Sexual Dysfunction and Distress Among Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors: The Role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan, Yael Lahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Research has revealed that survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) have elevated sexual dysfunction and distress. Nevertheless, a vast majority of studies examining sexual dysfunction and distress among CSA survivors were conducted among women only, and the moderating role of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms between a history of CSA and sexual dysfunction and distress is yet to be investigated. Aim: To fill this gap, the present study aimed to investigate the following: (i) are there sex differences in the relations between CSA and sexual dysfunction and distress and (ii) whether PTSD symptoms mediate the relations between CSA and sexual dysfunction and distress. Methods: This study was conducted online among 792 Israeli men and women aged 18–70 years; among whom, 367 reported a history of CSA. Outcomes: The findings of the present study suggest that PTSD symptoms mediate the relations between CSA and sexual dysfunction and distress. Results: Results indicated that those who had a history of CSA reported elevated sexual dysfunction and sexual distress, as compared with non-abused participants, regardless of their sex. Furthermore, PTSD symptoms were related to sexual dysfunction and sexual distress and mediated the relations between a history of CSA and sexual dysfunction and distress. A history of CSA predicted elevated PTSD symptoms, which in turn, were related to elevated sexual dysfunction and distress. Clinical interventions for CSA survivors should incorporate various treatment approaches to alleviate both PTSD symptoms and sexual dysfunction and distress. Clinical translation: The present findings indicate the need for clinicians to identify PTSD symptoms and to conjoin distinctive treatment approaches to relieve survivors’ PTSD symptoms, as well as their sexual dysfunction and distress. Strengths & limitations: The study included a non-clinical, convenience sample and used self-report measures, which are highly subjective and increase the possibility of social desirability biases. However, on the plus side, it provides important information on CSA survivor's sexual functioning and can assist in establishing intervention goals, and to evaluate treatment. Conclusion: PTSD symptoms were found to mediate the relations between a history of CSA and sexual dysfunction and distress, implying that PTSD symptoms serve as a mechanism underlying sexual dysfunction and distress among CSA survivors. Gewirtz-Meydan A, Lahav Y. Sexual Dysfunction and Distress Among Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors: The Role of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. J Sex Med 2020;17:2267–2278.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2267-2278
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Volume17
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Childhood Sexual Abuse
  • Post-Ttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Sexual Distress
  • Sexual Dysfunction

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