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Sexual Health Center

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Sexual Problems Common Among Obese People

Doctors need to show open attitude, help obese get treatment

Morbid Obesity and Quality of Sex Life continued...

"This is not just about overweight people coming for weight loss treatment," Binks tells WebMD. "They're out in the world, feeling alienated, not even realizing that this is a common problem."

"People who are struggling with their weight must not make [their weight problem] define who they are," Binks says. "They are entitled to have the same quality of life as anyone else. You don't have to hate your body or your weight to work to improve it. If someone is really struggling with this issue, they need to seek out some help. The answer to their sexual problems may not be just losing weight. The issues may be at a deeper level than we realized, involved with body image and self-esteem. People's self-esteem can improve when they take control of their lives."

Sexual Problems of Morbidly Obese Need More Attention

"I am very happy to see that this issue of obesity and sexual quality of life has been addressed," says Birgitta Adolfsson, MD, an obesity researcher with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Just last month, Adolfsson published a similar study in the journal Obesity Research -- but her study had a different conclusion.

In her study of 2,810 men and women, there were no significant differences in terms of satisfaction with sex life between the overweight and obese people and normal-weight people.

"It is conceivable that the expectations of what is needed for satisfaction is lower among overweight and obese persons compared with subjects of normal weight," writes Adolfsson in her study. "Critical attitudes toward obese people are prevalent. Some obese people internalize the negative social messages. This may be the cause of self-imposed restrictions on important aspects of life, such as enjoying a sexual relationship… [for] obese people -- or even people of normal weight who feel obese."

The results of Binks' study "confirm my experience from clinical practice that many obese patients need to discuss sexual matters," Adolfsson tells WebMD. Obesity "has been recognized as a lifestyle issue. Sexual satisfaction is a basic human need."

If doctors show an open attitude about sexual issues and obesity, their patients will find it easier to discuss their difficulties, she notes.

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