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A randomized, wait list-controlled trial suggests that two psychobehavioral interventions are effective for women’s hypoactive sexual desire

Gunst, A1; Ventus, D2; Arver, S3; Dhejne, C4; Görts-Öberg, K3; Zamore-Söderström, E3Jern, P2

1: University of Turku, Finland; 2: Åbo Akademi University, Finland; 3: Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden; 4: Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Objectives: Low sexual desire is a frequent sexual complaint presented by women, and is associated with considerable negative consequences for quality of life and the partner relation. Here we investigated the efficacy of two theory-driven psychobehavioral interventions to treat low sexual desire.

Materials and Methods: A total of 70 Swedish women with a mean age of ca. 39 years were recruited to the study and subsequently divided into three groups. Treatment protocols entailed four individual treatment sessions (duration: 75-90 minutes each) with a licensed psychologist, and all participants were given a treatment manual as well as exercises to be completed at home. Group 1 received a slightly modified version of Brotto and Basson’s treatment protocol, which focused on psychoeducation, elements of cognitive therapy, and mindfulness exercises. Group 2 received the same intervention as Group 1, but with two additional components: scheduled sexual activity with a partner, and exercises focusing on the women’s own motives for engaging in sexual activity. Group 3 was a wait-list control group. Treatment groups were assessed at baseline, post-treatment, and follow-ups at 3 and 6 months post-treatment, respectively.

Results: Both treatment groups reported significant increases in sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, and total sexual functioning, as well as decreases in sexual distress after treatment. Effect sizes for increases in sexual desire after treatment were generally large (ds = .76 – 1.13). Treatment benefits were sustained at follow-up. However, there were no detectable differences in terms of treatment efficacy between the two treatment groups. Treatment efficacy was variable between individuals.

Conclusions: Psychobehavioral interventions for women’s hypoactive sexual desire are effective and safe, and should be considered as first-line treatment alternatives. Further research is warranted to elucidate individual variation in treatment response.


Work supported by industry: no.

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