The cortisol response during physiological sexual arousal in adult women with a history of childhood sexual abuse


  • This publication was made possible by Grant Number F31 MH68165 and Grant Number 1 RO1 HD051676-01 A1. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIMH or NICHD.


Many women with a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) experience difficulties becoming sexually aroused. This study measured cortisol and physiological sexual arousal during exposure to sexual stimuli in women with and without a history of CSA. Childhood sexual abuse survivors showed a smaller decrease in cortisol during sexual arousal than the nonsexually abused, control group potentially due to an increase in cortisol in some of the participants in the CSA group. Physiological sexual arousal was weaker in CSA survivors compared to women with no history of sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms showed characteristics consistent with mediation for the relationship between a history of CSA and inhibited sexual arousal responses.