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Body Image, Binge Eating, and Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Aug 22, 2017

The women were asked to view a short video that began with neutral content but switched to sexual scenes that, in past studies, were deemed to stimulate female sexual arousal.

Using saliva samples, the scientists measured cortisol levels in each woman before the video, during the sexual portion of the video, and again about an hour after the video.

After analyzing the samples and reviewing the questionnaires, researchers found that women with poor body esteem who also showed a tendency toward binge eating were more likely to feel sexual distress. They also found a link between body esteem and dissociation during sex; women who dissociated and had poor body image had higher cortisol levels, indicating higher levels of stress.

“[W]omen with high body-related uneasiness might need to ‘escape’ from the awareness of self-evaluation triggered by sexual experience that makes them feel inadequate, and dissociation could serve as a psychological defense against intolerable emotional states,” the authors explained.

They emphasized the importance of developing treatments for women who dissociate during sex.


“Dissociation and dissociative disorders”

(Last updated: June 2012)

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Castellini, Giovanni, MD, PhD, et al.

“Body Esteem as a Common Factor of a Tendency Toward Binge Eating and Sexual Dissatisfaction Among Women: The Role of Dissociation and Stress Response During Sex”

(Full-text. Published online: June 27, 2017)

Psychology Today

Bergland, Christopher

“Cortisol: Why ‘The Stress Hormone’ Is Public Enemy No. 1”

(January 22, 2013)

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