Sexual dysfunctions are an important topic in psychology. Despite the wide influence that these dysfunctions have in the lives of patients, there are very few data about their specific epidemiology because of their heterogeneity, the variability of definitions used to classify their invasiveness, the variability in studied populations (for instance in terms of age and gender) and the shame that is often felt when talking about this subject. When we talk about sexual dysfunctions we refer to the impossibility or to the reduced ability to produce a sexual response during one or more phases of the intercourse: desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution.
A normal sexual life can generate numerous beneficial effects on the physiological level, such as the production of endorphins. These substances, produced at the conclusion of sexual intercourses, are similar to substances like morphine or heroine and they give a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. They are natural anxiolytics and relaxants that momentarily “turn off” sexual desire and promote attachment and fidelity to the partner.
Several articles report extremely interesting descriptions of cases in which subjects who begun a hypnosis sessions cycle, even for the first time, solved their sexual problems.
In a research conducted on a sample of 60 subjects with erectile problems, the effect of two different kinds of alternative medicine and of a placebo treatment have been compared1. The subjects were divided into two groups: the first one, composed by 15 men, received an acupuncture treatment while a second group, which included 16 subjects, received a standard hypnosis treatment (similar inductions for every subject). This treatment consisted in several hypnotic inductions that took place three days a week at the beginning and then once a month until the sixth month since the beginning of the study was reached. Finally, the third group had 29 subjects and it was divided into two additional groups in order to administer, for a period of six months, an “oral” placebo (pills without active principles) and an acupuncture placebo, in which needles were inserted in places that weren’t the traditional pressure points. All subjects have been periodically interviewed in order to evaluate the effect of treatments. Results demonstrated that hypnotic treatment, compared to the other two treatments (acupuncture and placebo) leads, with higher frequency (75% of subjects as opposed to 60% of subjects in the acupuncture group and 45% of subjects in the placebo group), to an improvement in erectile problems.
In a recent study the efficacy in the treatment of sexual problems of the so-called “new hypnosis” hypnotic techniques has been investigated2. The philosophy of the new hypnosis, built on Milton Erickson’s intuitions, sets the patient at the center of hypnotic therapy and is more flexible and less bond to standardized phrases and inductions compared to traditional hypnosis. In the above-mentioned study the author underlines that the therapies for sexual dysfunctions that are able to involve imaginative processes (the ability of the subject to build and get involved in mental images) have more consistent results compared to cognitive therapies. In one case described in the paper, these techniques have been used to treat erectile dysfunctions. Inductions aimed to reduce tension were used in the first place to allow the young subject to reach an adequate level of relaxation.  Imaginative and coloring techniques (techniques in which mental images are freely modified by subjects in a deep relaxation state) were then used. The involvement in mental images was obtained by asking the patient to imagine the women with whom he had had a relationship in the past. After less than 2 months of this treatment the subject became able to transform his difficulty in desire at first and then in sexual arousal.
Also with women affected with vulvodynia beneficial effects of hypnotic techniques have been reported. Vulvodynia is a condition in which pain of variable intensity and localization is experienced in the vulvar region after pressure or contact. In a study carried out in 20073, 8 women affected with vulvodynia participated to 6 hypnotherapy sessions and after each one of them several variables were collected: pain during gynecological examinations, vestibular pain threshold and evaluations regarding pain during sexual activity. Results showed a reduction in pain caused by gynecological examinations and a reduction of pain during sexual activity with a consequent improvement in sexual satisfaction and general quality of sexual life.
Summarizing, these studies highlight that hypnosis can be a promising treatment for both male, as reported by the studies on erectile dysfunctions, and female, as shown by the data on patients affected with vulvodynia, sexual dysfunctions.
[1] Aydin S, Ercan M, Caşkurlu T, Taşçi AI, Karaman I, Odabaş O, Yilmaz Y, Ağargün MY, Kara H, Sevin G. Acupuncture and Hypnotic Suggestions in the Treatment of Non-organic Male Sexual Dysfunction. Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology; 31: 271-274 (1997).
[2] Araoz D. Hypnosis in Human Sexuality Problems. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis; 47:4, 229-242 (2005).
[3] Pukall C, Kandyba K, Amsel R, Khalifè S, Binik Y. Effectiveness of hypnosis for the treatment of vulvar vestibulitis syndrome: a preliminary investigation. J Sex Med; 4: 417-425.