Anorectic and bulimic patients suffer from relevant sexual dysfunctions

J Sex Med. 2012 Oct;9(10):2590-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02888.x. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Introduction: Sexual life is often impaired in anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), and few studies have evaluated the possible relationships between body image concerns, eating disorder psychopathology, and sexual functioning in these syndromes.

Aim: To evaluate sexual functioning in AN patients, BN patients, and healthy controls, and to define the predictors of sexual dysfunction in the AN and BN groups.

Methods: Eighty-eight eating disorders patients (44 AN, 44 BN) referring to the Outpatient Clinic for Eating Disorders of the University of Florence, and 72 healthy females were evaluated.

Main outcome measures: The subjects were studied by means of the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, the Emotional Eating Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Spielberg's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, and the Symptom Checklist 90.

Results: AN restricting/type patients had lower FSFI total scores (median; quartiles: 4.8; 2.1-15.4), compared with AN binge/purging type (28.3; 20.6-30.7) and BN patients (20.1; 3.8-30.3). Multiple linear regression analysis showed that shape concern was associated with sexual dysfunction in AN restricting type patients (β=-0.61, P<0.01), whereas emotional eating (β=-0.42, P<0.01), and subjective binge eating (β=-0.55, P<0.01) were significantly associated with FSFI scores in AN binge/purging type and BN patients.

Conclusions: Considering the sample size, the present results must be considered as preliminary. Sexual dysfunction was found to be a relevant concern in both AN and BN patients and was associated with different pathological eating behaviors. Sexual functioning should be carefully investigated in eating disorders patients, and treatments focused on shape concern, emotional eating, and binge eating could improve the sexual life of AN and BN patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / complications
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Body Image
  • Bulimia Nervosa / complications
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult