Vaginismus is a condition that causes significant distress for both women who experience it, and their partners. Vaginismus self-treatment is one option women often explore, and many are successful in curing their vaginismus, especially in mild cases.
Consider the following statement received from a couple with vaginismus:
“We believed that trying intercourse again and again, keeping at it repeatedly, would relax the muscles and cure vaginismus. We don’t understand why it did not.”
The idea that repeated painful or stress-producing penetration attempts will lead to a cure is a widely-held misconception, as we explain in this article, as well as describing other potential limitations with self-help for treating vaginismus.
We will delve into the facts and myths surrounding the condition and examine the role anxiety plays in the symptoms of vaginismus. By understanding the complexities of this condition, we can move beyond simple solutions and empower women to find an effective treatment for vaginismus and achieve lasting healing.
Understanding Vaginismus: Separating Fact from Fiction
Vaginismus is a condition that can be difficult to understand and even harder to treat. Unfortunately, much misinformation is circulating about the condition, which can make it even more confusing for those struggling with it. To effectively treat vaginismus, it is important to separate fact from fiction and gain a clear understanding of the condition.
One of the most pervasive misconceptions about vaginismus is that a problem with the pelvic floor muscles causes it. Many women believe, or are being told, that if they can ‘just relax’ these muscles, they can cure the condition. However, this is not the case. Vaginismus is a psychosomatic condition that is caused by anxiety and fear of pain. The pelvic floor muscles become tense because of this anxiety yet relaxing them at will will not usually cure the condition.
Another common misconception about vaginismus is that it is caused by vaginal infections. While these conditions can certainly cause discomfort and pain during penetration, they are not the root cause of vaginismus.
It’s also important to note that vaginismus is not a choice or a moral failing. It is not a problem with the woman’s desire for sex or her ability to enjoy it. It is a physical reflexive reaction that happens as a result of an emotional response, which is completely involuntary.
Read more about vaginismus misconceptions on our vaginismus treatment page.
The Negative Impact of Repeated Painful Penetration Attempts on Vaginismus
As clinicians specializing in treating vaginismus, we can tell you firsthand that repeated painful attempts at penetration can make vaginismus worse unless the woman has a very mild case, and is able to overcome the underlying bit of anxiety with every repeated penetration drill.
Generally, when a woman with vaginismus experiences pain or discomfort during penetration of any kind, it increases her anxiety and fear, leading to a tightening of the pelvic floor muscles thus making future attempts at penetration even more difficult and painful. This creates a vicious cycle, where each failed attempt only worsens the condition.
Additionally, when a woman feels pain during sexual penetration, she may begin to associate sex with pain and discomfort, leading to more anxiety and more negative patterning. It can also lead to a decrease in sexual desire and intimacy, which can cause emotional distress and can affect the relationship with her partner.
We often see women who have been trying to “push through” the pain and discomfort, believing that it will eventually lead to a cure. But as was mentioned earlier, vaginismus is not a physical problem that can be overcome with painful repetition; it’s a psychophysical condition that needs to be addressed with the help of a knowledgeable clinician.
The Role of Anxiety in Vaginismus: A Cycle of Pain and Distress
Vaginismus is a condition that is always caused by anxiety and fear, and it is this underlying anxiety that leads to the tightening of the pelvic floor muscles, making vaginal penetrations painful, difficult, and often impossible.
Anxiety has no logic and cannot be reasoned with. Telling oneself “I am not anxious” does not diffuse the anxiety, only feeds it more. Anxiety builds on itself, It strengthens with any emotional crisis, and traps the woman in an endless cycle of more anxiety, more distress, a tighter vagina, etc. This can make it hard for the woman to understand the root of her problem and how to break free from it.
It is important to understand that addressing the anxiety and fear that underlie vaginismus is essential to breaking the cycle of pain and distress.
Moving Beyond Intuitive Vaginismus Self-Treatment Techniques
We often see women who have tried a variety of vaginismus self-treatment techniques in an attempt to cure the condition. While it is understandable that people want to take control of their health and find solutions on their own, it is important to remember that vaginismus is a complex condition that often requires professional help for a successful solution.
One of the most common self-help techniques is the use of dilators. Dilators are devices inserted into the vagina to help desensitize the reflexive tightening of vaginismus. While dilators can be helpful in mild cases, their ability to provide the ultimate solution to vaginismus is quite limited when the anxiety continues to rule.
Another vaginismus self-treatment technique often used or prescribed is numbing creams, suppositories, or other pain relief methods. While these may provide local, temporary relief, they do not address the underlying causes of the pain, and they can mask the symptoms, making it difficult to determine if any progress has been made.
And another common self-help method, that is doing Kegel exercises, is totally ineffective for vaginismus. As a matter of fact, women with vaginismus typically have strong pelvic floor muscles, the result of lots of tightening upon attempted penetration. Furthermore, one can only exercise the voluntary portion of the pelvic floor muscles whereas vaginismus triggers that and the involuntary portion of the muscles = the whole system.
And then there are relaxation, yoga, stretching, mindfulness, acupuncture, massage – none of which constructively addresses the underlying anxiety disorder of vaginismus…
Ultimately, if you can self-cure – own ALL vaginal penetration pain-free – good for you! But if you cannot or would not even attempt to try, consider yourself in good company with many others and seek expert professional help.
Finding Effective Treatment for Vaginismus: A Journey towards Healing
Finding effective treatment for vaginismus can be challenging, but it is available.
We at the Women’s Therapy Center have a team of experts and have been treating vaginismus for over 30 years (as of January 2023) using our proprietary methodology with proven success. . Our center offers a comprehensive and unique approach to treatment that combines body and mind intervention to help women regain control of their sexual health and achieve lasting cure.
Finding an effective treatment for vaginismus is a journey, and it may take time to find the right approach that works for you. It is important to be patient and to be open to exploring different treatment options in order to arrive at the one that provides you with the desired outcome.
Empowering Women with Vaginismus
Vaginismus can be a difficult and distressing condition that it always significantly impacts a woman’s physical and emotional well-being. It also affects her relationships, and overall quality of life, and sexuality.
Empowering women with vaginismus is an essential aspect of the treatment process. It means providing them with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to reclaim and own their sexual health with lasting results.