Men and women with schizophrenia are more than twice more likely to develop sexual dysfunction than individuals without the illness.
According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine ISSM, the findings are based on a review and meta-analysis of 10 observational studies that included 1,161 patients with schizophrenia. The remaining participants were in control groups. The average age of all participants ranged from 29 to 46 years.
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental illness. Major symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and absence of insight. Other symptoms include social inadequacy, decreased emotional expression, and lack of motivation. Medications (i.e., antipsychotics) are the mainstay of treatment along with psychosocial approaches, such as counseling and rehabilitation programs.
Past studies have shown that rates of sexual dysfunction are high among people with schizophrenia, ranging from 33% to 85% in men and 25% to 85% in women. In men, the most commonly-reported problem is erectile dysfunction; in women, it is diminished sex drive.
Patients and healthcare providers may not feel comfortable discussing sexual health issues.
The current study further investigated sexual health in people with schizophrenia, comparing their outcomes with healthy controls.
The 10 studies under review were published between 1996 and 2019. Research was conducted in Germany, the United Kingdom, India, Spain, Japan, and Turkey.
The reviewers determined that men and women with schizophrenia were at a 2.07-fold higher risk of sexual dysfunction compared to the general population.
They added that the rates of sexual dysfunction events among study participants were 49.7% for people with schizophrenia and 22.2% for healthy individuals. These rates were 57.4% and 23.1%, respectively for men. For women, the rates were 60.9% and 37.7%, respectively.
The authors noted several factors that can influence sexuality in people with schizophrenia. For example, religion and culture may play a role. The authors noted that in these studies, the sexual dysfunction prevalence was higher in Europe than in Asia.
In addition, sexual side effects of drugs used to treat schizophrenia, such as increased prolactin levels, can impair sexual function.
“Clinically, understanding this psychopathological disorder correlates of [sexual dysfunction] may allow more clinicians to evaluate the sexual functioning, recommend the preferred antipsychotic medications, and develop specific psychological interventions for those patients with schizophrenia,” the authors concluded.