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with Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., LPCC

Tips For Women With Sexual Pain

 

Feeling pain during intercourse can be extremely debilitating for women and has a very negative impact on their desire to have sex and the ability to get aroused. Women experiencing sexual pain often report feeling defeated by the idea that the pain will only get worse and never get better.

They express fear that their partner will not want to be with them and that they have failed as a woman. Some women also develop a strong fear response that experiencing any pain is going to lead to the tearing of the vaginal opening or walls.

Sexual pain also affects a woman’s overall sense of well-being and self-esteem. Having feelings of not being feminine enough or not feeling good about one’s body are extremely common. Some women report feeling like they are “broken” or “damaged.”

Usually, the pain is also present during a gynecological examination, use of tampons, touch or oral stimulation, rubbing against clothing and strenuous activity such as working out. While there are numerous physical causes of sexual pain such as atrophy of the vaginal muscles due to menopause, decreased lubrication because of declining estrogen levels and pressure to the vulvar vestibule, I am going to focus on the psychological causes for sexual pain in this article.

Psychological causes of sexual pain:

The psychological causes for sexual pain consist of the negative feedback loop that is created because of your body’s response to the pain originally caused by physical factors, your perception of the severity of the pain and your partner’s response to it.

In the case of a physical injury, it is normal for the muscles surrounding a painful area in your body to contract and become tense in order to protect the vulnerable area from further injury. However, in the case of sexual pain, the protective tense muscles actually backfire.

The reason being the tense and contracted muscles don’t allow for much blood to flow to the vagina which severely inhibits lubrication & arousal resulting in penetration being even more painful. Thus, the anticipation of pain makes the pain even worse and you are more inclined to perceive the pain as beyond tolerable.

You begin to withdraw from all types of sexual activity even if it includes no penetration and in some cases, women don’t want to be touched by their partners at all. This withdrawal creates feelings of rejection in your partner which further puts stress on the relationship.

What can you do?

Talk more-

Clear and ongoing communication is a necessary building block for healthy sexuality. In the case of sexual pain, negative thoughts such as “ I am broken” or “It’s never going to get better” are dominant. These thoughts lead to more withdrawal and very little communication between partners. Find a way to have more direct and ongoing conversations with your partner about the pain, share your thoughts and feelings as well as your fears.

Penetration is not the goal-

Allow yourself to enjoy just being with your partner. Whether you both are giving each other a sensual massage or cuddling in the nude, don’t focus on how you are not engaged in sexual intercourse. Instead, focus on the sensation of being close to your partner, the skin-to-skin contact and exploring different kinds of pleasurable touch.

Change the script-

Women experiencing sexual pain often have negative sexual scripts that are on replay like a music CD in their head. Examples of such scripts include: “ I am a failure”, “ I am not feminine enough”, “I am not a good enough wife or girlfriend.” Become aware of these scripts and how they are more likely to be the loudest when you are trying to be in the moment and focus on sensual rather than sexual pleasure with your partner. Once you become aware, make a conscious effort to turn the volume down on them or replace them with more positive statements that redirect your attention to pleasure rather than failure.

Change the way you see the pain-

Instead of perceiving the pain as severely debilitating and beyond repair, try to see it in a more realistic manner. Understand the negative feedback loop created by your body’s reaction to the pain and reassure yourself that you know how to deal with the pain by focusing more on pleasure, thereby reducing its intensity.

References

Binik, Y. M., Bergeron, S., & Khalife, S. (2000). Dyspareunia. Principles & Practice of Sex Therapy, NY: The Guilford Press.

Tips For Women With Sexual Pain

Dr. Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C.

Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C. is a sex & relationship expert, founder of Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. - a thriving sex therapy & couples counseling practice in the Bay Area, CA. Dr. Clark specializes in working with couples & individuals struggling with low or mismatched libido, weak or absent orgasms, performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction, sexual pain, sexuality & aging, general sexual dissatisfaction etc. She also works with people interested in exploring sexual orientation, gender identity, kink, BDSM, polyamory, and atypical sexual behaviors. She has been in the field of sexuality since 2006, including 4 years of clinical experience in the area of forensic sexuality, treating sexual paraphilias. She is a licensed professional clinical counselor (L.P.C.C.) with license to practice psychotherapy in the states of CA, PA & LA. She holds a doctorate in human sexuality with specialization in sex therapy from Widener University, PA. Since 2002, her clinical experience has spanned individuals, couples & families from diverse cultural, ethnic & racial backgrounds in the United States as well as abroad. As a bi-cultural, multilingual woman of color, she possesses an expansive & versatile view of the world which she brings into her work and her writing. For more information or to reach Dr. Clark, please visit Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc.


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APA Reference
, . (2018). Tips For Women With Sexual Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-talk/2018/08/tips-for-women-with-sexual-pain/

 

Last updated: 11 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Aug 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.