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A Clinical Expert’s Take on Women’s Sexual Issues

June 21, 2023

By Alanna Hilbink

Sexual health is a big part of our overall well-being. Yet women are often shamed for expressing their sexuality or asking questions about their sexual health. And when there’s an underlying issue like sex addiction in women, the shame and the silence become even greater.

But at Willow House at The Meadows, we believe every woman deserves mental, physical, and sexual wellness. Clinical experts like our Executive Director, Scott Davis, are always ready to start a conversation about sexual issues in women and to help you or a loved one find a path forward.

What Do Sexual Issues in Women Look Like?

One complication women face when it comes to getting the right treatment is the problem of misdiagnoses or an incomplete diagnosis. Davis shares that women may find their compulsive sexual behavior labeled as histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder.

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One reason women’s sexual health concerns get confused for personality disorders is because they may involve control or attunement issues — that is, experiencing things at extremes — with a mind that isn’t calm. However, while co-occurring mental health issues may or may not also be present, sexual dysregulation is its own diagnosis with its own treatment.

No matter how compulsive sexual behavior in women is expressed, Davis explains that sex addiction in women isn’t an amount of sex: “Some are having a lot of sex, and some are not … What you’ll see is a highly ritualized behavior pattern. And that’s what sex addiction is. It’s a highly ritualized behavior pattern that has some sexual outlet on it.”

Sex addiction is about how you experience sex, not how much you experience it. In fact, sexual health issues in women may include a compulsive avoidance of sex, called sexual anorexia. When any sex-related behavior becomes ritualized, when it follows similar or escalating patterns of thought or action — or when it gets in the way of your ability to have a healthy sex life or a healthy life in general — that’s when it has become a problem. That’s when it is time to speak up, reach out, and get help uncovering and addressing the root causes.

What Causes Women’s Sexual Issues?

Davis shares that when it comes to treating sexual issues in women, usually some type of sexual abuse is involved. It’s common for a woman who is struggling with sex addiction to also need treatment for sexual abuse. Davis says the most common problem treated at Willow House is women’s sexual assault or sexual abuse.

It’s common for a woman who is struggling with sex addiction to also need treatment for sexual abuse.

This isn’t surprising, as while sexual abuse certainly isn’t limited to women, women experience it to a disproportionate degree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all women experience sexual violence, and over a quarter experience attempted or completed rape. The younger you are and the more minority groups you fall into, the higher these statistics become.

And sexual abuse isn’t something that happens on a single occasion and then never impacts your life again. When you don’t seek and receive therapy for what you’ve experienced, sexual abuse has long-ranging, lifetime effects, including sexual health issues.

Davis explains that one way sexual abuse can affect your sexual health is in the way you compulsively have sex. He says that, for women, compulsive thoughts or actions will often mirror the abuse experienced, and that sexual behaviors “are still going to have a real connection with their trauma that they’ve been through.”

"A history of interpersonal trauma increases the risk for substance abuse, and substance abuse increases the risk for interpersonal trauma.”

Sexual Issues in Women and Substance Use

Women’s mental and physical health can also be complicated by drug and alcohol use. As the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment explains, “a history of interpersonal trauma increases the risk for substance abuse, and substance abuse increases the risk for interpersonal trauma.”

If you are struggling with your sexual health, with a history of abuse, and possibly drug or alcohol use, you are not alone in your experiences. We at Willow House at The Meadows can help.

Is There Healing and a Healthy Sex Life for Women?

Sexual abuse and substance abuse aren’t the only possible causes of compulsive sexual behavior in women, as emotional and physical neglect, non-sexual trauma, co-occurring mental health issues like those mentioned above and more can contribute to sexual health issues. You deserve a healthy future, and that future begins with a professional assessment and an expert treatment plan designed just for you.

If you get professional, comprehensive treatment, you can find recovery. And this recovery can include a healthy sex life. Davis shares that women who experience addiction often assume that enjoying healthy sex is no longer possible. “No, what it really means is that, you’re just going to have to have recovery,” Davis says, “And you’re going to have to have an eye for where your triggers are.”

At Willow House at the Meadows, you will learn what healthy sex looks like, how you can create boundaries so you can have and enjoy that sex, and how you can maintain a lifetime of mental health and recovery.

Reach out to us at Willow House to begin your journey of recovery today. Whether you struggle with sex addiction, sexual anorexia, or any compulsive sexual behavior, we offer individualized care in a safe, serene, and healing setting.