An Update on Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction in Old Age and Its Relevance to Old Age Psychiatry

Old Age Psychiatry, Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust, Eastglade Centre, Sheffield, UK.
Aging and Disease (Impact Factor: 3.07). 10/2012; 3(5):373-84.
Source: PubMed


Numerous studies have now demonstrated that many older women retain an interest in their sexual lives. Yet, how many old age psychiatrists commonly check with older women about whether the depression they are treating, or the SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) they have prescribed, have adversely affected their patient's sexual lives? We consider the latest evidence regarding cultural, social and medical influences on older women's sexual lives and some specific issues which affect lesbian and transsexual people. We examine how mental illness and psychotropic medication in particular can adversely affect older women's sexual functioning and at how difficult it often proves to be for women to seek help. We also focus on why doctors and in particular psychiatrists may not take a sexual history, look for sexual side effects or refer for appropriate treatment, especially when interviewing older women patients. Most published information about psychiatric training and sexual issues focuses on the younger male patient. We therefore aimed to provide a broad-ranging review of the literature regarding female sexual functioning in old age, the difficulties that can arise and the role that old age psychiatrists have an opportunity to fulfil, in this often neglected aspect of their patients' treatment. From our review it was clear that, in the light of the increasing cultural acceptability of discussions regarding sexuality and older women, the training of student doctors and trainee psychiatrists needs to reflect this change so that old age psychiatrists can enhance the quality of their patient care.

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