Sexuality and Sexual Dysfunctions

  • Sexual difficulties that are not clear to an individual may affect their sexual desire, sexual expression and intimacy of the individual or dyad. The lack of ability to associate sexuality with affectivity can also provoke and prolong a sexual problem, which in turn can influence the individual’s self-esteem, with possible consequences upon family, social and intimate relationships.
  • Some psychological factors may impair an individual’s sexual desire and expression, and explain sexual dysfunctions, such as stress: anxiety; depression; low self-esteem; conflicts in sexual identity; religious and family beliefs; belief in sexual misconceptiond traumatic sexual experiences; relational conflicts within the couple; loss of attraction by partner; problems with body image; and rigid, conservative and/or repressive education. Physical causes include hormonal changes during pregnancy, postpartum, or with menopause; hypo and hyperthyroidism; gynaecological infections; renal insufficiency; neoplasms; and medication, such as antihypertensives, neuroleptics, sedatives, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, chemotherapeutic agents, and medication used for glaucoma; as well as consumption of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • The most frequent sexual problems in women are: vaginism, sexual aversion, hypoactive sexual desire, dyspareunia, disturbance of sexual arousal and orgasm. In men, the most frequent sexual problems are: dyspareunia, hypoactive sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory disturbance and inhibition of orgasm.

How can psychological support help?

  • Psychological support encompasses a detailed assessment and exploration of sexual difficulties or dysfunctions. The psychologist helps improve intra and interpersonal communication, fosters self-knowledge, and aids in overcoming obstacles that arise, such as: lack or decrease of desire; difficulty in achieving or maintaining arousal and in reaching or not achieving climax; continuous genito-pelvic pain; female pain and difficulty during penetration; problems in getting or maintaining erection; traumatic sexual experiences, among other complications.

Chapters in Scientific Books

  • von Humboldt, S., Low, G. & Leal, I. (2021). Sexuality and sexual well-being. In D. Gu & M. E. Dupre (Eds.), Encyclopedia of gerontology and population aging. (pp. 1-5). New York, NY: Springer, Cham. [E-pub ahead of print] (View in Detail).

Peer-Reviewed Indexed Journal Articles

  • von Humboldt, S., Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., Costa, A., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2021). Sexual Expression in Old Age: How Older Adults from Different Cultures Express Sexually? Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 18(2), 246-260. JCR® Impact Factor (2019): 2.405. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Low, L., & Leal, I. (2020). Are older adults satisfied with their sexuality? Outcomes from a cross-cultural study. Educational Gerontology, 46, 284-293. JCR® Impact Factor (2018): 0.748 (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J., Costa, A. & Leal, I. (2020). How older adults express themselves sexually? A qualitative study. Psicologia, Saúde & Doenças, 21(1), 62-68. (View Details).
  • Torres, M., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2020). Estudo misto da influência das mudanças sexuais na satisfação sexual dos idosos [Mixed study about the influence of sexual changes in older adults’ sexual satisfaction]. Psicologia, Saúde & Doenças, 21(1), 90-96. http://dx.doi.org/10.15309/20psd210114 (Visualizar em Detalhe).
  • von Humboldt, S., Silva, S., & Leal, I. (2017). A study on sexual unwellness in old age: Assessing a cross-national sample of older adults. Review of European Studies, 9(3), 207-216. SCImago: Quartile 1 (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Leal, I., & Monteiro, A. (2016). Are older adults well sexually? Sexual well-being among a cross-national sample of older adults. Review of European Studies, 8(1), 134-144. SCImago: Quartile 1 (View Details).

