Vaginismus is a condition where the vaginal muscles involuntarily contract, making penetration during sexual activity, gynecological exams, and even tampon insertion painful or impossible. It can have a significant impact on a woman’s physical, emotional, and sexual well-being. While dilating is a common treatment for vaginismus, it may not be enough to help women recover fully.
A mind-body approach to recovering from vaginismus is a holistic solution that treats the condition as a nervous system and mind-body connection problem, rather than solely a muscular problem. In this handout, we will discuss why a mind-body approach is necessary, give three reasons to consider using it, and provide three simple ways to use a mind-body approach for recovering from vaginismus.
Why use a Mind-Body Approach Necessary?
Vaginismus is often described as a muscular problem; however, research has shown that the root cause of vaginismus lies in the nervous system’s response to sexual stimuli. According to research conducted by Van der Velde and Everaerd (2001), women with vaginismus have a heightened sensitivity to vaginal touch due to a conditioned fear response. This means that the nervous system perceives penetration as a threat, causing the vaginal muscles to contract reflexively. Therefore, treating vaginismus as solely a muscular problem with dilators may not address the root cause of the condition. A Mind-Body Approach to treating vaginismus allows your conscious and subconscious nervous systems to connect with your pelvic floor muscles to interpret and respond to stimuli in a positive and appropriate manner, rather than with negative and overreacting response.
Three Reasons to Consider Using a Mind-Body Approach
- Addresses the Root Cause: As mentioned earlier, the root cause of vaginismus is a complicated disconnection between the nervous system’s subconscious and involuntary stress responses to sexual stimuli. A mind-body approach addresses this root cause by focusing on the mind-body connection and retraining the nervous system’s response to sexual stimuli. By addressing the root cause, women can recover fully and not experience recurring symptoms.
- Holistic Solution: A mind-body approach is a holistic solution that treats the whole person rather than just the symptoms. It considers the interdependence of the mind and body and the impact of emotions and thoughts on physical symptoms. This approach recognizes that the mind and body are interconnected, and a mind-body approach can help women gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their bodies. It provides an internal approach to lasting healing rather than an externally driven approach.
- Sustainable Recovery: A mind-body approach can help women develop the skills and knowledge to sustain their recovery. It helps women understand their triggers and learn coping mechanisms to manage them. This approach equips women with the tools they need to manage their condition and prevent relapse.
Using a Mind-Body approach to recovering from vaginismus can have holistic and lasting effects beyond just vaginismus. You’ll find your body’s ability to interpret and interact with the world will likely be changed. Your nervous system will be primed to handle other stressful or tense situation with ease. You may even find your GI system calms down a little too!
A mind-body approach incorporates many different aspects of your nervous system to down-regulate or calm your sympathetic nervous system and to activate or up-regulate your vagus nerve to strengthen your parasympathetic nervous system. A mind-body approach also utilizes somatic body-stimulating and relaxing techniques that harmonized your body’s subconscious and conscious systems to work together for your optimal functioning. Using these strategies to unlock your body’s ability to heal from vaginismus are huge and can have profound lasting impacts that not only enhance your sex life, but also your every day functioning!
Three Simple Ways to Use a Mind-Body Approach for Recovering from Vaginismus
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being present and non-judgmental of one’s thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Women with vaginismus can use mindfulness techniques to tune into their bodies and become aware of their physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts related to penetration. Mindfulness can help women manage their anxiety and develop a positive relationship with their bodies.
- Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises are a powerful tool for managing anxiety and stress. Women with vaginismus can use breathing exercises to calm their nervous system and manage their symptoms. Diaphragmatic breathing, where one breathes from the diaphragm rather than shallow chest breathing, is a helpful technique. In our Mind-Body-Sex Reset program we go over 5 different breathing techniques you can utilize to reset and gain control over your sympathetic nervous system both long term and in the moment.
- Guided Imagery: Guided imagery is a technique where one imagines a peaceful and relaxing scene to reduce anxiety and stress. Women with vaginismus can use guided imagery to visualize themselves comfortably participating in sexual activity or having a successful gynecological exam. Visualization can help retrain the nervous system’s response to sexual stimuli and reduce fear.
Vaginismus is a condition that can have a significant impact on a woman’s physical, emotional, and sexual well-being. Recovering from vaginismus doesn’t have to be drawn out and complicated. A Mind-Body approach can greatly impact and improve your recovery. Vaginal training with dilators, fingers, or a penis can easily be paired with a Mind-Body approach to enhance the body’s ability to desensitize, relax, and heal from painful penetration. So if you feel like your progress is slow, laborious, or stagnant, consider implementing a holistic mind-body approach to use your body’s systems to expedite your recovery.
Our Mind-Body-Sex Reset Program uses a holistic mind-body approach to helping your in your vaginismus recovery. We combine researched based mind-body nervous system strategies with vaginal training (dilators), cognitive behavioral training, graded exposure, and much more researched based vaginismus recovery techniques to fast track your recovery to pain-free sex. For more information on our Mind-Body-Sex Reset program, check out the “work with me” tab or schedule a free consultation call.
- Velde, Janneke & Everaerd, Walter. (2001). The relationship between involuntary pelvic floor muscle activity, muscle awareness and experienced threat in women with and without vaginismus. Behaviour research and therapy. 39. 395-408. 10.1016/S0005-7967(00)00007-3.
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