ORIGINAL RESEARCH—PSYCHOLOGY: Sexual Dysfunctions and Suicidality in Patients with Bipolar Disorder and Unipolar Depression


Claudia Carmassi, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Biotecnology, University of Pisa, via Roma 67, Pisa 56100, Italy. Tel: 992647; Fax: 39 050 21581; E-mail: ccarmassi@gmail.com


Introduction.  Impairment in sexual function is frequent and underestimated in patients with mental disorders, particularly in those with mood disorders. Few studies have examined the relationship between sexual dysfunctions and the clinical characteristics of mood disorders.

Aim.  The aim of the present study was to explore the frequency of sexual dysfunctions in patients with bipolar I disorder (BD) and unipolar depression (UD) with respect to control subjects, as well as their relationship with suicidality.

Main Outcome Measures.  Assessments included: the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (SCID-I/P), the 24-item Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale and the Mood Spectrum Self-Report, a questionnaire exploring lifetime mood spectrum symptomatology including symptoms of sexual functioning and suicidality.

Methods.  A consecutive sample of 142 patients (60 BD and 82 UD) and a comparison group of 101 control subjects were recruited in a multicenter study involving 11 academic departments of psychiatry.

Results.  Lifetime impairment in the sexual response cycle, including desire, excitement, and ability to achieve orgasm, was significantly more common in patients with mood disorders compared with control subjects. Increase in sexual activity and promiscuity were significantly more common in patients with BD vs. the other two groups.

Lifetime dysfunctions in all three phases of the sexual response cycle explored were significantly associated with lifetime suicide attempts in patients with BD and with thoughts of death in patients with UD. In BD patients, the lifetime presence of periods with frequent changes of sexual partners was significantly associated with thoughts of death.

Conclusions.  Our findings suggest the importance of assessing sexual dysfunctions in patients with either BD or UD, as they may be clinically helpful in identifying phenotypes of mood disorders characterized by high suicidality. Dell'Osso L, Carmassi C, Carlini M, Rucci P, Torri P, Cesari D, Landi P, Ciapparelli A, and Maggi M. Sexual dysfunctions and suicidality in patients with bipolar disorder and unipolar depression. J Sex Med 2009;6:3063–3070.