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Placebo Effect Significantly Improves Female Sexual Satisfaction

September 16, 2010

Many women with low sex drives reported greater sexual satisfaction after taking a placebo, according to new psychology research from The University of Texas at Austin and Baylor College of Medicine.

The study was conducted by Cindy Meston, a clinical psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin, and Andrea Bradford, a 2009 University of Texas at Austin graduate and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. They found that opening a new line of communication about sex can have a positive effect in many women with low libidos.

The researchers examined data from a previous clinical trial that followed 200 women over a 12-week period. Fifty of those women, ages 35-55, were randomly chosen to receive a placebo instead of a drug treatment for low sexual arousal. None of the participants knew which treatment they were given. To measure the effect of the treatment, women were asked to rate symptoms of sexual dysfunction such as low sexual desire, low sexual arousal and problems with orgasm.

The findings, available online in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, show that on average, one in three of the women who took a placebo showed an overall improvement. Most of that improvement seemed to happen during the first four weeks.

Symptom changes were measured by the frequency of satisfying sexual encounters that the women reported during the treatment. Many women reported they received more stimulation during sexual activity while they participated in the trial, even though their partners were not given any special instructions.

All women taking the placebo talked to a health provider about their difficulties and monitored their sexual behaviors and feelings regularly.

“The findings from our study show how a woman’s expectations to improve sexually can have a substantial positive effect on her sexual well-being without any actual drug treatment,” Meston says. “Expecting to get better and trying to find a solution to a sexual problem by participating in a study seems to make couples feel closer, communicate more and even act differently towards each other during sexual encounters.”

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