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The Impact of Obesity on Sexuality

Obesity, and especially morbid obesity, has a huge range of physical effects. Those that suffer from obesity have an increased chance of developing other serious diseases, have less energy, and suffer from depression and low self esteem. They also tend to have problems in the bedroom.

When a person is obese, their sex life suffers. A report presented at a meeting of The North American Association for the Study of Obesity by Martin Binks, PhD, from Duke University Medical Center, shows that morbidly obese Americans are 25 times more likely than those of normal weight to report problems with their sex lives. It's a dramatic difference.

Why does this problem so widely affect the obese? There are a variety of reasons, both physical and emotional. The larger a person gets, the more problems he or she will report in the bedroom-- the desire for sex, sexual performance, and even sexual enjoyment fall dramatically. The physical restrictions placed on the obese by excess weight often make sexual activity too difficult or strenuous. In addition, a constant lack of energy and feeling of lethargy will tend to reduce the desire for sex.

Another impact obesity has on sexuality is a psychological one. Obesity brings along with it lowered self-esteem and often feelings of shame. These feelings lead to an unwillingness to display the body or make oneself vulnerable to their partner. The physical effects of obesity can also lead to performance anxiety, making partners unwilling to attempt to perform sexually. In a study of 928 obese men and women, of those seeking treatment for their obesity 50% had a decreased sex drive and trouble wanting sex, 42% felt they had problems performing sexually, and 41% said they avoided sex altogether.

Obesity also affects sexuality through its impact on marriages and relationships in and of themselves. Shame is a common consequence of obesity, and it often tends to cause an emotional imbalance within relationship. This happens where one partner feels "more worthless" than the other partner. Also, the partners of overweight persons can, at times, have problems finding their partner sexually attractive. This is especially common when the bulk of the weight gain occurred during the course of the relationship. When this happens in a relationship, it is hurtful and difficult to face for both partners, and communication about these issues is usually avoided. But in the end, avoidance of this topic only creates further problems in a relationship, as it cuts off lines of communication.

A large number of factors play into the sexual problems experienced by obese individuals. When physical problems are as severely compounded by psychological issues, as occurs with obesity, sexual dysfunction can seem an insurmountable obstacle. It's important, though, to seek help if you're experiencing problems with sexual performance or sex drive due to obesity.

Simply taking the first steps to seek obesity treatment has a positive emotional impact, allowing obese persons to feel some level of control over their situation. Sexual satisfaction is a basic human need, and it's just one more key reason to care for your health and try to find healthful solutions to the problem of obesity.


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