Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs

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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of group systematic desensitization on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea in relation to anxiety. The sample consisted of an experimental group of 12 women drawn from the University of New Mexico Student Health Center and the Presbyterian Hospital School of Practical Nursing who were treated in four sessions with group systematic desensitization focused on menstruation, and a control group drawn from the Bernalillo County Planned Parenthood Association not treated with group systematic desensitization. The experimental subjects were treated in small groups, utilizing semi-automated procedures through the use of tape recordings, and standardized hierarchies.

Two instruments were used in this investigation. The first was the Semiobjective Criteria of Teen-Age Dysmenorrhea, which was used to measure degree of primary dysmenorrhea, and subsequent change· in dysmenorrhea. The second was the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale, which was used to determine the anxiety level of the subjects, and to provide a cut-off point between the high-anxiety and low-anxiety groups.

Multiple classification analysis of variance, and Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were computed. The .05 level was accepted for significance.

The results of this study showed a significant difference in amount of change in primary dysmenorrhea between the treated and the untreated subjects. There was a significant interaction, in addition, between treatment and anxiety level, indicating that the subjects receiving most benefit from treatment were those belonging to both the treatment and the low-anxiety groups. No difference in amount of dysmenorrhea change was found between the high-anxiety and low-anxiety groups, however. Four significant correlation coefficients supported the above findings, and indicated significant relationships between level of anxiety and degree of dysmenorrhea or change in dysmenorrhea.

It was concluded that an economical and efficient technique is available to the practitioner with which to treat the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea. This is of great potential significance, since the treatment could, if applied to the many women suffering from primary dysmenorrhea, contribute to the saving of millions of working hours per year, and an unknown amount of money on medications.

The data suggested, in addition, that the treatment was effective in reducing highly specific anxiety related to menstruation and dysmenorrhea. Since systematic desensitization, an anxiety reduction technique, was effective in reducing dysmenorrheic symptoms, anxiety in some form is probably responsible in part for the syndrome.

It was recommended that the relationships between anxiety and primary dysmenorrhea be further studied, particularly in reference to the development of methods with which to alleviate the symptoms of women with high general anxiety levels.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Robert Micali

Second Committee Member

Clifford Abe

Third Committee Member

William Robert Fishburn