Q: I’m a 24 year old female, and I believe I suffer from sexual aversion disorder. I find the thought of all genital contact quite repulsive, and on occasions in the past when guys have tried to touch me below the waist I have become very panicky and upset. It’s not that I have no sexual desire, I do, and I masturbate to orgasm around once a week. I’ve tried using vibrators, but the feel of anything inside me (other than a tampon) makes me feel physically sick. I feel this is really starting to have a negative effect on my life – I’m avoiding having any kind of intimate contact with guys I’m attracted to because I know they will expect it to lead to sex and will be frustrated when I panic and push them away. The ironic thing is, all I really want is to get married and have kids……..but I’m so put off by the idea of sex I don’t see how that will ever happen. There is no history of sexual abuse in my past. I do suffer from social anxiety, which led to a period of severe depression 2 years ago, which I am now recovering from. However, the sexual aversion has been present for as long as I can remember. I also have a problem with deliberate self harm, only over the past 2 years, and I find myself sometimes using it as an excuse as to why I can’t become intimate with guys, because they’ll see the scars on my thighs…….but deep down I know that’s just an excuse and that the real reason I won’t be intimate is because of the sexual aversion. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about how I feel, because I feel like a total freak for feeling this way. I see a psychiatrist every 2 months or so, but have been too embarrassed to broach the subject with her. If I did talk to her about this problem, what would the likely treatment for it be? Is this something that’s going to rule my life, or is it something I can get over?

A: Sexual aversion disorder is a treatable sexual dysfunction. You have no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. The treatments are generally cognitive-behavioral in nature. You mention that you have no sexual abuse history but sometimes family upbringing can have an impact on our sexual development also, such as, were you able to ask questions, was sex portrayed as dirty or bad, etc. I suggest that you talk with your psychiatrist first because she already knows you but she will most likely refer you to someone who specializes in this area. You may look for a certified sex therapist or a licensed counselor or psychologist who works with sexual dysfunctions. Just like the social anxiety you mentioned, this is very treatable and I hope you will address it soon so that it doesn’t pose an obstacle to your developing a meaningful relationship. I’m also concerned about the self-harm behaviors and hope that you have shared this with your psychiatrist as well. Self-harm can be linked to numerous issues and causes but is generally a very dangerous coping skill that can worsen if untreated. I hope you will get help for this issue as well. I wish you luck.