There are various medical terms to describe different types of female genital pain – dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, vestibulitis, pelvic pain… As a specialist Clinical Psychologist and qualified psycho-sexologist, sometimes the women I work with have one of these diagnoses, and sometimes no diagnosis at all. Often women have had multiple diagnostic labels, which can be even more confusing.
If you are experiencing pain during sex, it is important to first investigate any medical factors that might be causing or contributing to your sexual pain problem.
‘This is not all in my head!’
Some women are disappointed that medical examinations and tests do not show up any physical explanation for their problem. Other times, the biological factors (such as a skin problem, for example) contributing to the pain has been treated but still the problem persists.
One of the questions people often ask me is “Do you think it is all in my mind?”, as if somehow they are imagining their problem or causing it themselves, or that their problem is not ‘real’. It is important to remember that the body and mind are connected in complex ways, so dividing problems into body versus mind is not a helpful or representative way of looking at problems. When we look at women’s sexual response cycle as well as the psychology of the pain system, it is clear that sexual pain problems are complex, involving physiological and psychological systems which are inter-related, and feed information back to each other. A specialist psycho-sexology approach, in addition to recommended medical treatment where advised, has been shown to be effective for female sexual pain problems.
Just as specialist Clinical Psychologists play a key role in treating chronic pain problems, clinical psychologists also play a key role in treating sexual pain problems. Everyone’s problem is different and therefore treatment and therapy is tailored to the individual.
I have worked with many clients who thought that they would never have pain-free or even enjoyable sex again, and came along to psychology reluctantly, as a ‘last ditch effort’, only to surprise themselves by how much progress they made in a relatively short space of time, and have been able to reclaim their bodies and resume a pleasurable sex life.
Mindsurgery London provides individual sessions, face-to-face and over Skype, for a range of psychosexual issues. See www.mindsurgerylondon.co.uk for more details.