Myths About Vaginismus
March 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm #8847
Hi ladies. In the process of self-diagnosing myself with vaginismus, researching and finding this treatment program, and later becoming cured from vaginismus, I’ve heard of so many different MYTHS ABOUT VAGINISMUS. I think this would make an excellent thread to develop a list of what specific myths we have all heard about vaginismus and why they are inaccurate.
Myth 1: Vaginismus is an uncommon condition
This is a myth. In Dr. Pacik’s book, When Sex Seems Impossible: Stories of Vaginismus and How You Can Achieve Intimacy, he wrote: “The incidence rate of vaginismus is as high as seven percent (the equivalent of men with erectile dysfunction), and is the leading cause of unconsummated marriages.” Vaginismus is a much more common problem than people realize. The myth exists due to the embarrassment that surrounds the condition and not wanting to tell anyone. While living in silence with vaginismus, I believed this myth that vaginismus was uncommon and I felt like I was the only person in the world with this rare condition and very embarrassed about it. The reality and truth of the matter is that so many others suffer with this “common” condition and for those finding out about it for the first time and reading this, please know that you are not alone, there is a “cure” for this condition, and we are all here to support you.
Ladies, what myths about vaginismus have you heard of and why are they inaccurate?March 7, 2013 at 7:32 am #11248
Myth 2: Childbirth cures vaginismus
A vaginismus myth that we hear from time to time is that the birth of a child will cure vaginismus. However, even after the birth of a child, vaginismus still remains. Similar to the misdiagnosis of vulvodynia, clinicians and doctors who do not understand vaginismus may suggest this. When Dr. Pacik was ask “Why doesn’t childbirth cure vaginismus?”, his reply was:
“This is certainly a myth. Most of my patients who have delivered children before their vaginismus was cured, delivered by C-sect. Those that delivered vaginally still had vaginismus. During their vaginal delivery, high anxiety remained. Nothing was done to effectively reduce the spasm related to vaginismus, so once the child was born, these women still had vaginismus. It is important to remember that childbirth does not address nor cure the fear and apprehension associated with vaginal penetration nor does childbirth reduce the spasm related to vaginismus. This must be addressed separately”March 7, 2013 at 10:41 am #11250
Myth #3:Quote:Have a drink and just relax!
I would be willing to bet that just about every woman with vaginismus has heard this one. Of course we all know it doesn’t work. When I review the intake forms, some of my patients try to get drunk every time they try to have intercourse AND IT DOESN’T WORK!! The other thing is that most of my patients neither drink nor smoke! What a disconnect!March 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm #11252
Myth #4: Vaginismus is not a physical condition.
Even though vaginismus is more of a psychological condition, it definitely still is a physical condition too. The pain when intercourse is attempted is REAL PAIN, not just in your head!March 14, 2013 at 8:31 pm #11266
Myth #5: You must have vulvodynia
For years sexual pain disorders were diagnosed as vulvodynia or vestibulodynia (older term-vestibulitis i.e. pain in the vestibule). Many well known professionals in this field felt that vaginismus by itself did not exist. Not true. Actually for a woman struggling with vaginismus it is rare to have associated vulvodynia or vestibulodynia.March 15, 2013 at 8:56 am #11268
Myth 6: Vaginismus is caused by a Thick Hymen
Many women mistakenly believe or are actually told that vaginismus is caused by a thick hymen. When in reality, it is caused by the subconscious tightening of the vaginal muscles irrespective of the presence or absence of the hymen. I wonder how many women were told that a hymenectomy would be a cure-all for their vaginismus only to have this not work.June 8, 2013 at 10:19 am #11569
Regarding Myth 6: Vaginismus is caused by a Thick Hymen, in a recent post, Dr. Pacik wrote: “You and the others reading this should understand the role of hymenectomy. The main problem with vaginismus is spasm of the vaginal entry muscle. Therefore the treatment needs to address this spasm which is Botox, dilators and post procedure counseling, or dilators alone with counseling in less severe cases. Though the hymen may be a problem, and sometimes I find the need to release the hymen (fairly rare), hymenectomy in of itself will not cure vaginismus. Feeling your muscles going into spasm when kissing confirms your diagnosis of vaginal spasm. This is much like suddenly getting a “Charlie horse” when other muscles in the body go into spasm. “Hitting a wall” is also a very common complaint. All this speaks to muscle spasm and therefore the diagnosis of vaginismus. The inability to have a GYN exam further confirms the diagnosis. A doctor who is able to insert only one finger (or usually no finger when the muscle looks and feels like a tightly closed fist) could be an indication of a tight hymen, but when combined with the proper history, the diagnosis should be muscular spasm rather than the need for a hymenectomy. (A recent patient had both a hymenectomy and an episiotomy (cutting into the vagina) which is sometimes done during childbirth to widen the canal). Of course none of this helps because the diagnosis of spasm was missed.”July 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm #11663
Myth 7: A woman with Vaginismus is not interested in sex
This is another myth. Many women who have the condition of vaginismus strongly desire to have sex with their partners but refrain from doing so because of the excruciating pain/fear response that occurs due to vaginismus.July 10, 2013 at 9:48 am #11666
According to Rhea Orion, PhD, who has collaborated with Dr. Pacik to produce three YouTube videos on vaginismus, there are two addional myths that exist regarding the causes of vaginismus.
