Propensity to Sexual Response among Adults with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Andrea Pozza1, *, Donatella Marazziti2, Federico Mucci2, Davide Dèttore1
1 Department of Health Sciences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
2 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Section of Psychiatry, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

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© 2019 Andrea Pozza et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Health Sciences, University of Florence, Via Di San Salvi 12-50135, Florence, Italy; Tel/Fax: +39 055 27 55067; E-mail: andrea.pozza@unifi.it



Propensity to sexual excitation and inhibition is one of the key dimensions of sexuality. Clinicians working with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) patients rarely assess this and other aspects of sexuality, since treatment targets generally symptom reduction. Literature on sexual functioning in OCD patients is scarce and no study has focused on symptom subtypes, nor investigated the psychological processes related to sexual response.


In the present short report, we describe an exploratory study investigating the association between symptom subtypes and propensity towards sexual excitation/inhibition in OCD patients, controlling for gender, age and antidepressant treatment.


Seventy-two OCD patients (mean age = 34.50 years, 37.50% women) completed the Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised and the Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales.


Patients with more severe compulsive washing habit had a lower propensity towards excitation and a higher one towards inhibition due to threat of performance consequences (i.e., contamination with sexually transmitted diseases/having an unwanted pregnancy). Patients with more severe symptoms of checking showed a higher propensity towards inhibition due to the threat of performance consequences. Gender, age and antidepressant treatment were not related to sexual functioning.


Specific OCD symptom subtypes may be associated with some psychological processes involved in sexual response. Sexual well-being should be carefully evaluated by practitioners and should be regarded as a treatment target. Future studies should investigate more comprehensively the processes involved in sexuality.

Keywords: Sexual functioning, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Washing, Checking, Antidepressants, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Symptom subtypes, Sexual therapy.