Sexual arousal includes both psychological arousal, which causes a person to want sex, and physical arousal, which causes physical changes that make it easier for a person to have sex.
Although these two factors often go hand in hand, some people may struggle with one or both aspects of arousal.
It is worth noting that issues with arousal are likely to be multifactorial. For example, any of the following could have an impact on a person’s ability to become aroused:
- cardiovascular conditions
- mental health concerns
- relationship issues
- sexual beliefs
However, there are a number of things that a person can try to increase arousal levels. Read on for tips and remedies on how to get turned on.
Males who experience arousal problems may have difficulties with their sexual desire, with getting or maintaining an erection, or with ejaculation.
Issues with arousal
Males who struggle with arousal may find that making simple lifestyle changes, such as communicating more openly with a partner or sharing sexual desires, can help.
Another option is asking a doctor about checking testosterone levels. Males with low testosterone levels may have difficulty with arousal. Testosterone replacement may help.
However, it is important to note that testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day. This may mean that checking these levels may not be a reliable indicator.
Alternatively, males could consider masturbating, fantasizing, or engaging in other forms of stimulation before participating in partnered sex.
As males age, it can take longer for them to feel aroused enough to get an erection. Beginning the process before engaging in partnered sex may help.
Erectile dysfunction is the most common reason that males seek help with sexual issues.
A number of treatments may work. For example:
- Be mindful of the role that mental health plays in erectile dysfunction: Stress and relationship problems can sometimes affect arousal. If a doctor has confirmed this as the cause of a person’s difficulties, they may wish to consult a sex therapist, who can help them explore any mental barriers to arousal before they start taking medications.
- Ask a doctor about erectile dysfunction medications: These may help with erectile dysfunction of unknown origin or when lifestyle remedies do not work.
- Weigh up the benefits of other remedies if erectile dysfunction drugs do not work: Trying penis pumps, undergoing surgery to place a penile implant, and seeking similar procedures may help when there is a challenging medical condition causing erectile dysfunction.
Many males experience problems with ejaculation. Although premature ejaculation is the most common issue, some males also have difficulty reaching orgasm and ejaculating.
These males may wish to try the following tips:
- Masturbate before having sex, then begin sex shortly before ejaculation.
- Experiment with different sexual positions and new fantasies. Some males simply need more stimulation to ejaculate.
- Get a prostate exam. Sometimes, prostate health issues can cause ejaculation problems such as painful ejaculation.
Female arousal issues typically fall into one or more of three categories:
- difficulty feeling interested in sex
- difficulty getting sufficiently lubricated for sex
- difficulty reaching orgasm
Remedies that work for one problem, such as low arousal, often work for another.
So, a female may wish to consider the following tips:
- Focus on clitoral stimulation: Stereotypical presentations of sex often focus on male pleasure and penis-in-vagina intercourse. However, most females need clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm. When a female routinely does not get clitoral stimulation or orgasm, they may lose interest in sex.
- Use a sexual lubricant: Some females experience vaginal dryness, even when they feel aroused. Others feel less interested in sex because they fear that dryness will cause pain. Although this can happen at any age, it is common after menopause.
- Insist on more foreplay: Because females tend to take longer than males to orgasm, females who have sex with males may need more foreplay to feel aroused.
- Enjoy getting to know one’s own body: Over time, this can increase arousal. Try exploring one’s sexual interests, and be sure to communicate this to a sexual partner.
- Ask a doctor about medications: Females with a very low sex drive may find that taking a medication specifically approved for increasing libido helps. However, these drugs remain controversial, as research suggests that they only modestly increase desire. Interventions such as more foreplay may work better.
- Ask a doctor about hormone therapy: Females who struggle with vaginal dryness or low libido may find relief from hormone therapy. After menopause, hormone replacement therapy with estrogen may improve arousal and sexual experience.
Although there are physiological differences between males and females that may affect how they become aroused and the ways that arousal manifests, arousal begins in the brain for all sexes and genders.
Some strategies that may help most people feel more aroused include:
- Watch pornography, either alone or with a partner: Although research into the long-term effects of pornography use produces inconclusive and controversial results, short-term porn use may help people become aroused. A 2016 interview-based study of couples found that people who watched porn felt more comfortable talking about sex.
- Spend time thinking about sex: This can help a person identify their sexual desires and preferences.
- Consider the role of mental health: Anxiety, depression, trauma, and the way a person feels about their relationship may all affect arousal. Trying relaxation exercises, self-care, and therapy may help.
- Masturbate: Masturbating before having sex with a partner may make it easier to become and stay aroused. Masturbation may also help a person identify their sexual interests, and it may increase sex drive. A 2015 study of middle-aged women found that masturbation increased testosterone levels. Testosterone may increase libido.
- Practice open communication about desires and needs with a sexual partner: Talking about sex outside the bedroom may help increase interest in sex. It may also make sex more pleasurable and arousing for each partner. Couples who struggle to discuss sex may find that sex therapy helps.
- Talk to a doctor: A wide range of medical conditions, especially those that affect the endocrine system, may cause arousal problems. Menopause, age-related hormone changes, and certain medications may also play a role. A doctor may be able to recommend treatment, switch a person’s medications, or diagnose an underlying health issue.
- Manage any long-term medical conditions: Poor heart health, diabetes, and other medical conditions may cause sexual dysfunction.
- Exercise, eat a healthful diet, and maintain a moderate weight: Cardiovascular disease and diabetes can both cause sexual dysfunction. Adopting a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Consider changing birth control methods: For some people, contraceptives affect sexual desire. For example, certain types of condom may reduce sensation, while hormonal birth control methods may deplete libido.
- Use sex toys: Vibrators, dildos, and other sex toys may offer additional stimulation and improve arousal for both partners.
A person may wish to see a doctor if they:
- have a sudden change in their sexual experience, libido, or orgasm pattern
- have tried home remedies, but they have not worked
- experience side effects following the use of a new medication
- have a chronic illness and begin experiencing sexual side effects
- have other symptoms, such as painful urination or ejaculation
- have significant emotional distress that is affecting their functioning
Many different factors can affect sexual arousal. For many people, the problem is multifaceted, with psychological, lifestyle, and physical factors all playing a role.
Taking a sensitive approach and seeking medical intervention for chronic health concerns can both help.
Sexual health matters. People who experience arousal issues should see a doctor and ask for help until something works.
It is doubly important to see a doctor for arousal issues because they can sometimes warn of an underlying health issue.