Peer-Reviewed Abstracts

  • von Humboldt, S., Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., & Costa, A. (2020). Sexual Expression in Old Age: A Qualitative Study. Innovation in Aging, 4(1), 313-313. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Niculescu, G., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2020). Are Older Adults Sexually Well: A Comparative Qualitative Study in Portugal and Romania. Innovation in Aging, 4(1), 310-310. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Niculescu, G., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2020). Sexual unwellness: A qualitative study with older adults from Portugal and Romania. European Psychiatry, 63(S1), S442- S442. JCR® Impact Factor (2018): 3.941(View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Niculescu, G., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2020). Sexual well-being in the perspective of older adults from Portugal and Romania. European Psychiatry, 63(S1), S181- S182. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., Costa, A., & Leal, I. (2020). How older adults express sexually: A qualitative study. European Psychiatry, 63(S1), S181- S181. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S. (2020). Sexual well-being, affective relationships and adjustment to aging: Challenges in old age. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, 21S, 127-128.
  • von Humboldt, S. Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., Costa, A., & Leal, I. (2020). How older adults express themselves sexually? A qualitative study. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, 21S, 129-129.
  • Torres, M., von Humboldt, S. & Leal, I. (2020). Qualitative analysis of sexual changes due to aging. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, 21S, 44-44.
  • Torres, M., von Humboldt, S. & Leal, I. (2020). Mixed study about the influence of sexual changes in older adults’ sexual satisfaction. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, 21S, 128-128.
  • von Humboldt, S. (2019). Sexual well-being in advanced adulthood. Programme and Abstracts of the 5th Internacional Conference on Sexuality and Sexual Education: Interaction, Interdependence and Intersectionality, 50-51.
  • von Humboldt, S., Silva, S. & Leal, I. (2019). Analyzing sexual unwellness in old age in a sample of older adults. Book of Abstracts: 19th WPA World Congress of Psychiatry.
  • von Humboldt, S. (2019). Sexual well-being in old age: Are older adults well sexually? Book of Abstracts: 4th Congress of CiiEM: Health, Well-Being and Ageing in the 21st Century.
  • Monteiro, A. L., von Humboldt, S., Carvalheira, A. (2018) Predictors of distressing sexual difficulties among older adults: The impact of sociodemographic and psychological variables. 14th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology: Abstract book, 55-55.
  • Monteiro, A. L., von Humboldt, S., Leal, I (2018) How do formal caregivers experience the sexuality of older adults? Beliefs and attitudes towards older adults’ sexuality. 14th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology: Abstract book, 70-70.
  • von Humboldt, S. (2018). Are older adults well sexually? Sexual well-being in old age. 5th Scientific and Professional International Conference “Health of the elderly”: Book of Abstracts, 38-39 (Download).
  • von Humboldt, S., Silva, S. & Leal, I. (2018). Analyzing sexual unwellness in old age in a sample of older adults. European Psychiatry, 48S, S205-S206. (Download).
  • Silva, S., von Humboldt. S. & Leal, I. (2018). Fatores que influenciam o bem-estar sexual: estudo exploratório em idosos [Factors influencing sexual well-being: An exploratory study in older adults]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, s18, 140-140.
  • Silva, S., von Humboldt. S. & Leal, I. (2018). Diferenças de género no bem-estar sexual em idosos [Gender differences in sexual well-being in older adults]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, s18, 139-139.
  • von Humboldt. S. (2018). Ajustamento ao envelhecimento, sexualidade e riscos psicossociais: Perspetivas multidisciplinares na adultícia avançada [Adjustment to aging, sexuality and psychosocial risks: Multidisciplinary perspectives on old age]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, s18, 138-139.
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2018). Estudo sobre o mal-estar sexual na adultícia avançada: Análise de uma amostra transnacional de idosos [Study on sexual unwellness in old age: Analysis of a transnational sample of older adults]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, s18, 58-58.
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2017). A study on the factors that contribute to older adults’ sexual unwellness. European Psychiatry, 41, S667-S667 (View in detail).
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults: A multiple correspondence analysis. The Gerontologist, 56(3), 416-416. JCR® Impact Factor (2018): 3.505; SCImago: Quartile 1 (View in detail).
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Analyzing sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults: A multiple correspondence analysis. Quality of Life Research, 25(1), 186-186. JCR® Impact Factor (2018): 2.344; SCImago: Quartile 1 (View in detail).
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Analyzing Sexual well-being among a cross-national sample of older adults. International Journal of Psychology, 51(S1), 50-50. JCR® Impact Factor (2016): 1.778; SCImago: Quartile 3 (View in detail).
  • von Humboldt, S., Leal, I., & Monteiro, A. (2016). Sexual well-being among a cross-national sample of older adults. European Psychiatry, 33s, 346-347. JCR® Impact Factor (2016): 3.123; SCImago: Quartile 1 (View in detail).
  • Monteiro, A., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Bem-estar sexual dos idosos: Análise de Correspondência Múltipla [Sexual well-being of older adults: Multiple Correspondence Analysis]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, s16, 143-144.
  • Monteiro, A., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Bem-estar sexual numa amostra transnacional de idosos [Sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults]. Psicologia, Saúde e Doenças, s16, 234-234.

