Efficacy of Psychological Interventions for Sexual Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Abstract

Sexual dysfunction is highly prevalent in the general population and associated with psychological distress and impaired sexual satisfaction. Psychological interventions are promising treatment options, as sexual dysfunction is frequently caused by and deteriorates because of psychological factors. However, research into the efficacy of psychological interventions is rather scarce and an up-to-date review of outcome studies is currently lacking. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all available studies from 1980 to 2009 to examine the efficacy of psychological interventions for patients with sexual dysfunction. A total of 20 randomized controlled studies comparing a psychological intervention with a wait-list were included in the meta-analysis. The overall post-treatment effect size for symptom severity was d = 0.58 (95 % CI: 0.40 to 0.77) and for sexual satisfaction d = 0.47 (95 % CI: 0.27 to 0.70). Psychological interventions were shown to especially improve symptom severity for women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and orgasmic disorder. Our systematic review of 14 studies comparing at least two active interventions head-to-head revealed that very few comparative studies are available with large variability in effect sizes across studies (d between −0.69 and 2.29 for symptom severity and −0.56 and 14.02 for sexual satisfaction). In conclusion, psychological interventions are effective treatment options for sexual dysfunction. However, evidence varies considerably across single disorders. Good evidence exists to date for female hypoactive sexual desire disorder and female orgasmic disorder. Further research is needed on psychological interventions for other sexual dysfunctions, their long-term and comparative effects.

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Acknowledgments

Jürgen Barth received a grant (no. 105314-118312/1) from the Swiss National Science Foundation. We thank the Associate Editor, Dr. Lori Brotto, for her important suggestions to improve our article.

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Correspondence to Jürgen Barth.

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Sarah Frühauf and Heike Gerger contributed equally.

Appendix

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Fig. 4
figure4

Funnel plots of symptom severity and sexual satisfaction from studies of psychological interventions for sexual dysfunction

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Frühauf, S., Gerger, H., Schmidt, H.M. et al. Efficacy of Psychological Interventions for Sexual Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Arch Sex Behav 42, 915–933 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-0062-0

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Keywords

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Treatment
  • Psychological
  • Meta-analysis
  • Review