Vaginismus

Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Reframe Therapy
Last updated 17th April 2024 | Next update due 17th April 2027

Vaginismus is when the muscles of the vagina tense up when you try to insert something. This can cause pain and make intercourse difficult, if not impossible. Here we explore vaginismus and how hypnotherapy could help.

What is vaginismus?

Vaginismus causes the vagina to involuntarily contract when something is inserted. If you have penetrative sex, this can cause issues. You may experience pain and, depending on the severity of the condition, you may not be able to have penetrative sex at all. In some cases, even inserting a tampon is impossible.

It is thought that this is a fear-based response, where your body is automatically reacting to penetration. If you are finding insertion or penetration difficult and feel a burning or stinging pain during sex, you may have vaginismus. 

Vaginismus can be classified as either primary or secondary:

  • Primary vaginismus is when penetration has never been achieved.
  • Secondary vaginismus is when penetration has been achieved before but is no longer possible.

This means vaginismus may be a problem you’ve always experienced, or it’s something that’s happened following an event (such as trauma or surgery).

To get a diagnosis and to rule out any other causes of your discomfort, be sure to visit your doctor. Vaginismus can be upsetting, but there are options available. You can still have an enjoyable sex life without penetration. However, if you want to overcome penetration issues, professional support can help.


What causes vaginismus?

There are thought to be a range of causes. These may include physical and psychological factors. You may have a better understanding of what’s causing vaginismus if you know whether it is primary or secondary.

Some of the physical factors that can contribute to vaginismus include:

  • injury from childbirth
  • bladder infections
  • yeast infections
  • surgery/radiation on the area

Usually, psychological factors have a large part to play. These may include:

  • having a belief that sex is ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’
  • having a traumatic experience related to sex/penetration
  • having an unpleasant first sexual experience
  • worrying that your vagina is too small

Sometimes it is a combination of physical and psychological causes. Working with a professional to learn more about what may be causing vaginismus for you can help you find the best treatment approach.


Vaginismus treatment

Treating vaginismus usually involves helping you manage your feelings around penetration. It may also include some physical exercises to help you get used to penetration. If you have any underlying medical concerns, your doctor will be able to help you with these, too.

Some of the treatments you may be offered include:

  • Psychosexual therapy. Working with a sex therapist can help you unpick any anxiety or feelings of shame you may have around penetration.
  • Mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness and other relaxation exercises can help you relax during sex and learn to relax your vaginal muscles.
  • Sensate focus. This involves certain exercises to help with relaxation and sex drive.
  • Pelvic floor exercises. The aim here is to help you regain control of your vaginal muscles. 
  • Vaginal trainers. These are tampon-shaped objects used to help you get used to penetration.
  • Topical treatment. You may be offered creams to help with the pain.

Part of the difficulty with vaginismus is that the muscles tighten involuntarily. This is an unconscious reaction that can take time to change because you aren’t aware you’re doing it. For some people, working directly with the unconscious through hypnotherapy can help.


Hypnotherapy for vaginismus

Hypnotherapy is an approach that works with our subconscious and unconscious. This is where many behaviours and habits take place, deep in our minds. Putting you into a deep state of relaxation, hypnotherapists use various techniques to make suggestions to your subconscious. In this state, it’s believed that our subconscious is more susceptible to suggestion. This means changes can take place, helping to uproot behaviours that aren’t helping us.

This includes unconscious physical responses, such as vaginismus. The aim of hypnotherapy for vaginismus is to help you reframe your thoughts around sex to ease anxiety and resolve any past trauma

Hypnotherapists who can help with vaginismus

Hypnotherapy can help you experience a relaxation response, instead of a fear response during sex. This work encourages you to regain a sense of control over your body. This can be an empowering process as you let go of any limiting beliefs you may have about sex. 

Hypnotherapy does not look to suppress the problem or simply treat its symptoms. Instead, it addresses the root cause. Visualisation techniques may be used to imagine sex without pain to help reassure your mind that it is possible and to boost confidence. 

Depending on your personal circumstances, medical/physical treatment may also be needed. Hypnotherapy can support this work to tackle the behavioural and psychological side. Some hypnotherapists will teach you self-hypnosis techniques to continue the work from your session.

It's extremely common that those who discover an underlying health cause for their lack of orgasm or penetration spasm still continue with the same experience once the underlying physical cause is fixed. Hypnotherapy is equally successful for those in the situation of having undergone medical intervention and finding they are right back where they started.

- Solution-focused hypnotherapy and psychotherapy practitioner, Marie De Bono

How to find a hypnotherapist

If you want to explore hypnotherapy for vaginismus, you can use our search tool to find a hypnotherapist today. It can feel daunting to speak to someone about intimate topics like sex. When we bring these topics into the light, we are already taking steps to reduce any shame we have around it.

Take some time to browse different hypnotherapists until you find someone you resonate with. You can find out more about their story and how they work by reading their profile. Some hypnotherapists will offer an introductory call. This is where you can get to know each other and learn more about how hypnotherapy can help you before you schedule your sessions. 

Start your search today and get one step closer to the fulfilling sex life you deserve. 


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