It is estimated that around 60% of women and 40% of men manifest some type of sexual dysfunction.

Among women, the most common dysfunctions are lack of desire, excitational problems and anorgasmia, and in men erection problems, premature ejaculation and lack of interest in sex.

There is, however, another type of disorder, perhaps less widespread in psychology but equally common: painful intercourse in women, or dyspareunia . In this article we will see what its characteristics are, and various techniques for coping with pain.

What is dyspareunia? Main symptoms

These are the main characteristics and symptoms of dyspareunia :

  • The woman experiences pain, burning, discomfort or itching, at the beginning, during or at the end of the relationship.
  • You have persistent difficulties in vaginal penetration during intercourse.
  • He shows an intense fear of feeling pain before, during or as a result of penetration, so he tends to avoid relationships.

Thus, dispareunia has a great capacity to harm women’s sexual lives. Now… What are the causes of dyspareunia? Are they exclusively the responsibility of medicine?


According to several studies, the most common cause of dyspareunia is psychological. Lack of arousal, sexuality, inadequate or repressive sex education, anxiety or previous negative experiences are among the possible explanations for this disorder.

Also, of course, the cause may be organic (poor lubrication, vaginal infections, malformations, etc.) so a gynecological visit is always recommended.

Bearing in mind that sexuality is a compendium of behaviours, emotions, thoughts and psychophysiological components, there may not be a single reason that may be causing the difficulty, so the evaluation has to be done in a global and holistic way.

Treatment: tools for coping with coital pain

Once evaluated… What techniques do psychologists usually use to intervene in dyspareunia? Let’s look at some of the most frequent ones, with the recommendation that if you are going through a similar situation you should go to a professional (psychologist or sexologist) who will evaluate your specific case and design a personalized treatment plan.

1. Sex education

Essential in any problem of sexual dysfunction. It is known that the exclusively coital stimulations are not enough to stimulate the desire in women , so there may be a lack of lubrication, psychological frustration at not achieving the desired excitement, tension in the pelvic floor muscles, etc.

It is therefore very important that the woman knows her body, is familiar with her desire and is able to convey her needs to her sexual partner. And if he or she doesn’t take them into account… there are more fish in the sea.

2. Sensory focus

This is a technique widely used in couples therapy that has been shown to have positive results in the treatment of sexual dysfunctions. It consists of making undemanding intimate contacts, in which the possibility of contact of primary and secondary sexual organs is eliminated.

The aim is to encourage intimate and sensual communication , the discovery of pleasurable sensations and the awakening of desire, without the added pressure of having to culminate in possibly painful penetration.

3. Kegel maneuvers

This tool consists of performing a series of exercises on the pubococcygeal muscles with the aim of strengthening some muscle groups involved in sexual relations. The aim is to become aware of the states of relaxation and muscular tension, which will help to increase the feeling of self-control in women at the time of sex.

4. Watch your thoughts!

Self-fulfilling prophecy happens when our thoughts create realities (which happens all the time). Magic? No. Causal relationships.

If a woman begins a sexual encounter with thoughts such as “it will hurt”, “I won’t be able to bear it”, “I will never be able to enjoy sex” her body will enter a state of tension that will make penetration very difficult , which will end up being painful due to the vaginal contraction itself together with the lack of lubrication. In addition, focusing on the painful sensations will intensify the sensation of pain, making it really unbearable.

Through cognitive restructuring and thought stopping techniques, with the help of a psychologist, we can decrease the intensity, frequency and degree of credibility we give to such beliefs.

5. Mindfulness

One of the difficulties we can encounter in intimate relationships is a lack of concentration. The body is there but the thoughts are on yesterday, on tomorrow, on the shopping list or on the clothes that have to be taken out of the washing machine. So it is practically impossible to achieve full arousal and appreciate the pleasant sensations that sex offers.

Therefore the techniques of focusing on the present , of being here and now, can be very useful.

In conclusion…

Unfortunately, many women suffer in silence from these kinds of problems due to shame, resignation, myths or lack of information regarding the extent of treatment.

I therefore consider it important to spread these treatments and to transmit hope to all those who are going through a similar situation.