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Keywords:

  • anorexia nervosa;
  • eating disorders;
  • sexual behavior;
  • sexual dysfunction

Abstract

Objective:

To describe sexual functioning in women with eating disorders.

Method:

We assessed physical intimacy, libido, sexual anxiety, partner status, and sexual relationships in 242 women from the International Price Foundation Genetic Studies relative to normative data.

Results:

Intercourse (55.3%), having a partner (52.7%), decreased sexual desire (66.9%), and increased sexual anxiety (59.2%) were common. Women with restricting and purging anorexia nervosa had a higher prevalence of loss of libido than women with bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise specified (75%, 74.6%, 39%, and 45.4%, respectively). Absence of sexual relationships was associated with lower minimum lifetime body mass index (BMI) and earlier age of onset; loss of libido with lower lifetime BMI, higher interoceptive awareness and trait anxiety; and sexual anxiety with lower lifetime BMI, higher harm avoidance and ineffectiveness. Sexual dysfunction in eating disorders was higher than in the normative sample.

Discussion:

Sexual dysfunction is common across eating disorders subtypes. Low BMI is associated with loss of libido, sexual anxiety, and avoidance of sexual relationships. © 2009 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 2010