PLAIN TALK ABOUT VAGINISMUS
- Is vaginal penetration painful or impossible for you?
- Is sexual intercourse difficult?
- Is manual penetration also painful?
- Is it a struggle to insert a tampon or menstrual cup?
- Are gynecological exams painful?
- Do you experience vaginal tightness or burning?
- Are you part of an unconsummated couple?
- Is your sex life suffering because of this problem?
DO I HAVE VAGINISMUS? If you have some of the symptoms listed above, you may be struggling with Vaginismus, a painful condition that effects your ability to engage in vaginal penetration. Vaginal penetration is prevented by an involuntary muscle spasm, which makes any attempt at penetration impossible or quite painful. A woman with vaginismus does not consciously control the spasm. And, many women are unaware that they have the condition until they attempt vaginal penetration, often when masturbating or having sex for the first time.
WHY DO I HAVE VAGINISMUS? Most of the reasons why you may be suffering with vaginismus are often connected to trauma and some of its long-term consequences. Trauma—both emotional and physical—can make you afraid of triggering a re-traumatization, or re-injury. It can leave you feeling anxious about making yourself vulnerable and anxious to protect the self. (For a longer discussion about trauma and it’s consequences, please see my other articles here.)
ARE THERE OTHER REASONS FOR VAGINISMUS? Yes, other reasons include stress, or personal history in which sex and sexual activity were considered bad or unacceptable. Other reasons include a learned fear of pain falsly linked to penetration such as the misconception of injury as a result of “breaking” the hymen during a woman’s first intercourse. Additional reasons may include a lack of trust for one’s partner, a fear of losing control, or self-consciousness about body image. Finally, vaginismus can be linked to unacknowledged and frightening questions about your sexual identity or gender identity.
After you’ve ruled out a urinary tract infection, vaginal yeast infection, or sub-clinical inflammation, chances are your vaginismus is linked to a psychological fear that’s causing the vaginal muscles to spasm and prevent penetration.
CAN VAGINISMUS BE CURED? The social and emotional costs of vaginismus are high. Shame, embarrassment, and the loss of sexual intimacy and pleasure. Working to reverse a learned muscular reflex is difficult and takes time and patience. However, a good psychoanalyst who understands the overlapping issues of psychological pain and sex therapy, can help you successfully overcome the debilitating effects of Vaginismus. With a slow approach that is careful not to push you, and careful to keep you safe, the therapist can work with you on healing the trauma, and helping you move toward competence and pleasure in your sex life. A well-trained therapist will help you understand what’s behind the problem, and work professionally and compassionately with you to heal the injuries and solve the problem.