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Nat Rev Urol. 2018 Jan;15(1):25-41. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2017.187. Epub 2017 Nov 28.

A psychosocial approach to female genital pain.

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Department of Clinical Psychological Science, Maastricht University, Universiteitssingel, 40, 6229 ER Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Department of Clinical Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rambam Medical Center, 8 Ha'aliyah Hashniyah Street, Haifa 3109601, Israel.


Genital pain is a prevalent, complex, and disabling health concern in women. Efforts to study this chronic pain condition have been complicated by the fact that genital pain is heterogeneous and exists at the intersection of different biopsychosocial disciplines. Thus, organization of theoretical ideas and empirical findings across research areas is required to improve our understanding of how biopsychosocial factors affect the development and maintenance of the pain, the reporting of symptoms, and the choice of treatment. In the past, the study of physical markers has received the most research attention; an assimilation of the psychosocial variables underlying genital pain is, therefore, particularly needed to inform the field about the rapidly growing literature and stimulate interdisciplinary work. Current research lacks specificity, fails to capture the unique features of different pain conditions, and yields conflicting evidence, which makes it difficult to draw uniform conclusions. Although considerable advances have been made, confusion remains at the nosological, aetiological, theoretical, methodological, and treatment levels. This lack of consensus has important theoretical and clinical implications because inconsistent criteria and empirical disagreement can lead to misdiagnoses and interfere with the development of sound theoretical models and effective treatments to manage female genital pain and its physical and psychological sequelae.


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