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Anorexia Nervosa and Sexual Function

Abstract

Little empirical evidence exists concerning sexual functioning and sexuality in women suffering from anorexia nervosa (AN). The current review of the literature since 2000 on AN and sexual functioning produced only a small number of studies on the subject. Most of the research was conducted with small numbers of individuals and utilized different measurements and methodological approaches. Almost all studies showed that AN was related with lower sexual functionality. The factors that influence this reduction in sexual functionality are various and may differ according to the subtype of AN. There is an almost unanimous view based on the research findings that the biological effect of starvation on the human body is the main reason why AN patients report loss of interest in sex and sparse sexual activities. AN symptomatology itself and, more specifically, body image distortion and body dissatisfaction, seem to increase the feeling of shame associated with nudity and hinder the ability of the sufferers to enjoy unobstructed having sex with their partners. On the other hand, personality traits, and especially obsessionality and emotional restraint, seem to have a negative influence both on the ability of the AN patients to create meaningful romantic relationships and to enjoy their sexual life. It is still unclear whether comorbidity with depression and/or anxiety disorders can further deteriorate AN patients’ sexual function. Due to the small number of publications, no definite conclusions can be drawn yet, with the exception that AN can be related with lower sexual function.

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Correspondence to Fragiskos Gonidakis.

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Fragiskos Gonidakis, Vassiliki Kravvariti, and Eleftheria Varsou declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Melissa Fabello reports that she is currently employed by Everyday Feminism, an online magazine about social justice, as a Managing Editor

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Gonidakis, F., Kravvariti, V., Fabello, M. et al. Anorexia Nervosa and Sexual Function. Curr Sex Health Rep 8, 19–26 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-016-0064-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-016-0064-3

Keywords

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Eating disorders
  • Sexual function
  • Sex
  • Starvation