Peer-Reviewed Scientific Proceedings

  • Torres, M., von Humboldt, S. & Leal, I. (2020). Qualitative analysis of age-related sexual changes. In H. Pereira, S. Monteiro, G. Esgalhado, A. Cunha, & I. Leal (Eds.), 13º Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde – Actas, (pp.95-103). Covilhã: Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. ISBN: 978-989-8384-58-4
  • von Humboldt, S. (2019). Sexual well-being in old age. In T. Vilaça, A. Maia, C. Rossi, F. Teixeira, I. Chagas, I. Martins, P. Ribeiro & P. Mendes (Eds.), Interação, Interdependência e interseccionalidade em Sexualidade e Educação Sexual: (In)visibilidade e desafios em investigação e prática, (pp.77-88). Braga: Universidade do Minho, Instituto de Educação. ISBN: 978-989-8952-06-6
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2018). Estudo sobre o mal-estar sexual na adultícia avançada: análise de uma amostra a transnacional de idosos [Study on sexual unwellness in advanced adulthood: Analysis of a crossnational sample of older adults]. In I. Leal, S. von Humboldt, C. Ramos, A. Ferreira-Valente & J. Pais-Ribeiro (Eds.), 12º Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde – Actas, (pp.787-794). Lisboa: Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. ISBN: 978-972-8384-47-8
  • Silva, S., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2018). Fatores que influenciam o bem-estar sexual: estudo exploratório em idosos [Factors influencing sexual well-being: An exploratory study in older adults]. In I. Leal, S. von Humboldt, C. Ramos, A. Ferreira-Valente & J. Pais-Ribeiro (Eds.), 12º Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde – Actas, (pp.769-777). Lisboa: Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. ISBN: 978-972-8384-47-8
  • Silva, S., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2018). Diferenças de género no bem-estar sexual em idosos [Gender differences in sexual well-being in older adults]. In I. Leal, S. von Humboldt, C. Ramos, A. Ferreira-Valente & J. Pais-Ribeiro (Eds.), 12º Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde – Actas (pp.759-767). Lisboa: Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. ISBN: 978-972-8384-47-8
  • Monteiro, A., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Bem-estar sexual dos idosos: Uma Análise de Correspondência Múltipla [Sexual well-being of older adults: A Multiple Correspondence Analysis]. In I. Leal, C. Godinho, S. Marques, P. Vitória & J. Pais-Ribeiro (Eds.), Actas do 11º Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde (pp.27-35). Lisboa: Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. ISBN: 978-989-98855-3-0
  • Monteiro, A., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Bem-estar sexual numa amostra transnacional de idosos [Sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults]. In I. Leal, C. Godinho, S. Marques, P. Vitória & J. Pais-Ribeiro (Eds.), Actas do 11º Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde (pp.36-45). Lisboa: Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. ISBN: 978-989-98855-3-0

