There is a great deal of misinformation surrounding the causes of vaginismus.
Vaginismus is often a multi-faceted condition and it's important to really understand all the factors that cause it, including psychological, emotional, physical and relationship factors. A lack of understanding of vaginismus may well prevent women from overcoming the condition - or even seeking help in the first place. A key factor in resolving vaginismus is having the understanding of what is causing it to occur.
Although vaginismus manifests itself as a physical response, it is caused by psychological factors...
Your vagina is responding to your current thoughts and beliefs about penetration
So many of the women that I have treated for vaginismus initially attributed the symptom to a physical abnormality, believing that there must be something wrong with their vagina: too narrow, too shallow or their hymen was preventing penetration.
The reality is that vaginas are stretchy and elastic – when the minds that control them are calm and relaxed! I have worked with many women who have spent months or even years struggling with dilators, physical and relaxation exercises. Some have used botox to try and relax the muscles, others have had surgery on their vaginas...and still the vaginismus remains.
Our minds are remarkably powerful and our beliefs and mindset can have an incredible impact upon our body. Simply with the power of our imagination we have the ability to create a whole host of physical sensations: we can make our heart race by thinking of a frightening situation; we can create a headache by feeling stressed.
Cara challenges two unhelpful, yet common myths about vaginismus causes:
1. Your vagina is NOT spasming, it's simply tensing
2. You do NOT have a physical injury. Your vagina is normal - you are just very good at tensing!
Our body doesn't always respond the way we want it to...
Below is a selection of physical symptoms that are created by our mind. How many have you experienced?
By the same token, simply the dread and fear of penetration can have a very real and physical impact upon how your body responds to that very thing.
Without being taught the knowledge and insight behind your body's responses, its really difficult to know what's going on behind the scenes. So, when vaginismus occurs, it feels as though it is happening TO you, rather than something you are inadvertently creating in that moment.
We have thousands of thoughts every day and most of them occur without our awareness: our thoughts become ‘normalised’ so we don’t even notice what we are occupying our minds with. However, although unnoticed, these thoughts DO have a huge impact upon our emotions and our body. Being aware of the cognitive processes that are causing the vaginismus is the first major step towards resolving the problem.
Vaginismus causes - What it is NOT directly caused by...
So much literature about vaginismus suggests that it is caused directly by past events and experiences. This cause and effect relationship, however, is way too simplistic and is simply untrue!
It is often suggested that vaginismus may be caused by such factors as:
Sexual abuse or negative sexual experiences
Hearing tales when you were a child or teenager of how painful sex will be, how much you’ll bleed, that it might get stuck…
However, none of these factors are the DIRECT cause of vaginismus. There is no correlation between sexual abuse and vaginismus (and I have worked with many women who have been sexually abused who don’t have vaginismus). Likewise, most women who have had strict parenting or religious teaching don’t go on to get vaginismus....
Symptoms, including vaginismus develop, not because of events, but our reaction to them
As I mentioned previously, the causes of vaginismus lay in our current day thinking and beliefs about penetration. When we are unaware of those it can be easy to attribute the problem to an external experience or circumstance and conclude that “this experience or person has MADE ME have vaginismus”. However, the past has been and gone – we cannot change it.
The first step to overcoming vaginismus is to understand and recognise how your current beliefs and thoughts are maintaining the condition. These include:
Imagining the worst / failure
When you imagine having sex or any form of penetration, you will probably ‘catastrophise’ and imagine it hurting and being unsuccessful. Perhaps you imagine your vagina being too small or simply just an impenetrable wall. The beliefs we create originate from the thoughts we think, so if you are imagining pain, blood, tears and failure, no wonder you are tensing up. This leads to an unhelpful cycle of behaviour.
Negative feelings and your partner
Feeling self conscious, inhibited or judged by your sexual partner, is likely to lead to anxiety and feeling uncomfortable in the bedroom. These are the least sexy thoughts to occupy your mind with in the bedroom! Resentment towards your partner or fear of disappointing or angering him: If you are emotionally closing down, then your body may do the same.
Avoidance of penetration
When comfortable penetration seems so unlikely, it can be easy to avoid even attempting it. Women can go for months or years avoiding any form of penetration. This can lead to feelings of alienation from their body and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Resolve the vaginismus cause with The Thrive Programme
It's not your fault that you are struggling with vaginismus - most of us have never been taught the invaluable knowledge of how our minds work and how to have good mental health.
Effective treatment of vaginismus lies in gaining the knowledge to understand how your current beliefs and mindset are creating the condition (nothing scary or overly complicated!) and having the tools to change them.
This is achieved through the remarkable and life-changing Thrive Programme for Vaginismus, where you will learn how to take back control over your thinking and how your body responds.
As embarrassed or uncomfortable as you many feel, it is advised to seek a medical professional’s opinion if you think that your vaginismus may be caused by a physical issue. Occasionally, vaginismus has a physical cause, such as a yeast infection. Being able to eliminate this possibility will help you to focus your search for a cure in the correct direction.