To date, most research on cognitive-affective variables in dyspareunia has focused on the role of negative cognitions such as fear of pain and catastrophizing. More recently, pain and sex researchers have started to examine the influence of positive cognitions as well. However, the associations among positive penetration cognitions, optimism, pain, sexual function, and the experience of sexual distress have, as yet, not been studied in women with dyspareunia. In this study, we examined whether positive penetration cognitions and optimism are associated with less pain, better sexual function, and lower levels of sexual distress.
A community sample of 193 women (M age = 25.1, SD = 5.6 ) with self-reported dyspareunia completed online questionnaires on positive penetration cognitions (Vaginal Penetration Cognition Questionnaire, subscale positive cognitions), optimism (Pain Cognition List, subscale optimism), catastrophizing (Pain Cognition List, subscale catastrophizing), measures of pain (Visual Analogue Scale), sexual function (Female Sexual Function Index), and sexual distress (Female Sexual Distress Scale).
Catastrophizing, positive penetration cognitions, and optimism levels each uniquely and independently contributed to the prediction of pain intensity, sexual function, and sexual distress.
Our findings show that positive cognitions and optimism are associated with better functional outcomes in women with dyspareunia and suggest that in addition to reducing the role and impact of catastrophizing and other negative cognitive-affective factors (i.e., fear of pain), enhancing positive penetration cognitions and optimism may be important goals in treatment.
This research is supported through a Postdoctoral Fellowship to Els Pazmany by KU Leuven