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Sexual Function and Behavior in Social Phobia

J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63(10):874-879

Background: Social phobia is a type of performance and interpersonal anxiety disorder and as such may be associated with sexual dysfunction and avoidance. The aim of the present study was to evaluate sexual function and behavior in patients with social phobia compared with mentally healthy subjects.

Method: Eighty subjects participated in the study: 40 consecutive, drug-free outpatients with social phobia (DSM-IV) attending an anxiety disorders clinic between November 1997 and April 1999 and 40 mentally normal controls. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale were used to quantitatively and qualitatively assess sexual function and behavior.

Results: Men with social phobia reported mainly moderate impairment in arousal, orgasm, sexual enjoyment, and subjective satisfaction domains. Women with social phobia reported severe impairment in desire, arousal, sexual activity, and subjective satisfaction. In addition, compared with controls, men with social phobia reported significantly more frequent paid sex (p < .05), and women with social phobia reported a significant paucity of sexual partners (p < .05).

Conclusion: Patients with social phobia exhibit a wide range of sexual dysfunctions. Men have mainly performance problems, and women have a more pervasive disorder. Patients of both genders show difficulties in sexual interaction. It is important that clinicians be aware of this aspect of social phobia and initiate open discussions of sexual problems with patients.