Sexual functioning in women with eating disorders

Int J Eat Disord. 2010 Mar;43(2):123-9. doi: 10.1002/eat.20671.


Objective: To describe sexual functioning in women with eating disorders.

Method: We assessed physical intimacy, libido, sexual anxiety, partner status, and sexual relationships in 242 women from the International Price Foundation Genetic Studies relative to normative data.

Results: Intercourse (55.3%), having a partner (52.7%), decreased sexual desire (66.9%), and increased sexual anxiety (59.2%) were common. Women with restricting and purging anorexia nervosa had a higher prevalence of loss of libido than women with bulimia nervosa and eating disorder not otherwise specified (75%, 74.6%, 39%, and 45.4%, respectively). Absence of sexual relationships was associated with lower minimum lifetime body mass index (BMI) and earlier age of onset; loss of libido with lower lifetime BMI, higher interoceptive awareness and trait anxiety; and sexual anxiety with lower lifetime BMI, higher harm avoidance and ineffectiveness. Sexual dysfunction in eating disorders was higher than in the normative sample.

Discussion: Sexual dysfunction is common across eating disorders subtypes. Low BMI is associated with loss of libido, sexual anxiety, and avoidance of sexual relationships.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Bulimia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido*
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Behavior*