Sexual Pain Disorders

By Kayli Nichols- Psy 335 March 23, 2015

Definition and Symptoms

There are approximately two types of sexual pain disorders that an individual can suffer from. These two types include: Dyspareunia and Vaginismus.

According to the American Family Physician, "Dyspareunia can be divided into three types of pain: superficial, vaginal and deep. Superficial dyspareunia occurs with attempted penetration, usually secondary to anatomic or irritative conditions, or vaginismus. Vaginal dyspareunia is pain related to friction (i.e., lubrication problems), including arousal disorders. Deep dyspareunia is pain related to thrusting, often associated with pelvic disease or relaxation" (Phillips, 2000).

Dyspareunia is the "persistent or recurrent pain associated with attempted or complete vaginal intercourse" (King & Regan, 2014). With dyspareunia, there is often no problem with arousal nor lubrication when intercourse is initiated.

Vaginismus is the "recurrent or persistent pain experienced during attempted sexual intercourse" (King & Regan, 2014). This is often due to involuntary spasms in the muscles surrounding the vagina.


Dyspareunia can be caused by a variety of factors. Dyspareunia can be caused by endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, yeast and other vaginal infections, Bartholin's gland infections, and even urinary tract infections. Although physical pain can be a huge contributor to sexual pain, the pain can also be caused by psychological factors as well (King & Regan, 2014). If a woman has experienced sexual abuse in the past, it can lead to issues with trust, emotional issues, and a loss of sexual desire.

The cause of Vaginismus is often psychological (King & Regan, 2014). This is often due to sexual anxieties and nervousness. Due to inexperience, this sometimes causes women to create involuntary muscle contraction, which inevitably causes pain for the individual.

Impact on Relationships

Sexual problems are not always easy, especially in a relationship. Many individuals begin to blame themselves for sexual pain. This is not always the case. Communication is extremely beneficial to ensure proper health and hygiene is well. Sexual dysfunction can also have a negative impact on the well being of the individual it is affecting. It is important to remember, that sexual pain is not extremely uncommon. It does occur to approximately 9-15% of women (King & Regan, 2015).

A strong support system between partners is built through positive communication. Through finding treatment, the partners can work together to overcome this disorder and pain, and create a better sexual relationship.


To ensure a pain free sexual experience, proper hygiene can help prevent sexual pain. It is important to receive proper and routine medical care to ensure that health is at the highest quality. The addition of KY Jelly or other type of lubricant can help to ensure proper lubrication and eliminate dryness. This will aide in lubrication and help eliminate pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
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Treatment Options

Treatment options for sexual pain disorders range from medication to cognitive behavioral therapy. Exercises may include pelvic floor muscle contraction and relaxation (Kegel exercises) to improve voluntary control (Sexual Pain, 2015). This is a helpful treatment in working the muscles to help reduce involuntary muscle contractions.

Another form of treatment involves cognitive-behavioral therapy which includes systematic desensitization by the gradual dilation of the vagina (King & Regan, 2014). This essentially helps the woman to reduce her sexual anxieties through experience placing an object inside her vagina.


King, B., & Regan, P. (2014). Human Sexuality (8th ed.). Up Saddle River, NJ: Pearson


McCool, M. (2014). Prevalence and predictors of female sexual dysfunction: A protocol for a systematic review. Systematic Reviews, 3, 75-75. Retrieved from Academic One File.

Phillips, N. (2000). Female Sexual Dysfunction: Evaluation and Treatment. Am Fam Physician, 61(1), 127-136. Retrieved from

Sexual Pain Disorder. (2014, January 1). Retrieved from