PTSD linked to worse sexual functioning in midlife women

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A recent study measuring sexual functioning in women with post-traumatic stress disorder was discussed at The Menopause Society 2023 Annual Meeting.

PTSD linked to worse sexual functioning in midlife women | Image Credit: © Feng Yu - © Feng Yu - stock.adobe.com.

PTSD linked to worse sexual functioning in midlife women | Image Credit: © Feng Yu - © Feng Yu - stock.adobe.com.

There is an association between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and decreased sexual functioning, according to data highlighted at The Menopause Society 2023 Annual Meeting.

Takeaways

  • Data presented at The Menopause Society 2023 Annual Meeting indicates an association between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and decreased sexual functioning in midlife women.
  • Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD symptoms, with approximately 10% of women reporting these symptoms. Common triggers for PTSD include combat exposure, childhood physical abuse, and sexual violence.
  • There is a lack of research on the long-term health effects of PTSD symptoms among midlife women, who often undergo significant changes in mood, physical health, and social relationships due to menopause.
  • The study found that severe PTSD symptoms, particularly avoidance or numbing symptoms, were associated with poorer sexual functioning in women. Greater past-month PTSD symptoms correlated with worse sexual functioning.
  • The findings underscore the importance of healthcare professionals assessing and addressing PTSD symptoms among midlife women to improve their sexual health and functioning.

Women are more likely to experience PTSD symptoms than men, with symptoms reported in approximately 10% of women. Common experiences leading to PTSD symptoms include combat exposure, childhood physical abuse, and sexual violence.

While PTSD has been associated with multiple adverse physical and mental health outcomes, there is little data on the impact of PTSD symptoms on sexual functioning in midlife women. To address this information gap, investigators conducted a study including over 100 postmenopausal women aged 45 to 66 years.

"Many midlife women experience profound changes in their mood, physical health, and social relationships, in part related to the menopause transition," said Karen Jakubowski, PhD, lead author from the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. "Currently, there is little research on the long-term health effects of PTSD symptoms, specifically among midlife women.

Eligibility criteria included having experienced PTSD symptoms and having sexual activity within the month prior to evaluation. Cofounders included education, race and ethnicity, age, alcohol use, vaginal estrogen use, and depressive symptoms.

An association between severe symptoms of PTSD and decreased sexual functioning was reported among women. Specifically, poorer sexual functioning was observed in women who showed greater avoidance or numbing symptoms.

Researchers concluded greater past-month PTSD symptoms correlate to worse sexual functioning. To improve sexual health and functioning, PTSD symptoms should be assessed and addressed among midlife women.

"As women age, there are many reasons why sexual functioning may become an issue for them," said Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, medical director for The Menopause Society. "This study highlights the need for healthcare professionals to ask about any history of trauma and open up the dialogue with their patients on this sensitive issue."

Reference

Post-traumatic stress symptoms can cause problems in the bedroom for midlife women. The Menopause Society. September 27, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023.

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