Psychological characteristics of women with sexual inhibition (frigidity) in six clinics

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1976 Aug;163(2):117-23. doi: 10.1097/00005053-197608000-00006.


Traditional psychiatric thought has equated the inability of a female to obtain an orgasm (particularly a vaginal orgasm during intercourse) with psychological maladjustment. The research literature generally does not support this position. The present paper describes the psychological characteristics of 44 frigid women who applied for treatment of their sexual problem at two university hospital sex clinics and 26 women selected for treatment by the same criterion, but treated in private practice. Presented for comparison are 53 female neurotics from a Temple University Hospital psychotherapy study, a sample of 65 consecutive female walk-ins of mixed psychiatric diagnosis from the Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic of Temple Hospital, and a group of 35 female college student sophomores from Temple University who comprised the normal sample. A battery of psychological tests including the MMPI, the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing--Self-Evaluation Form (IPAT), the Symptom Check List, and the Eysenck Personality Inventory were given to each group. The data indicate that female patients who apply to a sex dysfunction clinic, complaining primarily of sexual inhibition, appear as a group identical to a normal control group in terms of their psychological profile and less neurotic than psychiatric outpatients, with the exception that the normals were less depressed. When women with primary orgasmic dysfunction from the above three samples were combined and compared to those with secondary orgasmic dysfunction (using Masters and Johnson's criterion), the groups were identical, at least from a global psychological perspective. We suggest that little else can be gained by assessing global personality characteristics. Without discarding the primary and secondary classifications a potentially more fruitful approach would be to develop instruments that would measure specific dimensions, such as sexual misinformation, specific sexual anxiety or guilt, or resentment or hostility directed toward the immediate sexual partner. A scale to measure specific phobic-like sexual anxiety, in addition, would have treatment implications because of the recently demonstrated effectiveness of specific anxiety-reducing techniques, such as systematic desensitization. Specific scales can also be useful in the assessment and prediction of outcome in psychotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Depression / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Assessment*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological* / complications