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Sexual Dysfunction and Social Anxiety Disorder

The Relationship Between Sexual Dysfunction and SAD

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Updated July 07, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If you suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you may also experience problems with sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction may include such issues as avoidance of sex, erectile dysfunction, and decreased enjoyment. In addition, certain medications used in the treatment of SAD, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can sometimes produce sexual dysfunction.

Research is still in its infancy about the relationship between SAD and sexual dysfunction. This relationship makes sense when you consider that people with SAD fear performance and interpersonal situations; sex can elicit both of these fears. However, while there is some evidence that SAD and sexual dysfunction co-occur for some individuals, studies do not show a consistent connection between the two.

How Do Men and Women With SAD Experience Sex?

The relationship between SAD and sexual dysfunction has not been thoroughly researched, but initial small studies suggest that there may be a link between the two.

  • In a study of 40 people with SAD and 40 without, men with the disorder were found to have moderate impairment in sexual arousal, orgasm, enjoyment and satisfaction.

    Women with SAD were found to have severe impairment in sexual desire, arousal, activity and satisfaction. In addition, men with SAD were more likely to have paid for sex and women with SAD had fewer sexual partners.

  • Researchers compared 30 people with SAD and 28 people with panic disorder, and found that 75% of those with panic disorder, versus 33% of those with SAD, had sexual problems. The most frequent problem in males with SAD was premature ejaculation.

  • In a study comparing 106 individuals with SAD, 164 people with sexual dysfunction, and 111 normal controls, men with SAD were found to be less sexually active but just as satisfied as the male normal controls. Women with SAD were not found to differ from the female normal controls.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you have been diagnosed with SAD and are also experiencing problems with sexual functioning, it is important to tell your doctor or therapist. Issues such as sexual performance anxiety can be treated alongside SAD in therapy (after medical causes have been ruled out for problems such as erectile dysfunction).

In addition to addressing sexual problems in therapy, medications can be tailored to your particular situation. For example, SSRIs may be a good option if you suffer with premature ejaculation as they can help to delay orgasm.

Sources

Bodinger L, Hermesh H, Aizenberg D, et al. Sexual function and behavior in social phobia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2002;63(10):874-879.

Munoz V, Stravynski A. Social phobia and sexual problems: A comparison of social phobic, sexually dysfunctional and normal individuals. British Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2010;49(1):53-66.

Figueira I, Possidente E, Marques C, Hayes K. Sexual dysfunction: a neglected complication of panic disorder and social phobia. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2001;30(4):369-377.

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