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Relationship between personality traits and sexual function in symptomatic postmenopausal women

  • Federica Barbagallo
    Affiliations
    Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Catania, Catania, Italy
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  • Laura Cucinella
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy

    Department of Clinical, Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
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  • Lara Tiranini
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy

    Department of Clinical, Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
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  • Ellis Martini
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy
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  • David Bosoni
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy

    Department of Clinical, Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
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  • Pietro Molinaro
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy

    Department of Clinical, Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
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  • Federica Battista
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy

    Department of Clinical, Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
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  • Francesca Albani
    Affiliations
    Gynecological Endocrinology Clinic, Unit of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, IRCCS Maugeri, Pavia, Italy
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  • Aldo E. Calogero
    Affiliations
    Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Catania, Catania, Italy
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  • Rossella E. Nappi
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Piazzale Golgi 2, 27100 Pavia, Italy.
    Affiliations
    Research Center for Reproductive Medicine, Gynecological Endocrinology and Menopause, IRCCS San Matteo Foundation, Pavia, Italy

    Department of Clinical, Surgical, Diagnostic and Pediatric Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
    Search for articles by this author

      Highlights

      • Personality traits may influence general health and many aspects of quality of life, including sexuality.
      • Female sexual disorders are very common at midlife and many psychosocial variables are involved, along with biomedical factors.
      • Harm avoidance, a serotonin-dependent personality trait, is significantly present in midlife women with sexual disorders.
      • Harm avoidance significantly mediates the relationship between mood (anxiety and depression) and sexual function.
      • Neuroendocrine balance may be relevant to the clinical expression of sexual disorders at menopause.
      • Other behavioral and social factors may also play a role and deserve further attention.

      Abstract

      Introduction

      Female sexual function relies on a complex interplay of physical, psychosocial, and neurobiological factors. Over the last decades, increasing attention has been paid to the influence of personality traits on general health and many aspects of quality of life, including sexuality.

      Objective

      To assess whether dimensions of the personality are related to the domains of sexual function (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain) in symptomatic postmenopausal women. Mood was also investigated to explore its association with female sexual dysfunction (FSD).

      Methods

      Validated questionnaires to assess sexual function [the Female Sexual Functioning Index (FSFI)], mood [the State-Anxiety Inventory (STAI), and Zung Self Rating Depression Scale (SDS)], and personality traits [the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ)] were filled in by 130 early postmenopausal women experiencing hot flushes (≥30/week).

      Results

      61.5 % (n = 80) of the women had an FSFI total score lower than 26.55, the standard cut-off for FSD. A clinical state of anxiety was present in 53.8 % (n = 70), whereas only 12.3 % (n = 16) showed clinically relevant depressive symptoms. According to the FSFI cut-off score, women with sexual disorders had statistically significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression (p < 0.001 for both), and harm avoidance (HA) (p = 0.004) than women without such disorders. Significantly higher levels of anxiety were found in women in the lower quartile (LQ) of the distribution of the total FSFI score than in women in both the interquartile range (IQR) and in the upper quartile (UQ) (p < 0.05). Moreover, women in the UQ had a lower grade of depression and HA than others (p < 0.05). The Sobel test showed that the personality trait HA significantly mediated the relationship between anxiety and FSFI total score (Z = -2.19, p < 0.05) and between depression and FSFI total score (Z = −2.35, p < 0.05).

      Conclusions

      The present data suggest the personality trait HA is relevant to sexual function and mediates the impact of mood on FSD in symptomatic menopausal women. In clinical practice, the use of validated psychometric tools for mood screening is useful to establish appropriate diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders in menopausal women. Moreover, the assessment of personality traits could provide additional information that directs clinicians towards an increasingly tailored and multidimensional treatment of FSD.

      Keywords

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