Understanding vaginismus: a biopsychosocial perspective

Maria Mc Evoy, Rosaleen McElvaney, Rita Glover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its universal prevalence, vaginismus remains under-researched. This paper explores various understandings of vaginismus, including the medical understanding of vaginismus as a spasmic response, which has underpinned much of the symptom focused approaches of behavior and cognitive therapies that have dominated the field of sex therapy to date. This symptom-focused approach has been criticized as reductionist with many authors supporting a more holistic approach to both understanding vaginismus and treating this condition. One of the predictors of successful treatment for vaginismus is the attribution of the problem to psychological causes rather than physical. In order to fully understand vaginismus, it must be explored at intrapersonal, interpersonal and cultural levels and of all of these the interpersonal level continues to be under researched. Incorporating a biopsychosocial and experiential approach into perspectives on vaginismus could be of benefit to therapists working with individuals or couples who present with vaginismus in their practice. A multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of vaginismus is more appropriate to effectively respond to and resolve the complex nature of this distressing sexual difficulty for women and men in adult intimate relationships. Some guidance, informed by this literature review, is offered here to such practitioners.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
JournalSexual and Relationship Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 05 Dec 2021


  • vaginismus, female sexual dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, grounded theory


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