Peer-Reviewed Communications

  • von Humboldt, S., Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., & Costa, A. (2020). Sexual Expression in Old Age: A Qualitative Study. Presentation at the GSA 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting “Turning 75: Why Age Matters”, Philadelphia, November, 2020.
  • von Humboldt, S., Niculescu, G., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2020). Are Older Adults Sexually Well: A Comparative Qualitative Study in Portugal and Romania. Presentation at the GSA 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting “Turning 75: Why Age Matters”, Philadelphia, November, 2020.
  • von Humboldt, S. (2020). Sexual well-being in old age. Presentation at the Coloquio de Investigación en Gerontología 2020,1 Guadalajara, July, 2020.
  • von Humboldt, S., Niculescu, G., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2020). Sexual well-being in the perspective of older adults from Portugal and Romania. Presentation at the 28th European Congress of Psychiatry (EPA), Madrid. March, 2020. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Niculescu, G., Low, G., & Leal, I. (2020). Sexual unwellness: A qualitative study with older adults from Portugal and Romania. Presentation at the 28th European Congress of Psychiatry (EPA), Madrid. March, 2020. (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., Costa, A., & Leal, I. (2020). How older adults express sexually: A qualitative study. Presentation at the 28th European Congress of Psychiatry (EPA), Madrid. March, 2020. (View Details).
  • Torres, M., von Humboldt, S. & Leal, I. (2020). Análise qualitativa das mudanças sexuais com o envelhecimento [Qualitative analysis of sexual changes due to aging]. Presentation at 13th National Congress of Health Psychology, Covilhã. January, 2020.
  • Torres, M., von Humboldt, S. & Leal, I. (2020). Estudo misto da influência das mudanças sexuais na satisfação sexual dos idosos [Mixed study about the influence of sexual changes in older adults’ sexual satisfaction]. Presentation at a Symposium in the 13th National Congress of Health Psychology, Covilhã. January, 2020.
  • von Humboldt, S. Ribeiro-Gonçalves, J. A., Costa, A., & Leal, I. (2020). Como os idosos se expressam sexualmente? Um estudo qualitativo [How older adults express themselves sexually? A qualitative study]. Presentation at a Symposium in the 13th National Congress of Health Psychology, Covilhã. January, 2020.
  • von Humboldt, S., Silva, S. & Leal, I. (2019) Analyzing sexual unwellness in old age in a sample of older adults. Presentation at the 19th WPA World Congress of Psychiatry. Lisbon, August, 2019.
  • von Humboldt, S. Sexual well-being in old age: Are older adults well sexually?  Presentation at a Symposium in the 4th Congress of CiiEM: Health, Well-Being and Ageing in the 21st Century. Almada, June, 2019 .
  • Monteiro, A. L., von Humboldt, S., Carvalheira, A. Predictors of distressing sexual difficulties among older adults: The impact of sociodemographic and psychological variables. Presentation at the 14th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology. Albufeira, May, 2018.
  • Monteiro, A. L., von Humboldt, S., Leal, I How do formal caregivers experience the sexuality of older adults? Beliefs and attitudes towards older adults’ sexuality. Presentation at the 14th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology. Albufeira, May, 2018.
  • von Humboldt, S., Silva, S. & Leal, I. Analyzing sexual unwellness in old age in a sample of older adults. Presentation at the 26th European Congress of Psychiatry, Nice, March, 2018 (Download).
  • Silva, S., von Humboldt. S. & Leal, I. Fatores que influenciam o bem-estar sexual: Estudo exploratório em idosos [Factors influencing sexual well-being: an exploratory study in oldesr adults]. Presentation at the 12th National Congress of Health Psychology. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde, Lisbon, January, 2018
  • Silva, S., von Humboldt. S. & Leal, I. Diferenças de género no bem-estar sexual em idosos [Gender differences in sexual well-being of older adults]. Presentation at the 12th National Congress of Health Psychology. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde, Lisbon, January, 2018
  • von Humboldt. Ajustamento ao envelhecimento, sexualidade e riscos psicossociais: perspetivas multidisciplinares na adultícia avançada [Adjustment to aging, sexuality and psychosocial risks: multidisciplinary perspectives on advanced adulthood]. Presentation at the 12th National Congress of Health Psychology. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde, Lisbon, January, 2018
  • von Humboldt, S. & Leal, I. Estudo sobre o mal-estar sexual na adultícia avançada: análise de uma amostra transnacional de idosos [Study on sexual unwellness in advanced adulthood: analysis of a transnational sample of elderly people]. Presentation at the 12th National Congress of Health Psychology. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde, Lisbon, January, 2018.
  • Silva S., von Humboldt, S., Leal, I. Fatores que influenciam o bem-estar sexual: Estudo exploratório em idosos [Factors influencing sexual well-being: An exploratory study among older adults]. Presentation at the 12th National Congress of Health Psychology, Lisbon, January, 2018
  • Silva S., von Humboldt, S., Leal, I. Diferenças de género no bem-estar sexual em idosos [Gender differences in sexual well-being among older adults]. Presentation at the 12th National Congress of Health Psychology, Lisbon, January, 2018
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. Sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults: A multiple correspondence analysis. Presentation at the 69th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA), New Orleans. November, 2016 (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. A study on the factors that contribute to older adults’ sexual unwellness. Presentation at the European Congress of Psychiatry, Florence, April, 2017 (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. (2016). Analyzing sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults: A multiple correspondence analysis. Presentation at the 23rd Annual Conference of the International Society for Quality of Life Research, Copenhagen. October, 2016 (View Details)
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. Analyzing sexual well-being among a cross-national sample of older adults. Presentation at the 31st International Congress of Psychology. Yokohama. July, 2016 (View Details).
  • von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. Sexual well-being among a cross-national sample of older adults. Presentation at the 24th European Congress of Psychiatry, Madrid. March, 2016 (View Details).
  • Monteiro, A., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. Bem-estar sexual dos idosos: Uma Análise de Correspondência Múltipla [Sexual well-being of older adults: A Multiple Correspondence Analysis]. Presentation at the 11th Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. Lisbon. January, 2016.
  • Monteiro, A., von Humboldt, S., & Leal, I. Bem-estar sexual numa amostra transnacional de idosos [Sexual well-being in a cross-national sample of older adults]. Presentation at the 11th Congresso Nacional de Psicologia da Saúde. Sociedade Portuguesa de Psicologia da Saúde. Lisbon. January, 2016.