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A Network Comparison of Sexual Dysfunction, Psychological Factors, and Body Dissociation between Individuals with and without Sexual Trauma Histories.

Sexual dysfunction is associated with psychological symptoms, including depression and anxiety. Sexual dysfunctions are often attributed to dissociation symptoms in individuals who reported sexual trauma histories. This study utilized a network approach to analyze relationships between sexual and psychological symptoms and examine whether the identified network structures differed between individuals who reported a history of sexual trauma and those who did not. Sexual dysfunction, history of sexual trauma, internalizing symptoms, dissociation symptoms, sex-related shame, and negative body image were assessed in 1,937 United States college students (women = 69.5%). Nearly half (46.8%) of the participants reported a sexual trauma history in their lifetime. Using regularized partial correlation networks, the relationships between sexual and psychological symptoms were analyzed and compared between groups with and without trauma histories. Internalizing symptoms were positively correlated with sexual dysfunction regardless of the presence of sexual trauma history. Anxiety had a stronger influence in the trauma network than in the no-trauma network. Feeling separated from the body during sexual activity was a central symptom and was related to difficulties relaxing and enjoying sex only in the trauma network. Sex-related shame appeared to play a more important role in men compared to women. To improve clinical practice of assessing and treating sexual dysfunction, researchers and clinicians should consider core symptoms that connect different aspects of sexual and psychological functioning while being aware of the unique role of dissociation in the context of traumatic stress.

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