What is Vaginismus? - Causes & Treatment

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there are two types of vaginismus? Learn about vaginismus, its symptoms, treatment, and causes. Then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition and Symptoms

Several conditions can influence sexual functioning in females. Though these conditions are rarely spoken about, they have the ability to create problems in relationships and affect quality of life. One such condition is vaginismus, which is when the muscles near the vagina involuntarily spasm or squeeze anytime something attempts to enter the vagina (i.e. a tampon). Vaginismus can be painful, and it may prevent a woman from engaging in sexual activity or getting medical exams. It is unknown how many women have vaginismus, but it is not a common disease.

There are two types of vaginismus: primary and secondary. When the vagina has never been penetrated, it is called primary vaginismus. If a woman develops vaginismus after she has previously had successful vagina penetration, it is called secondary vaginismus.

The primary symptoms of vaginismus are trouble with or pain during vaginal penetration while engaging in intercourse and during pelvic exams or pain while having sexual intercourse. Women who have vaginismus have reported feeling a tearing sensation. It has also been described as if their sexual partner is hitting an immovable barrier. While vaginismus does not influence sexual arousal, it may prevent vaginal penetration.


The cause of vaginismus is not always known. Menopause can cause vaginismus due to the decrease in estrogen levels, which triggers a reduction in vaginal lubrication. This can cause sexual intercourse to become painful or prevent it all together. Other factors that might cause vaginismus include a history of sexual abuse or trauma, having previously had painful sexual intercourse, having undergone radiation or surgery involving the vaginal area, or having certain emotional problems, such as anxiety.


There is good news; vaginismus can be treated. Treatment may involve some combination of sexual education, vaginal dilators, counseling, and exercising the vaginal area.

Sexual education topics that are covered include the female anatomy, myths about intercourse, and arousal. It also provides a chance to clear up any misconceptions related to vaginismus (i.e. what muscles are involved, what causes vaginismus, etc.).

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