Myth 8: Women with vaginismus were raped or sexually abused and, in response, developed resistance and pain.
Myth 9: Another is that negative background, including attitudes of shame or fear of sex, caused the problem.
According to Rhea Orion: “These sound like reasonable causations based on symptoms, but recent research suggests no more prevalence in backgrounds of abuse or negativity than in women with no vaginismus. Nor does sexual pain appear to be a consistent response in women who do have abusive or negative backgrounds. Many vaginismus sufferers report no exceptionally negative backgrounds with regard to sexuality. Many times, their female siblings, raised in the same family, do not have vaginismus. The condition of vaginismus has also been confirmed cross-culturally, suggesting that background is not a causative factor.July 10, 2013 at 10:30 am #11667
Myth#10: Vaginismus will go away on its own
This is a myth. Unfortunately, vaginismus does not get better on its own and does require treatment. I used to believe that if we just tried harder, sex will happen and this problem will go away on its own. The more we tried and the more it just caused excruciating pain, this only made the situation worse and reinforced the control that vaginismus had on our lives. You do not have to accept your situation and can be cured from this condition. It is highly treatable and there is a high 90% success rate in those who have received the Botox Treatment Program for Vaginismus.March 27, 2016 at 12:50 am #18909
Myth #11: My husband’s penis is too large for me
This is a myth. The vagina is designed to accommodate a fully erect penis regardless of the size. In the past, Dr. Pacik has written an excellent post regarding using larger dilators for larger partners:
Excerpts from the Blog include: “A frequently asked question is “How much dilation is needed to achieve pain free intercourse?”. This is determined by the partner’s size. It is simply a matter of adequate stretching of the vaginal muscles to comfortably achieve penetration with a large partner. Pacik glass dilators in sizes #7 and #8 are available for women who have large partners. Once the number 6 dilator is comfortable women are able to advance to the larger dilators. Though this may seem impossible early after vaginismus treatment this progression can be achieved by those patients who require larger dilation.”October 21, 2016 at 6:21 pm #19855
Nicole Tammelleo, MA, LCSWModerator
These are indeed the many and most common myths we continue to hear from vaginismus patients that were told to them by health care providers. As a therapist I need to add one more myth.
Vaginismus can be cured with psychotherapy.
Similar to Myth #4 that vaginismus is not a physical condition, the idea that vaginismus can be cured by going deep into your subconscious and “dealing” with whatever is causing it by therapy alone is wrong. I have seen several patients who were working with sex therapists who really did have them believing psychotherapy was the answer. Alone, it certainly is not the answer. However, I do think a combination of addressing vaginismus from a physical perspective as well as talk therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat it. The pain is real, it is not in your head! But after many years of believing it was in your head or that something was “wrong” with you, it is normal to feel angry or frustrated, and therapy can help identify and explore these feelings. Therapy can be a great place to address the emotional affects vaginismus has had on your life, but it will not fix the physical issues. Here at MAZE we use a holistic model combing physical treatment with therapy to address all the affects vaginismus has had on your life. But of course with the correct treatment it does not have to be that way anymore.October 31, 2016 at 4:47 pm #19876
This is a great post Nicole. In a prior post, the husband of one of Dr. Pacik’s treated patients who is a psychiatric nurse, discusses both the psychological and physical aspects of the condition and their post-procedure success:
“A very long story short: we went for treatment, and I saw everything. It is amazing how someone can display muscular spasms and attempt to avoid treatment even under anaesthetic. This underlines the “involuntary” nature of this debilitating condition. Rachel did not feel a thing; she was not aware of anything whatsoever. Yet, she was attempting to resist treatment during the procedure. This is not a problem that is attributable to mere psychological constructs or defense mechanisms. There are psychological components to vaginismus, most definitely. However, this is an essentially physiological condition which is reinforced by the following: lack of education, distorted perceptions and beliefs, rumination, catastrophising. The initial memory and pain of intercourse triggers and maintains these psychological constructs, which simply reinforce the problem. So there is a cognitive element to this condition. However, the root of the problem is not psychological. Rachel had the treatment. She dilated in no time at all. She had inserted the dilators without problem. I had even inserted the dilators without problem – into Rachel that is!!! Where was the impossibility now? Rachel thought that she was too small. Rachel thought that nothing could “get in there”. Now, she had the biggest dilator inside her. The problem is no longer a problem, and Rachel was walking around Portland like a duck with the evidence inside her vagina. So, when the psychological conflicts arose, there was no evidence to substantiate or validate their claims. Rachel and I knew it. We went home, back to Canada. We followed the golden rule of “tip only intercourse”. No problems. Why? The botox has temporarily paralysed Rachel’s vaginal muscles so that she cannot spasm. This has given Rachel time to get over the so-called physical impossibilities and her unsupported psychological constructs. Rachel now knows that she is not too small; she now knows that she does not need a hymenectomy; she now knows that she has a normal vagina; she now knows that she can insert a dilator that is the size of an erect penis. The “arguments” in her head have been levelled to the ground. We have now even had full intercourse.”
August 1, 2017 at 1:14 pm #21359
Nicole Tammelleo, MA, LCSWModerator
I was just meeting with a new patient, who reminded me of all these myths floating about there surrounding vaginismus, so please check them out and feel free to add any more that we may have not yet included.
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