“The behavior of a human being in sexual matters is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life”—Sigmund Freud, Sexuality and the Psychology of Love
In the past 12 years that I have practiced female sexual medicine, I have had the unique opportunity to observe trends between women's personality types and sexual concerns. To better illustrate this point, I have made up a case of a woman with primary anorgasmia. This is when a woman has never been able to achieve an orgasm, not for a lack of trying. There are certainly many reasons, both psychological and physiological, for why primary anorgasmia occurs. These reasons include prior history of sexual abuse, lack of knowledge about female erogenous zones, relationship issues, use of certain medications, and body image concerns, to name a few. In the scenario that I have created, the woman doesn’t have any obvious factors that are contributing to her sexual difficulties. Her relationship is going well and she has a great job, which she works very hard to excel at. In fact, everything on the outside looks perfect—maybe a little too perfect.
As the conversation with this woman progresses, the little tell-tale signs of a classic personality type start to emerge:
- She is highly competitive and ambitious
- She needs to be in control and doesn’t necessarily welcome unfamiliar feelings
- She is prone to overreact and is highly critical of herself and others
- Her work-life balance is lacking
- Everything is always urgent—she can’t tolerate delays or unproductive time
- She is a great multitasker
Elevated stress levels often drive the behavior of individuals with type A personalities. Interestingly, and not shockingly, the concept of the type A personality was developed during the 20th century as a risk factor for heart disease. This type of personality is great for careers in business as type A’s are born leaders. The scenario where it might not be as advantageous to have this personality type is in the bedroom. Let me preface this by saying that not all women with type A personalities have sexual concerns. However, through my professional experience and a deep understanding of all the stars that have to be in alignment in order to have a positive sexual experience, I can say with confidence that certain type A personality traits can potentially sabotage a woman’s sexual satisfaction.
Let’s circle back to our lady in the primary anorgasmia scenario above. Everything is great in her life and her relationship except for the fact that she has never been able to achieve an orgasm, either alone or with a partner. There is a very good chance that her discomfort with the unknown (in this case, the experience of an orgasm), difficulty giving up control and practicing mindfulness, fear of failure, and impatience may all be interfering with her ability to reach the “finish line”. To better understand the role of personality on sexual behavior (whether its type A or any other type), we need to review the different components that make up a personality.
Personality is divided into 5 domains, the so-called Five Factor Model:
- Extraversion (sociable, talkative, assertive)
- Conscientiousness (thorough, careful, vigilant)
- Emotional stability (resilience)
- Openness to experience (curious, inventive)
- Agreeableness (warm, friendly, tactful).
We’ve taken an in-depth look at type A personalities, but what about the other personality traits that may affect sexual function:
- Anxiousness: people with anxious attachments to their partners may have frequent sex. This may sound like a lot of fun, but the reality is that these individuals equate sex with love and may have sex to feel less insecure in their relationships.
- Aloofness: people who are aloof often experience discomfort during intimacy with a partner
According to research by Stefanou and McCabe, women who are clingy or aloof experience less sexual satisfaction. Additionally, when there is a feeling of insecurity in the partnership, women may experience decreased sexual arousal and lubrication, difficulty achieving orgasm, and painful intercourse.
The way a woman relates to her partner during moments of sexual intimacy and the security that she feels in her relationship may date back to her experience in childhood. According to the Attachment Theory, when children feel that their parents or caregivers are responsive and available to them, they are able to develop confident and secure attachments. Alternatively, if their loved ones are not consistently available, the children can form anxious attachments. This ultimately can lead to dysfunctional avoidant behaviors in future relationships, like anxiousness, aloofness.
So what’s the best approach to dealing with sexual concerns that may be related to personality traits? Positive coping mechanisms and good emotional support—either in the form of a behavioral therapist/sex therapist or perhaps even a friend—can be extremely effective. In fact, these two types of interventions have been associated with improved sexual satisfaction and orgasm in women. In our imaginary case study of the lady with primary anorgasmia, she would definitely benefit from sex therapy, mindfulness training, and directed masturbation therapy. At the end of the day, the idea is not to change who you intrinsically are as a person, but rather, to identify and correct those traits that are interfering in your ability to be a sexually satisfied individual.
 Crisp C et al. Is female sexual dysfunction related to personality and coping: An exploratory study. Sexual Medicine 2013;1:69-75
 Harris J et al. Normal variations in personality are associated with coital orgasmic infrequency in heterosexual women: a population-based study. J Sex Med 2008;5(5):1177-83
 Stefanou C and McCabe M. Adult attachment and sexual functioning: a review of past research 2012;9(10):2499-2507