Józef Haczyński MD PhD Hab.
Internal Diseases and Sexology Consultant
Sexology is the scientific study of human sex life and disturbances of sexual functions, dealing with the broadly-conceived human sexuality, sexual needs (including the disorders and absence of such needs), the proper sex life both in terms of the body and the spirit, the experienced sensations and relations with other people as well as with the rest of the surrounding world.
It is an interdisciplinary science, combining many other fields of knowledge, including medicine, psychology, ethics and sociology – to name just a few.
As an empirical science, it employs the category of the norm, because it must be possible to clearly delineate the boundary between what is normal and healthy and what might be improper or pathological.
Both the concept of norm in sexology and the definition of sexual health are very difficult to specify. The definition by the World Health Organisation (WHO) treats sexual health comprehensively as an integration of multiple aspects of our life important for the positive development of our personality, communication and love. The definition distinguishes biological, emotional, intellectual and social aspects.
The concept of norm is sexology is multi-layered. Moreover, one needs to take into account such very important factors as the medical and cultural norms. The medical norms of sexual health are based on the definition of sexual health by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) and the Declaration of Sexual Rights of 2002 recommended by the WHO.
Due to the multi-layered nature of this sphere of life, even minor changes or disorders, sometimes limited to merely one of the elements of the complex sexuality structure, will have a smaller or greater influence on the remaining aspects of life, and consequently on our sexual health.
Improper functioning in the sexual realm may lead to a number of disorders in our psyche, the relationship with our partner, family, other people and within the society. Sexual health disorders may cause the feeling of inferiority, lower self-esteem, poor self-worth, deterioration in the quality of life, as well as lead to irritation, conflicts and tensions in relationships, consequently resulting in the partners growing apart and, eventually, splitting up.
Sexual health has also an enormous influence on our biological and mental health.Psychosomatic disorders, depressive states, neurotic syndromes, arterial pressure surges, sleeping problems, low spirit and chronic fatigue syndromes, cardiac arrhythmias and exacerbation of gastric complaints are just a few examples of how sexual disorders affect our health.
On the other hand...
Stress, hurry, improper diet, chronic diseases and drug use are only some of the factors that influence numerous aspects of health and life, including our sexual life. A classic example includes lipid metabolism disorders (elevated cholesterol and/or triglyceride concentration levels), arterial hypertension, diabetes and smoking. All these health problems result in the damage to the internal lining of blood vessels, or the epithelium, and later lead to the development of atherosclerosis and its consequences, such as stroke, myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death. Not everyone knows that damaged endothelial functions in small blood vessels can lead to sexual disorders such as erectile dysfunctions which may precede other atherosclerotic symptoms by many years. It must be borne in mind that there any many links between various chronic diseases and sexual functions. Some medicines used for the treatment of other diseases may also negatively impact different sexual functions and aspects of our sexual health. Sometimes all we need to do is begin the treatment of our primary disease or eliminate the harmful factors or replace one drug with another in order to considerably improve the sexual functions.
Due to the complexity of the sexual health issue, a crucial element is the complex, holistic and individual approach to each patient, assuming that the state of the mind, spirit and body are interrelated and that it is necessary to treat the entire body, rather than just its unhealthy part.The holistic approach to the problem of sexual health requires interdisciplinary knowledge, patience, the atmosphere of trust, the feeling of safety and the time dedicated to each patient. A huge barrier preventing patients from making an appointment with a sexologist is the shame, embarrassment, the fear of being assessed by a physician and sometimes even the inability to name the problem. In a number of cases, an extremely significant role is also played by the partner, who show understanding and support the decision making process before making an appointment with a specialist and undertaking treatment.
Men most often visit a sexologist due to problems with achieving or maintaining erection, problems related to premature ejaculation or the achievement of sexual satisfaction. A frequent complaint presented by women, on the other hand, concerns the problem of achieving an orgasm, problems with vaginal moisture or pain/tenderness during sexual intercourse.
It is currently possible to effectively treat many of these problems affecting our sexual health. However, it often happens that the treatment requires many appointments, diagnostic tests or pharmacological therapies. A crucial role in the entire treatment process may also be played by proper sex education, clarification of values or psychological support.
You do (not) need to do much – just overcome your embarrassment and shame, and make your appointment with a sexologist or discuss the problem with a physician of different specialisation, e.g. during a standard gynaecological check-up, or consult a psychologist.
Physicians and psychologists, irrespective of their personal and religious beliefs, should always respect the medical norms and fulfil the principles of sexual health promotion recommended by the WHO.
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