Recently, several small studies have suggested that there may be a link between anxiety disorders and sexual disorders. While the study of this relationship is just beginning, researchers have seen connections wherein those who suffer from panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder also have noted an increase in impairment of sexual function, arousal and desire, and a decrease in satisfaction and enjoyment of sex.
Why Do These Disorders Coincide?
While there are many more reasons that anxiety and sexual disorders occur together, the following offer a glimpse into why they might be found in patients with anxiety:
- Just experiencing anxiety by itself can be enough to impair sexual function in some people. If a man is concerned that he may not be able to please his partner, for instance, that fear may cause him to avoid sex, it may increase the potential for erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, or it may weaken arousal or satisfaction.
- Certain medications can cause sexual side effects. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are commonly prescribed for panic disorders and social phobias (an example is Prozac) and these drugs are known to delay orgasm in many men.
- Stress, worry, and fear can impede sexual function and the subsequent worry about one’s sexual function can create a vicious cycle of fear, worry, and stress.
What Can You Do About It?
- Tell your doctor or therapist if you are being treated for an anxiety disorder and also have problems functioning sexually as these conditions can be treated simultaneously. Additionally, sexual problems often have a root physical origin and a medical exam will help identify and treat any physical condition that may be causing the dysfunction.
- If you are on anxiety disorder medications, your doctor can adjust your medicine so it has less impact on or helps with your situation.
- Other medications can be utilized to help your sexual function. For example, because SSRIs can have a side effect of delayed orgasm, prescribing them often can help men who suffer from premature ejaculation.
- There are many therapies, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy to help reduce anxiety, fear, and negative emotions. Discussing your concerns with your therapist can help you find the way that works best for you.
Even though researchers have seen that anxiety disorders and sexual disorders often co-occur, these disorders do not coincide in all anxiety patients. For that reason, more studies will need to be conducted so we can better understand how to treat people who suffer from both conditions.
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