Female Sexual Pain
More than half of all women are affected by dyspareunia (sexual pain) at some point during their lives. Sexual pain can occur in women of all ages (1,2). While the precise causes of sexual pain are often unknown, symptoms may be caused by a physical injury, a chemical irritant, or a genetic abnormality (3,4,5,6,7). Unlike other forms of pain, dyspareunia affects the bodily region said to define womanhood, femininity, and sexuality (8,9), and influences body image, self-concept and self-esteem (10). It impacts the formation of relationships and increases avoidance of intimate sexual behavior (11). For some women with sexual pain, intercourse is extremely painful or impossible. Many of these women feel like they have lost their womanhood, and describe themselves as unreal, defective, broken, and sexless (12). Depression, anxiety, and relationship difficulties frequently accompany sexual pain, and therapy is useful for working through these and other difficult emotional, psychological, and relational aspects (2,10,11,12,13,14).
You may be tempted to give up…
Unfortunately, nearly 60 percent of affected women consult three or more doctors before receiving a correct diagnosis, and 40 percent of women seeking treatment for vulvodynia are not accurately diagnosed after seeing as many as three doctors (1,15). Due to a lack of training, numerous physicians incorrectly dismiss vulvar pain as strictly psychological (16,17). Countless women give up before receiving an accurate diagnosis for their pain, often feeling stigmatized by the healthcare system (18,19).
…but there is HOPE.
Fortunately, many medical treatments exist to help treat sexual pain. Our therapists are familiar with many of them, but we are not medical professionals. In addition to working through anxiety, depression, and other difficult emotional, psychological, spiritual, and relational aspects of your pain, our therapists can provide you with resources to help you locate a medical professional who can accurately diagnose and treat your specific condition. There are gynecologists and vulvovaginal specialists familiar with your condition who can help. Do not give up. There is hope. Help is available.