Dr Miriam Forbes - Winner of the 2015 Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research (Business, Humanities and Social Sciences)
Dr Miriam Forbes - Winner of the 2015 Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research (Business, Humanities and Social Sciences)

Depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunction

Over half of the Australian population will experience sexual difficulties, low mood, and anxiety at clinically significant levels, and often at the same time. When sexual dysfunctions occur at the same time as anxiety or depression they have a profoundly negative impact on quality of life. Surprisingly, sexual dysfunctions are underrepresented in mainstream psychology research and there had been no research on the broad relationships between depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunction before Dr Miriam Forbes’ PhD research.

Dr Forbes aimed to understand how and why these disorders were related to each other. Rather than causing one another, they were found to have shared vulnerabilities, and to be in the same ‘family’ of disorders. This finding is important in order to diagnose and treat them effectively.

Dr Forbes’ research also led her to argue that the two most widely used measures of sexual dysfunction have limitations such that researchers and clinicians should avoid their use altogether. This argument has had significant impact and clarified the path to deeper understanding and more accurate measurement of sexual dysfunctions.