Cognitive Structures in Women with Sexual Dysfunction: The Role of Early Maladaptive Schemas

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Cognitive schemas are often related to psychological problems. However, the role of these structures within sexual problems is not yet well established.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence and importance of early maladaptive schemas on women's sexual functioning and cognitive schemas activated in response to negative sexual events.


A total of 228 women participated in the study: a control sample of 167 women without sexual problems, a subclinical sample of 37 women with low sexual functioning, and a clinical sample of 24 women with sexual dysfunction.

Main Outcome Measures

Participants completed several self-reported measures: the Schema Questionnaire, the Questionnaire of Cognitive Schema Activation in Sexual Context, the Brief Symptom Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Female Sexual Function Index.


Findings indicated that women with sexual dysfunction presented significantly more early maladaptive schemas from the Impaired Autonomy and Performance domain, particularly failure (P < 0.001, η2 = 0.08), dependence/incompetence (P < 0.05, η2 = 0.03), and vulnerability to danger (P < 0.05, η2 = 0.04). Additionally, in response to negative sexual events, women with sexual dysfunction presented significantly higher scores on incompetence (P < 0.001, η2 = 0.16), self-depreciation (P < 0.01, η2 = 0.05), and difference/loneliness (P < 0.01, η2 = 0.05) schemas.


Results supported differences between women with and without sexual problems regarding cognitive factors. This may have implications for the knowledge, assessment, and treatment of sexual dysfunction in women. Oliveira C and Nobre PJ. Cognitive structures in women with sexual dysfunction: The role of early maladaptive schemas. J Sex Med **;**:**–**.

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