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Patterns of help-seeking in women when problems arise in their sexual life: a discussion paper


  • Mathilde Azar DEA, MSN,

    Lecturer, Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Balamand, Beirut, Lebanon, UK
    • Correspondence: Mathilde Azar, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Balamand, Youssef Sursok Street, St. George Health Complex, PO Box 166378 Ashrafieh, Beirut 1100-2807, Lebanon. Telephone: +961 1 562108.


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  • Caroline Bradbury-Jones PhD, RN,

    Lecturer in Improving Health & Wellbeing
    1. School of Nursing & Midwifery University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK
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  • Thilo Kroll MPsych, PhD

    1. Social Dimensions of Health Institute, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, UK
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Aims and objectives

To explore patterns of help-seeking in women who have sexual dysfunction and the implications for nursing practice.


Female sexual dysfunction is a common problem that is under-reported and untreated. Barriers to help-seeking reported in existing literature relate to the perception among many women that sexual dysfunction is: part of the normal ageing process; not bothersome or does not exist; an issue that health professionals are reluctant to address; a taboo subject. However, little is known about patterns of help-seeking in women with sexual problems. This leaves a potential gap in nursing knowledge regarding appropriate, supportive strategies.


Discursive inquiry framed theoretically by Vogel's model.


A literature review was undertaken by searching relevant databases. A combination of keywords was used to identify peer-review papers relating to women's help-seeking behaviour for sexual dysfunction. Vogel's model was used as a framework to extract relevant information from the papers and structure the discussion.


Vogel's model comprises four steps: encoding and interpreting, generating options, decision-making and evaluation of behaviour. Using this stepwise approach helped elucidate the complex mechanisms associated with help-seeking in a structured manner. The key issues associated with help-seeking intention are concerned with women's personal awareness of and interaction with the environment.


Vogel's model offers a new approach to understanding the dynamics that underpin women's decisions to seek professional help when sexual concerns arise and also provides a useful framework for nurses to consider women's specific sexual concerns.

Relevance to clinical practice

Implications for nursing practice are focused on public awareness, women's empowerment and the provision of effective sexual health care. Because sexual dysfunction is a global phenomenon, it is likely that the discussion in this paper will be relevant to an international, nursing readership.