A woman suffering from vaginismus wants to experience penetration during love-making, but when she attempts intercourse the unconscious control of the vaginal muscles causes them to spasm, which is associated with fear and panic. Vaginismus can occur despite a loving relationship. Sufferers are not typically tense, lacking sensuality or sexually frigid, and many enjoy a wide range of the sexual repertoire with their partners.
There are an estimated 27,000 sufferers of vaginismus in the UK. Of a sample of 85 aged from 21 to 77, 95% were heterosexual; 70% were married or cohabiting; and 14.6% were single. Nearly 80% had always had vaginismus. Some had had it for less than a year. 20% developed it after having children; 74% attributed it to fear of pain, not necessarily sexual. Less than a quarter found doctors helpful, but psychotherapists and counsellors were of more use. Nearly 90% felt guilty that they could not have a normal relationship with their partner, and 77% felt unable to tell their family about their condition.