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ISSN: 1935-1232 (P)

ISSN: 1941-2010 (E)

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Abstract

Schizophrenia and Relationships: The Effect of Mental Illness on Sexuality

Author(s): Margareta ??stman, Ann-Christine Björkman

This paper seeks to investigate the impact of mental illness on the sexuality of patients with a schizophrenic disorder who live in the community in a long-term relationship with a partner. We conducted qualitative, in-depth interviews with five such patients who were in treatment at a psychiatric outpatient clinic, and three of their partners. The data were analyzed by thematic analysis and identified the following areas of concern: relationships outweigh sexuality; uncertainties about one’s sexual capacity; the dwindling of sexual fantasies, feelings of desire, and satisfaction; and, a lack of communication and support in sexual matters. Both patients and partners reported feeling overlooked by psychiatric services as sexual beings. They also expressed dissatisfaction with a patient-therapist treatment model that excluded their partners. Our findings indicate that dysfunctional sexuality affects both patients suffering from severe mental illness and their partners. Patients and partners deplore the lack of opportunity to discuss questions related to their sexuality and long-term relationships with psychiatric clinicians. Sexual problems arising from, or exacerbated by, schizophrenia require supportive services, whether in the form of general, psychiatric, or couples therapy.