By: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, LiveScience Contributing Writer
Published: 07/29/2014 04:36 PM EDT on LiveScience
A woman's orgasm may have a lot to do with her ability to focus on her body and steer her thoughts a certain way, a new study suggests.
Women in the study who reported regularly reaching orgasm during sex seemed to be more focused on their bodily sensations during intercourse than the women who had trouble having regular orgasms with their partners, the researchers said.
The researchers also found that the women in the study who regularly reached orgasm during sex reported having more erotic thoughts when they were having intercourse than those who did not have orgasms regularly during sex. However, both groups of women reported having equal amounts of erotic thoughts during self-stimulation without their partners present.
The researchers did not expect that the cognitive aspect of orgasm in women would be as important as the results suggested, said study author Pascal De Sutter, a professor at the department of sexology and family science at the University of Louvain in Belgium. [Busted! 6 Gender Myths in the Bedroom & Beyond]
"It seems that women have no problem" focusing on erotic fantasies when they are on their own, De Sutter told Live Science. But women who do not have regular orgasms during intercourse seem to have more difficulties focusing their attention on the present moment when they have sex with their partners, she said.
And concerns about their looks and weight may also distract some women, De Sutter said.
For the study, the researchers recruited 251 French women ages 18 to 67. That group consisted of 176 women who defined themselves as "orgasmic," which means that they regularly had orgasms during sex, and 75 women who defined themselves as "not orgasmic," meaning they reported having difficulties reaching orgasm during sex with their partners.
All the women in the study were sexually active, "with a frequency of sexual activity varying between two and 90 times per month," the researchers wrote. Almost 90 percent of the women were heterosexual.
The women in the study answered questions about the emotions, thoughts and behaviors that typically play a role in being able to orgasm, during both sex and self-stimulation.
The results align with those of existing research, published in September 2011 in the journal Sexologies, the researches said. That study found a link between the lack of erotic thoughts during intercourse and difficulty in reaching orgasm for women. The study also determined that the women who had difficulties reaching orgasm were more likely to be distracted by thoughts during intercourse that were not related to sex.
Elke Reissing, the director of the Human Sexuality Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, said that she thought the new findings about the importance of the use of erotic thoughts during sex were particularly interesting. They suggest that women could employ certain techniques to increase their ability to focus on their physical sensations, she said.
Certain treatments now in use do address such issues, she said.
"There is some evidence in the literature that suggests that mindfulness approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunction can be quite successful," Reissing said.
This kind of treatment aims to help women focus on the present moment during sex and thus increase their arousal and reach orgasm.
Women also show differences related to their ages, as younger women are more likely to experience problems having orgasms than older women, Reissing said. This suggests that there is likely a learning aspect to being able to reach orgasm more reliably, for instance, by using erotic thoughts, she said.
The new findings were published in the June issue of the journal Sexologies.