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Psychologists hope new tool will improve sexual well-being outcomes

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Feb 14, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton , UNB Saint John

A group of psychology researchers have devised a new tool to help identify mental health challenges specific to sexual contexts.

The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy published the article, “Sensitivity in the Sexual Context: Links between Sexual Anxiety Sensitivity and Sexual Well-Being,” and PsyPost featured the authors in a recent news piece.

All four contributors to the article are affiliated with the University of New Brunswick (UNB) department of psychology (Fredericton campus):

As their research article explains, “anxiety sensitivity” refers to a fear of “physiological arousal sensations” which has several mental health impacts on a person, including negative impacts in a person’s sexual life and confidence.

“This study builds on Dr. Olthuis’ outstanding work on anxiety sensitivity, a transdiagnostic factor for a range of mental health problems and extends it to the sexual context,” Dr. Byers explained.

The diagnostic test, the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3 (ASI-3), is a well-established measure for fear-related sensations. Using this test as a foundation, the researchers devised the Sexual Anxiety Sensitivity Inventory (SASI) to measure indicators of sexual anxiety sensitivity.

As the PsyPost article summarized, one item on the test is, “when my chest feels tight during sex, I get scared that I won’t be able to breathe properly.” Other measures relate to sexual well-being, self-esteem, sexual frequency and satisfaction, among others.

“Our research results are thanks to a collaboration between Dr. Olthuis’ team of researchers investigating anxiety sensitivity with the ground-breaking sexuality research being conducted by Dr. Byers and Dr. O’Sullivan,” said the authors, who believe that measuring sexual anxiety sensitivity is important because its presence increases the likelihood of negative impacts to well-being.

The SASI test may be useful in clinical therapy situations to help work with clients who are having sexual problems or distress and target the specific issues people are facing.