Physiological factors often play a role in sexual problems, so it is often wise to have a general physical and a gynecological or urological exam to help rule out such causes. Hormonal, vascular, and neurological problems can contribute to sexual disorders (Beckman et al., 2006). Unfortunately, research has shown that only about one third of individuals with sexual problems talk to their physicians about it.
As more research about physiological contributions to sexual problems has been conducted, some difficulties that in the past were believed to be primarily due to psychological causes have been shown to have physical components as well. For example, premature ejaculation is sometimes associated with hyperthyroidism and improves when thyroid levels have returned to normal following treatment (Cihan et al., 2009). A genetic component may even play a role for some men. Compared to men without lifelong premature ejaculation, men with this condition are more likely to have a genotype that is associated with less activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the section of the brain that is involved in ejaculation ( Janssen et al., 2009).
Recent research suggests that individual variations, such as sensitivity to touch, can contribute to sexual disorders. For example, some men with a rapid ejaculation problem may have an innate biological hypersensitivity that causes them to ejaculate quickly (Waldinger & Schweitzer, 2006). Evidence also suggests that some women with difficulty becoming sexually aroused have lower levels of general sensitivity to touch (Frohlich & Meston, 2005). Research on sexual function continues to increase knowledge about the physiological aspects of sexual problems. At this time, more is known about the effects of illnesses, medications, and disabilities on male sexuality than on female sexuality because of the greater amount of research that has been conducted on male sexual function (Heiman, 2009).