Women who reported more trouble reaching orgasm during sex also had more automatic negative thoughts during the act, the report said.
These negative thoughts included everything from those lacking erotic imagery to thoughts of sexual failure and sexual abuse.
“There is no easy way to avoid negative or distractive thoughts,” study researcher Marta Xavier Cuntim, a clinical psychologist in Portugal, told a science magazine.
“However, if we know that they exist, it is easier to learn to deal with them.”
About one in four women experiences difficulty reaching orgasm for months at a time, and the inability to orgasm is the second-most-common female sexual complaint after lack of desire.
The new study questioned 191 sexually active women between the ages of 18 and 59 about their sexual function and the types of thoughts they experienced during sex.
Because the study asked women to look back on their experiences, the data doesn’t reveal whether the difficulty reaching orgasm triggered the negative thoughts, whether the negative thoughts triggered the orgasm trouble, or some cycle of both.
But certain psychological vulnerabilities may lead to the negative thoughts, Cuntim said. Women with sexual dysfunction often carry around mental baggage, such as concerns that sex is bad or that they have undesirable bodies, she added.
Those thoughts raise the risk of sexual difficulties.
The research will be published in the journal Sexologies.
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