Is there adequate discussion between psychiatrists and their patients regarding patients’ sexual problems?
background Sexual problems arise frequently among psychiatric patients, either as a symptom of psychiatric disorders or as a side effect of psychotropic medication. However, it is questionable whether in daily practice psychiatrists and trainee psychiatrists give enough attention to patients’ sexual problems.
goal To investigate how much attention psychiatrists and trainees give to patients’ sexual problems and to discover what factors influence the amount of attention they give.
methods All psychiatrists and trainees working at two academic psychiatric centres and three mental health institutes in the province of North Holland were asked to complete an online questionnaire about the discussion of sexual problems.
results 164 psychiatrists and trainee psychiatrists completed the questionnaire (response rate 44%). About 50% of the respondents stated that they spent less than five minutes per week discussing sexual problems with their patients. When prescribing antidepressants and antipsychotics, psychiatrists and trainees often failed to inform patients about sexual side effects (33% in the case of antidepressants and 50% for antipsychotics).
conclusions The investigation reveals that psychiatrists and trainees give little attention to sexuality problems of patients. The main reason for this seems to be feelings of shame and incompetence. Lack of time was not identified as a significant factor. We believe that the situation will improve considerably if psychiatrists and trainees involved in training programmes and supervisory activities give more attention to sexual problems.