Negative Affect and Somatically Focused Anxiety in Young Women Reporting Pain With Intercourse

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After a long history of privileging psychosexual etiological factors over pain and physiological processes, dyspareunia has enjoyed 1 decade of pointed research focused on the presenting problem of pain. Although it is generally acknowledged that certain affective and cognitive styles may play a role in an individual's experience of pain in general, investigations into these questions specifically as they pertain to pain that occurs during sex are relatively scarce. To add to this growing body of knowledge, 759 women aged 18 to 29 completed questionnaires about current sexual functioning, gynecologic history, expectations about intercourse, and various personality and health-related anxiety measures. One-hundred-one women (14% of the sample) reported pain during intercourse on at least 50% of attempts. This group of women significantly differed from 536 women reporting pain on less than 10% of intercourse attempts on personality constructs related to emotional and relational well-being (e.g., neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness), as well as anxiety sensitivity, anxiety related to physical health concerns, and the amplification of somatosensory experiences. This affective and cognitive profile is consistent with previous studies that have found an attentional hypervigilance to health and pain-related information in women with dyspareunia, all of which could prove germane to cognitive-behavioral treatments targeting this disorder.


Anxiety in women; Dyspareunia; Psychosexual disorders; Sexual disorders; Well-being


Community-Based Research | Counseling Psychology | Health Psychology | Medicine and Health | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology


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