at ease with their body, the body of someone else and relax and enjoy a sexual experience. They will have improved confidence and well-being which can mean positive sexual experiences. However, as alcoholism develops, its affect on the body, mind and sexual desires will become apparent. Sexual desire will diminish, ability to become aroused during sexual contact will be reduced and many women will find it difficult to reach orgasm. Some women will experience problems with becoming lubricated even when trying positions or behaviors that previously had worked.
Women who are chronic alcoholics or at late stage of alcoholism will have major physiological and psychological problems that affect her sexual function. Problems with menstruation are common and due to the damage to the liver, she may be having hormonal changes that are affecting desire, arousal, sexuality and other sexual functions. Some women also experience physical changes to the vagina including, vaginal atrophy or ovarian atrophy. This can be irreversible.