Research suggests that a variety of biological and psychosocial factors are associated with the sexual health of women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (AN). This systematic scoping review, conducted in accordance to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta‐Analyses Guidelines, synthesizes the current literature concerning sexual function and dysfunction in women with AN.

We searched PubMed, EMBASE, and PsychInfo for literature published until April 2020. All study designs were eligible for inclusion, providing they focused on sexual function and dysfunction in women with AN. Studies that only included outcomes related to gender identity or sexual orientation were excluded.

N = 28 studies met criteria for inclusion in the review. All studies were conducted in Western countries and the majority employed either a cohort or cross‐sectional design. Although measures of sexual function and dysfunction varied markedly across studies, most studies adopted a biopsychosocial framework. Libido may be linked to body mass index (BMI), while other aspects of sexual functioning and behavior might not be specifically associated with weight status. Limited data are available on evidence‐based interventions.

Sexual dysfunction in women with AN is common. Although some of the variance is explained by low BMI, associated physiological sequelae and other psychosocial factors are also involved. Sexual dysfunction is a relevant clinical problem and clinicians should sensitively incorporate questions related to sexual function into their eating disorder assessments. Future research, using more robust designs and validated outcome measures, is needed to better understand causal pathways between the biological and psychosocial correlates of AN and sexual dysfunction. Identifying predictors of sexual function and dysfunction in more diverse groups of people with AN will support the development of evidence‐based therapies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1377-1399
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • anorexia nervosa
  • eating disorders
  • female sexual dysfunction
  • sexual functioning
  • systematic review


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