Childhood Sexual Abuse Moderates the Relationship Between Sexual Functioning and Eating Disorder Psychopathology in Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa: A 1-Year Follow-Up Study

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Sexual dysfunctions that affect all aspects of sexuality are common in patients with eating disorders. However, only few studies have provided longitudinal information on sexual functioning in patients with eating disorders.


To evaluate the longitudinal course of sexual functioning, and how changes in psychopathology and history of childhood abuse interact with sexual functioning in patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN).


A total of 27 patients with AN and 31 with BN were assessed at baseline and at 1-year follow-up after a standard individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Main Outcome Measures.

Subjects were studied by means of the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, Beck Depression Inventory, Spielberg's State–Trait Anxiety Inventory, Symptom Checklist-90, and Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Questionnaire.


After treatment, both patients with AN and BN showed a significant improvement in the FSFI total score (P < 0.01 for both AN and BN) and all FSFI subscales, without significant between groups differences. Patients reporting childhood sexual abuse did not show a significant improvement in sexual functioning (β = 0.05; P = 0.58). Reduction in eating disorder severity was directly associated with FSFI improvement, but only in those subjects with no history of sexual abuse (β = 0.28; P = 0.01).


Eating disorder-specific psychopathology could be considered as a specific maintaining factor for sexual dysfunction in eating disorders subjects. Subjects reporting a history of childhood sexual abuse represent a subpopulation of patients with a profound uneasiness, involving body perception, as well as sexual functioning, which appeared not to be adequately challenged during standard CBT intervention. The results, though original, should be considered as preliminary, given the relatively small sample size. Castellini G, Lo Sauro C, Lelli L, Godini L, Vignozzi L, Rellini AH, Faravelli C, Maggi M, and Ricca V. Childhood sexual abuse moderates the relationship between sexual functioning and eating disorder psychopathology in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: A 1-year follow-up study. J Sex Med 2013;10:2190–2200.

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