Gynecology: Perspective

Fear of Vaginal Penetration in the Absence of Pain as a Separate Category of Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Conceptual Overview

David Rabinowitz, Lior Lowenstein, and Ilan Gruenwald


Functional sexual pain disorders in women are a particular challenge to the gynecologist, inasmuch as phobic avoidance and guarding on the part of the patient lead to difficulties in the gynecological examination and diagnosis. In some such cases examination may even be impossible. Vaginismus is the commonly diagnosed etiology of such cases. This article offers an overview of vaginismus and approaches to its treatment but also examines a subset of penetration-avoidant patients who do not appear to have a pain component. We have reviewed this separate category conceptually and clinically, and propose that this case subset be separated from the diagnosis of vaginismus and designated as vaginal penetration phobia (VPP). We further propose that this category be diagnosed as one of several possible presentations of phobic disorder, under the rubric of mental health disorder, and thus be separated from gynecology. The nosological implications are raised.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2017;8(2):e0016