Painful Sex? 7 Signs You Might Have Vaginismus

If you experience pain during sex, pay attention.

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Vaginismus (pronounced vaj-uh-niz-muhs) is the result of involuntary tightening of the vaginal walls, making penetration during intercourse difficult or even impossible. These individuals frequently experience vaginal discomfort during intercourse, such as pain and burning sensations. Here are seven signs you might have vaginismus:

1. You cringe at the idea of penetration.

As you start exploring and imagining the idea of having sex, the thought of sex makes you cringe without any local explanation. The world seems divided into two types of people: those who penetrate and those who are penetrated. As an owner of a vagina, the idea of being penetrated fills you with unexplainable doom, gloom, and dread.

2. You are afraid of pain.

You have sensory sensitivities and have always been very sensitive to any form of pain. You associate sex with pain, and believe that penetrative sex for the first time must be painful. You try to imagine enduring the pain, and you are afraid of what it’d do to you.

3. You tried but couldn’t get close to sex.

You did try to have sex, but you found yourself freaking out as the penis approached. You might find your body moving involuntarily in trying to create distance — pushing your partner away, your body squirming away, or unwittingly screaming and shouting. In particular, your legs would hold a lot of tension and tighten so much that it is impossible to pry them open.

4. You find it impossible to relax.

You might have had your partner tell you repeatedly to relax, but you are unable to do so. You might notice how your vaginal secretion would dry up, your arousal would stop abruptly, and your heart would be racing. Your Fight or Flight mode is being triggered, and you feel threatened.

5. You are told there is no “hole.”

Your partner is trying to insert their finger or penis, but reports that there is no “hole.” This is because your vaginal muscles have tightened up so much so there is no way to penetrate.

6. You experience pain “down there.”

Both of you might have the agreement to just push against the entrance of the vagina. Your partner shares that it feels like “hitting against a wall.” All you can feel is pain around your genitals. This just proves to you that there is pain, and you anticipate that the pain will only get worse.

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7. You avoid sex.

Having tried and failed to have sex, you try to avoid the subject completely. You question your body, and whether you are attracted enough to your partner. You doubt yourself for being ready for sex, not wanting sex enough, and not trying hard enough.

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Vaginismus is a highly treatable condition with 90% of cases due to psychological reasons which might include: anticipating intercourse as a painful act, performance anxiety related to intercourse, traumatic sexual experiences in the past, lack of knowledge regarding sex, and fear of getting pregnant. Do seek support in the form of a trained pelvic floor physical therapist, sex therapist, or sexologist. For more information, check out Pelvic Pain 101!


Dr. Martha Tara Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists), as well as a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists). Martha holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality as well as Certificates in Sex Therapy, Practical Counseling and Life Coaching. She was recognized as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women under 40′ by Her World Singapore in July 2010 and ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women by CozyCot Singapore in March 2011. To view more of her work, check out www.ErosCoaching.com!