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does fear create vaginismus

Does Fear Create Vaginismus? Or Vice Versa?

I came across an article that came out last month and it brought up an old question I often muse over--Does Vaginismus create the fear and anxiety in women, or does an underlying fear or anxiety create Vaginismus? As we often say in physical therapy "It depends".

With some of my patients, there is a specific injury or infection that is at the root of their pain. The story is similar whether they were diagnosed with Vaginismus, Vulvodynia, Vestibulitis, Dyspareunia, or a host of many other diagnoses that lead to painful intercourse. For example, a young girl that always wore bathing suits and developed recurrent yeast infections, only to find out that over a decade later she had developed vaginismus. She had no fear or anxiety going in to first sexual encounter, yet she had severe pain. Now, she presents with what I perceive as fear and anxiety. Should she be treated for fear and anxiety? Or just the pain? Or both?

Then, I have a subset of my patient population that admit going into their first attempt at intercourse, they expected that it would hurt. Why did they think this? Usually it is their friends or sister that makes reference to this, so there is already some level of fear or anxiety going into their first experience. Alternatively, some of my patients are brought up in a household where sex is never talked about, or if it, it is always in a negative light. "Sex is bad". Again, this puts a preconceived negative emotion to what would hopefully be a very positive experience.

In the case of the vast majority of the women I've treated over the years, there is an overwhelming physical component to their pain which is clearly made worse by the emotional/psychological component. Just to draw a parallel to other types of muscle-based pains, the same emotional/psychological components are observed in patients with low back pain, neck pain, knee pain and basically any type of pain. If it hurts your back to bend over, you will eventually stop doing that functional activity in order to avoid the back pain. If it hurts your knee to run, you will eventually stop running to avoid the pain. If it hurts to have sex, that too, will cease in order to avoid the pain. People with chronic back pain get anxiety and/or fear around doing certain activities, as do women with sexual pain. Health providers need to end the stigma associated with female sexual pain and point their patients and clients in the right direction.

The best way to treat these women is through a multidisciplinary approach that address all facets: physical and emotional. An important third factor is any potential medical problem, that clearly must be ruled out so the true healing can begin.

Click here for more blog posts on vaginismus and overall sexual health.

Reference:

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2014 Nov;27(6):4-6-12 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25211497/)

Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net by Andy Newsom

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Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

Testimonial by A.M.

Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

-- A.M.

Testimonial by Rosanna R., age 35

Heather has affected my life in the MOST POSITIVE way and I am forever grateful. My husband refers to her as the "sex doctor" so you can only imagine how happy he is with my therapy outcome.

After the birth of my son I suffered from "Vaginismus", however, at the time I just thought I was broken. My "broken vagina" affected me physically but it was an emotional struggle as well. Many women in my life also suffered with pain from sex after their babies were born so I knew I wasn't alone. They told me they "just got used to it" but I couldn't see myself living that way.

Sex wasn't just painful, it was literally impossible - IT DIDNT FIT!

Read more: Testimonial by Rosanna R.,...

Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

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