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Better sex as by-product of successful psychotherapy

Sexual dysfunctions, even if they are not directly targeted, remit during the treatment of patients who have anxiety or depression disorders

Patients who successfully undergo cognitive-behavioural therapy for an anxiety or depression disorder can look forward to a significantly improved love life, according to the findings of a study by scientists at the Institute of Clinical, Diagnostic and Differential Psychology at the TU Dresden, which were published recently in "Sexual and Relationship Therapy".

Nearly two thirds of almost five hundred patients treated at the local outpatient unit for anxiety or depression disorders reported a variety of sexual problems before therapy. The majority of those whose treatment was successful enjoyed a considerable improvement in their sex lives - in sexual interest in general, in their ability to achieve erections or orgasms, and so on. However, some patients also reported that their sexual problems persisted. For this reason, the researchers recommended that more attention should be paid to co-morbid sexual dysfunction when treating other psychological disorders, if only to better evaluate which cases required additional sexual-therapeutical or medical treatment.

It has been assumed for some years that the severity of co-morbid symptoms in patients with panic or generalised anxiety disorders is significantly decreased during psychotherapeutic treatment, even if those symptoms are not directly targeted. However, this could not be scientifically substantiated; and the new study by the Dresden-based psychologists also cannot answer all the questions about this phenomenon with absolute certainty. For example, could it be that psychotherapeutic treatment generally improves the quality of intimate relationships, and that successfully treated patients achieve, for example, orgasms more easily? Or is it that the data tends to be biased to reflect the positive attitudes towards life reported by former patients, whereas more objective data criteria might not confirm improvements to love lives, at least to the extent thought?

Finally, if patients' love lives improve, even when their sexual problems are not directly treated - does that mean that sexual dysfunctions need not be separately addressed during therapy? "Our data definitely does not allow this conclusion", says Prof. Juergen Hoyer. "We should not neglect the number of patients who still showed these symptoms even after a successful therapy. In the future, patients should be encouraged even more to openly talk about problems with sexuality. Where else could they expect their problems to be dealt with confidentially and professionally, if not at a psychotherapist?"

Information for journalists: Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Jürgen Hoyer, Tel. +49 351 463-36070, E-Mail:

Kim-Astrid Magister | idw
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