Vaginismus is a sexual pain disorder which occurs in women, often resulting in the inability to penetrate the vagina. Other definitions include pain upon penetration, fear of vaginal penetration and genito-pelvic pain upon penetration. Approximately 10% to 15% of women experience vaginismus. Vaginismus presents as recurrent pain and spasm of the muscles in the outer third of the vaginal canal, and often causes significant distress. Women may experience different kinds of pain including a burning or stinging sensation. Seeing a sex therapist for vaginismus is highly recommended and very often vital to treating vaginismus.
Vaginismus and the Impact on Women
Women who present with vaginisumus often report feelings of hopelessness, concern, guilt and shame. Women who have vaginismus often have trouble with insertion of any object in the vagina including tampons or speculums. Anxiety and fear are often cited at the thought of penetration or just before penetration, which results in intrusive thoughts about the self, sex and pleasure.
Women who suffer from vaginismus may report with lack of interest in sexual activity, low sexual desire and anxiety. This can impact on their relationship as sexual activity may decline resulting in reduced intimacy. While vaginismus can be a lifelong concern, seeing a sex therapist for treatment is often most valuable within the context of the relationship.
Sex Therapy Treatment for Vaginismus
Treatment comprises of sex therapy sessions with a qualified sex therapist. During these sessions a detailed sexual history would be taken with an exploration of cultural and generational attitudes towards sex. Feelings and thoughts about sex would be assessed, along with psycho-education and an analysis of limiting thoughts and behaviours.
Homework exercises are a useful intervention for vaginismus and often an integral part of sex therapy. Exercises such as dilator use and sensate focus are often prescribed in the treatment of vaginismus. Initiating relaxation exercises before intimacy is another useful intervention as this promotes relaxation of the pelvic area, however the women should always initiate and guide possible penetration.
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- Binik, Y. M. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for vaginismus. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(2), 278-291.
- LoFrisco, B. M. (2011). Female sexual pain disorders and cognitive behavioral therapy. Journal of sex research, 48(6), 573-579.
- Long, L. L., Burnett, J. A., & Thomas, R. V. (2005). Sexuality counseling: An integrative approach. Prentice Hall.