Getting Help for Vaginismus and Moving From Powerlessness to Empowerment

Sexual wellbeing and sexuality are an integral part of us, it is intrinsically linked to our overall health and wellbeing. This is why when a woman experiences vaginismus it can feel devastating causing physical, psychological and emotional distress which filters out into everyday life and relationships.

Vaginismus also known as GPPPD, impacts sexual intimacy in the present and can create a sense of powerlessness over your own body when it does not respond in the way you want, need and expect it too. Similar to performance anxiety, this powerlessness creates concerns and worry around future intimacy and may develop into a fear avoidance response and negative thoughts and feelings about sexual intimacy and your body. Make getting help for vaginismus symptoms a priority.

You might like to read...[The Vaginimus Series blog]

How does Vaginismus affect sexual intimacy?

Vaginismus directly impacts intimate relationships and can disrupt the female sexual response cycle leading to diminished desire, frustration and overwhelming anxiety around sexual intimacy. Some couples naturally learn to navigate around the condition and develop satisfying sexual intimacy in their own way without vaginal penetration. A supportive and involved partner is an important influence when it comes to women overcoming vaginismus. As it can lead to fertility challenges and difficulty conceiving naturally, family planning can be a catalyst for couples seeking professional help with a sex therapist.

Why are women reluctant to initially get help for Vaginismus?

There are many deeply personal reasons why women wait to seek out professional help for vaginismus. These include feeling unclear about who to turn to, anxiety, fear of examination, fear of the unknown, shame, embarrassment and commonly general discomfort talking about private topics such as sex. It is 100% normal to feel apprehensive and uncomfortable talking about sexual problems, after all, it is not something we have a lot of experience or exposure to in everyday life. Even couples in therapy who are together for decades experience difficulty talking openly about sex, sensuality and sexuality.

Thankfully there are experienced medical and health professionals who specialise in sexual health, pelvic pain and psychosexual problems who you can turn to for help and support with vaginismus, dyspareunia and related sexual problems. Working with a medical professional or therapist will give you the language, knowledge and skills to confidently move forward into a space were dealing with the condition feels manageable and hopefully – empowering for you.

Self-diagnosis versus professional diagnosis

Diagnosing vaginismus may require both a medical and psychological consultation as there are several factors to take into consideration. It is not the same as painful penetrative sex or fear of sexual intimacy however these are factors that need to be taken into consideration when assessing symptoms and discussing sexual history. Women often self-diagnose based on limited information which is why it is beneficial to seek out a professional for help to either accurately self-identify with vaginismus or for an official diagnosis and suggested goal plan from a health professional.

The good news is that when you understand how your sexual response mechanisms work, you can begin to take control of your environment and your brain in order to maximize your sexual potential, even in a broken world. And when you change your environment and your brain, you can change and heal your sexual functioning.’ – Emily Nagoski author of Come As You Are

What should I do if I suspect I have Vaginismus?

If you experience symptoms of vaginismus or dyspareunia, the first step will be to consult with a trusted GP doctor or a women’s health clinic, they may then suggest a referral to a Gynaecologist, Physician, Sex Therapist or Pelvic Specialist.  Organisations like The Well Woman’s Centre specialise in women’s sexual and reproductive health and have multi-disciplinary teams who specialise in vaginismus and genito-pelvic pain disorders. You might like to read Embracing a holistic and integrative path to resolving your vaginismus.

There are a number of health professionals you can consider attending that will be able to help and support you with the condition of vaginismus. If you have private medical insurance, it may be possible to claim medical expenses for consultations and day-to-day medical expenses depending on your policy type.

Exploring a holistic approach to treating and managing vaginismus and dyspareunia may include medication, psychosexual counselling, physiotherapy, pelvic pain specialists, sex and relationship therapy, vaginal dilators, kegel and pelvic floor exercises, practical behavioural exercises, improving sexual self-esteem, mindfulness, relaxation and stress reduction techniques, sensate focus for couples, psychoeducation and psychosexual education. There are many types of holistic and integrative ways you can explore to help resolve vaginismus.

How does Psychosexual Therapy help Vaginismus?

Psychosexual therapy often requires working with your therapist over several sessions or months to explore and understand your own experience of vaginismus, improve sexual well-being, set goals and discover new ways to improve sex, intimacy and sexual self-esteem. If you would like to find out more about private psychotherapy or couples therapy for vaginismus.

Listen to more about starting psychosexual therapy with Orlagh Reid on the Where Do I Go From Here podcast and the Woman Up! Podcast with Hazel Larkin. Jump right in and book an appointment with Orlagh Reid below.

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit www.orlaghreid.ie

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

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