Vaginismus is a condition that makes the muscles in the vaginal opening contract and making penetration painful or impossible. This condition has a significant impact on a woman’s sexual and emotional well-being and, fortunately, it can be treated and cured.
In this blog, we will explore the causes of vaginismus, give an answer to the question of whether vaginismus can be cured, offer the various treatment options available, and discuss how they can help women overcome this condition and improve their sexual and emotional health. Whether you, or a loved one, is struggling with vaginismus, there is hope and help available.
Vaginismus is always an anxiety-based condition, which makes its diagnosis and treatment all more challenging and complicated. Those women with vaginismus who are brave enough to see their gynecologist for an examination will typically be told, ‘nothing is wrong with your vagina, you are fine there, it is all in your head, just have a drink…’
Watch our short video What is vaginismus?
Not all women with anxiety will develop vaginismus, but every vaginismus has anxiety as an undertone. Most will also exhibit any combination of panic, rumination, OCD, and depression, emotional conditions that women are reluctant to face or admit to.
Living with vaginismus is rough and sad: feeling stuck and hopeless, experiencing pain when trying vaginal penetration, believing she betrays the partner by not being able to have intercourse and get pregnant naturally, needing to hide from family (i.e. so, when are you going to have a baby?), disappointed by lack of solutions from the medical field, and believing she is the ‘only one’ with vaginismus…
The symptoms of vaginismus can vary from woman to woman, but they all include burning or stinging sensation upon attempted insertion, difficulty or pain when trying to use a tampon or a vaginal applicator with medication, difficulty or pain during a gynecological exam, and inability or great pain when trying vaginal intercourse. In some cases, the muscle spasms may be so severe that penetration is not possible at all, or as they are typically being describe, ‘it is like hitting a brick wall.’
This condition significantly affects a woman’s life on all levels, leading to a breakdown of sexual desire and intimacy, difficulty achieving orgasm, and a fear of sexual activity, inability to receive proper gynecologic care, and not being able to use tampons.
It also causes emotional distress and relationship problems, as the woman with vaginismus may feel embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed about her condition. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and a sense of isolation. It also affects self-esteem and body image, as the woman with vaginismus feels like she is “broken” or “not normal.”
If left untreated, vaginismus can lead to a lifetime of pain and emotional distress.
Early diagnosis and treatment of vaginismus is important for several reasons. First, the longer the condition goes untreated, the more difficult it can be to overcome. The longer a woman experiences pain and difficulty with sexual activity, the more ingrained the muscle spasms and associated negative thoughts become ingrained.
Secondly, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from causing long-term emotional and relationship problems. The longer a woman goes without addressing the issue, the more likely she is to experience depression, anxiety, and relationship problems as a result of their vaginismus.
Thirdly, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the development of secondary conditions such as sexual shutdown, low sexual desire, poor choice of partner, relationship breakdown, or avoidance of intimate relationships altogether.
When seeking treatment for vaginismus, women are divided into:
Those who self-treat vaginismus with education, encouragement, and/or self-help dilator kits obtained from their doctors, counselors, the Internet, sex shops, etc. Read Christiane’s story.
Those who cannot self-treat or are not successful with self-treatment, as well as those who opt for professional help upon diagnosis. Our vaginismus treatment services are aimed at helping these women.
We offer the following vaginismus treatment options to account for travel and time logistics. Either program leads to the same end result, Overcoming vaginismus:
- The weekly program
Come to us once or twice weekly if you so choose and our schedule allows it. The entire treatment process takes 7-10 sessions, with each session lasting about 45-55 minutes. You pay per session;
- The hybrid program – 2 plans:
#1: Stay in the area for 4-5 weeks (with family, or at hotel if you can work virtually) and be treated 2-3 times weekly throughout the stay. The entire treatment process takes 7-10 sessions, with each session lasting about 45-55 minutes. You pay per session;
#2: Come in for 2-day chunks at a time to save on travel. The entire treatment process takes 7-10 sessions, with each session lasting about 45-55 minutes. You pay per session;
- The concentrated 2-week vaginismus treatment program
For those who live too far to attend the weekly program or have minimal vacation time. For more information, read the page dedicated to this option.
Combining physical and psychological approaches for the treatment of vaginismus will lead to optimal outcomes for women affected by this condition. This is because vaginismus has both physical and psychological components, and addressing both is mandatory for a full recovery.
Physical intervention, such as pelvic floor physical therapy, medication, and dilators, can help to desensitize the muscles in the vaginal opening and reduce pain during penetrative activity. If and when needed, medication for managing the disruptive associated anxiety will facilitate the process – it is about being able to assume vaginal ownership while pushing aside and diffusing the vaginal panic.
Psychological intervention will focus on the psychosomatic nature of vaginismus, as well as on any other contributing causes such as negative beliefs about sex, relationship problems, a demanding partner, cultural and religious demands, fear of unwanted pregnancy, poor self-esteem, sexual misconceptions, etc.
Important: contrary to common belief, past sexual abuse is an uncommon cause of vaginismus in the mainstream vaginismus population, and we urge clinicians to stop suggesting past abuse/trauma events unless the woman clearly detailed such a history. We have seen too much damage done to women’s emotional state when such false suggestions were made.
Combining the above approaches will deliver a comprehensive, wholistic treatment plan that addresses all aspects of vaginismus and should lead to a cure. To achieve that, a multidisciplinary team approach is most beneficial.
Living with vaginismus can be challenging, but there are coping strategies that can be helpful, such as:
- Communicating with your partner: Having open and honest communication with your partner about your condition can help to reduce feelings of embarrassment and guilt. It can also help your partner to understand the condition and how they can support you.
- Finding a support group: Joining a support group can provide a sense of community and a space to discuss your experiences and learn from others who are going through similar struggles.
- Prioritizing self-care: Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being in order to maintain optimal self-confidence – you are still a great person, albeit with vaginismus!
- Seeking professional help: Do not hesitate to speak with a healthcare provider about treatment, resources, other specialists they may know who can help, etc. the more you expand your orbit, the greater the likelihood of finding a solution.
Check out our recent blog about coping with vaginismus for more information.
Can vaginismus be treated? Can vaginismus be overcome? Is there a cure for vaginismus, or need the woman to accept living with this condition forever, an advice often given?
Of course, vaginismus can be resolved if/when the clinician addresses the body-mind, the anxiety-vagina connection in a systematic manner, with knowledge and skill that is based on clinical outcome. It is not just about the vagina that is reacting to the stress about penetration or fear of pain; it is not just about the panic and anxiety in the head; it is about fusing both into a comprehensive methodology of psychosomatic nature. Such an approach will address vaginismus at its core and bring about a cure.
Having treated over 2100 vaginismus cases to date (January 2023), our program – watch this short video – fits these requirements. There is no reason to live with vaginismus or to settle for a life with vaginismus.