How Anxiety Can Impact Sex

Anxiety can make any situation difficult, from ordering a pizza to having an intimate encounter. If you already have a condition that makes sex difficult, your anxiety can make it nearly impossible. With help from an experienced gynecologist, though, you can find a solution for the physical aspect of the issue, so you can focus on conquering the mental half. With time and treatment, you can overcome anxiety and enjoy sex to the fullest. 

At the OB/GYN practice of Gae Rodke, MD, FACOG, we encourage you to talk openly about your sexual health and interactions. If you suffer from anxiety and painful intercourse, Dr. Rodke can help you resolve the issue with one or more gentle treatments that tackle the root of the pain causing your anxiety.

The relationship between anxiety and sex 

Plenty of women have anxiety about sex. Many enter into sexual encounters despite being self-conscious about their bodies and sexual experience. However, very few of these women suffer from physical repercussions caused by their anxiety. So why do some women suffer from dryness, pain, and other symptoms? 

The answer can vary from person to person, but usually conditions like vaginal atrophy and vaginismus are to blame. 

Vaginal atrophy 

Atrophy is common in women who have undergone menopause, but it can occur during perimenopause or even earlier. Vaginal atrophy can cause a number of symptoms, including: 

It’s important to note that vaginal atrophy is caused by decreased estrogen levels, not anxiety. Anxiety does cause you to tense up as you anticipate discomfort, which of course intensifies pain during intercourse. 

Vaginismus

Pain during intercourse isn't limited to postmenopausal women. Some women suffer from vaginismus, which causes an uncontrollable tightening whenever penetration occurs. This muscle clenching can also occur during insertion of fingers and tampons, but it doesn’t prevent sexual arousal. 

The cause of vaginismus is unknown, but anxiety can make things worse. Similar to vaginal atrophy, anxiety is not the cause of vaginismus, but it’s a contributing factor to the intimacy issue because it produces a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re afraid sex will be uncomfortable, so you tighten up, and then it is. 

Treatment options for vaginal atrophy and vaginismus 

The good thing about vaginal atrophy is that it can be readily treated, which can alleviate your anxiety about sex. Hormone replacement therapy can provide an alternative source of estrogen, and laser energy can be used to rejuvenate the vaginal tissues. Dr. Rodke uses the MonaLisa Touch® laser system, which works to improve blood flow and elasticity. 

Vaginismus requires a more intense, long-term treatment plan that combines therapy, vaginal dilators, and pelvic floor exercises. You can also find ways to enjoy intimacy without penetration. 

You don’t have to give up sex just because you suffer from anxiety or sexual difficulties. To learn more about your treatment options, get in touch with Dr. Rodke. You can schedule a consultation by calling 212-496-9800, or visit the contact page for more information. 

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