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The Connection Between Sexual Problems and Anxiety Disorders

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Study suggests that a significant number of people with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or social phobia, have sexual problems as well.The results of a new study suggest that a significant number of people with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or social phobia, have sexual problems as well. The study's authors report that these findings may have implications for therapeutic treatments involving medication.

Over the past few years, the medical field has become increasingly aware that certain drugs commonly prescribed for psychological disorders can cause sexual side effects. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac, are known to delay orgasm in many males.

SSRIs are widely considered the best medication treatment for social phobia and panic disorder. People who suffer from social phobia experience severe anxiety in a number of social situations and typically experience shyness so severe it interferes with their daily life. Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.

Little is known about how many of the people with these anxiety disorders experienced sexual problems before they began treatment for their psychological distress. In an effort to find out how common sexual dysfunction is among people with these disorders, Dr. Ivan Figueira, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and colleagues reviewed the records of 30 patients with social phobia and 28 with panic disorder.

As detailed in the researchers' report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, about 75% of patients with panic disorder also had sexual problems, compared with approximately 33% of patients with social phobia. Among individuals with panic disorder, sexual aversion disorder--a strong desire not to have sex--was the most prevalent type of sexual problem, affecting about 36% of men with the disorder as as many as 50% of the women. Among men with social phobia, premature ejaculation was the most commonly experienced sexual problem.

Figueira's team concludes, "These results suggest that sexual dysfunctions are frequent and neglected complications of social phobia and panic disorder." The report indicates that for patients who have anxiety disorder and premature ejaculation, SSRIs may be a good medication treatment choice. Not only are the drugs effective at relieving anxiety, they also can help prevent premature ejaculation by delaying orgasm.

According to the researchers, antipanic drugs may be appropriate for people with panic disorder who also suffer from sexual aversion disorder since the drugs that keep panic attacks under control can have the beneficial side effect of relieving the sexual problems.

Sources:

  • Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb. 2007.

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