Predictors of women's sexual desire: the role of psychopathology, cognitive-emotional determinants, relationship dimensions, and medical factors

Joana Carvalho, Pedro Nobre
Journal of Sexual Medicine 2010, 7 (2): 928-37

INTRODUCTION: Deficient sexual desire is a common sexual difficulty among women, often related to medical and psychiatric problems, lack of adjustment in a relationship, or age. However, the relative contribution of each one of these dimensions is not yet well establish.

AIM: The aim of this study was to evaluate the main predictive factors of female sexual desire.

METHODS: A total of 237 women from the general population answered to a set of questionnaires assessing psychopathology, cognitive-emotional factors, dyadic adjustment, presence of medical pathologies, and menopause.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Psychopathology measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), dysfunctional sexual beliefs measured by the Sexual Dysfunctional Beliefs Questionnaire, thoughts and emotions in sexual context measured by the Sexual Modes Questionnaire, dyadic adjustment measured by the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, medical condition measured by the Medical History Formulation, and sexual desire measured by the Sexual Desire subscale of the Female Sexual Function Index.

RESULTS: Findings indicated that psychoticism was the only psychopathological dimension that significantly predicted sexual desire (beta = 0.37). Conservative beliefs (beta = -0.33) and age-related beliefs (beta = -0.25) were also significant predictors of desire. Additionally, lack of erotic thoughts (beta = -0.28), failure and disengagement sexual thoughts (beta = -0.64), and thoughts related to female passivity (beta = 0.31) during sexual activity were significant predictors of desire. Regarding relationship dimensions, dyadic cohesion (beta = 0.37), and dyadic affection (beta = 0.45) were the best predictors of sexual desire. Moreover, postmenopausal women and women with medical problems presented reduced sexual desire. A multiple regression analysis (enter method) including all these variables plus age, indicated that failure/disengagement thoughts during sexual activity was the only significant predictor of sexual desire in women (beta = -0.52).

CONCLUSIONS: Results support the role of cognitive dimensions in the maintenance of women's sexual interest, and suggest implications for assessment and treatment of sexual desire difficulties.

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