Why is it so difficult to get diagnostic and treatment help for vaginismus?
Professional Help Isn’t Always Accessible
Vaginismus is sufficiently rare that many physicians have never heard of it or have little experience with diagnosis or treatment.
Some Physicians Don’t Understand the Condition
Vaginismus is a disorder that often “falls between the cracks” of general medical practices. Women may simply not get the care they need or in many cases initially experience incorrect diagnosis or treatment advice from physicians who are simply unfamiliar with the condition. As vaginismus is considered to be in the “less-than-1%-of-the-population” category, most physicians are not trained to screen for it or to even have familiarity with it.
Also, as there may be no purely physical ailment that is apparent with vaginismus, some physicians feel that it is a condition that would be better suited to another health specialization. Unfortunately, as a result, some women are left feeling that the medical professions do not understand vaginismus, that the problem is untreatable, or that there are few treatment options.
Barriers in Getting Help from Knowledgeable Medical Specialists
Beyond sometimes being difficult to find professionals that are familiar with vaginismus, there are still other barriers to getting care with knowledgeable vaginismus specialists. Obtaining a proper diagnosis and quality treatment by medical specialists or therapists can be hampered by a variety of factors such as:
- Global shortage of specialists or clinics qualified to diagnose and treat vaginismus
- Long waiting lists for new clients – some specialists report waits exceeding 6 months
- Failure to meet eligibility requirements for specialty clinics. Screening processes may be narrowly defined and disqualify some applicants
- Cost – specialist treatment can cost as much as $10,000 and more in some cases (making self-treatment the only affordable option for some women)
- Treatment availability windows may be inconvenient or too compressed for some women
- Lack of accessibility of treatment for women in remote areas or closed-country locations
- If there had been a previous problem with misdiagnosis or harsh treatment that resulted in distrust of medical and/or other treatment professionals then there may be an unwillingness to seek professional help again
- Other personal life challenges or emotions that inhibit women from seeking treatment, such as embarrassment or shame
Choosing a Self-Help Approach
We promote and believe in the effectiveness and invaluable assistance of knowledgeable medical professionals to tailor individual treatment based on a woman’s unique personal circumstances. However, we also understand how difficult it can be to obtain the help of an informed professional.
No matter how difficult, embarrassing, inconvenient or remote her situation, the self-help program brings information and treatment directly to a woman allowing her to seek help despite her circumstances. The program empowers each woman to understand her condition and assists her in finding appropriate treatment solutions to resolve the vaginismus.
While the ideal situation for couples is to have a specialist available to guide them through individualized treatment, the effectiveness of self-help is undeniable. Statistically, self-help has also been supported by studies such as Schnyder, Schnyder-Luthi, Ballinari, & Blaser, 1998 and Lankveld, Everaerd, & Grotjohann, 2001.
- Lankveld, J., Everaerd, W., & Grotjohann, Y. (2001). Cognitive-behavioral bibliotherapy for sexual dysfunctions in heterosexual couples: A randomized waiting-list controlled clinical trial in the Netherlands. J Sex Res, 38(1), 51-67.
- Schnyder, U., Schnyder-Luthi, C., Ballinari, P., & Blaser, A. (1998). Therapy for vaginismus: In vivo versus in vitro desensitization. Can J Psychiatry, 43(9), 941-44.
- Professional Organizations
- Vaginismus Diagnosis
- How can I stay motivated and positive through treatment? I struggle with avoidance.
- What can men do to help their wives/partners through vaginismus?
- What is dyspareunia? What is the connection between dyspareunia and vaginismus?
- Do you recommend working with treatment professionals?