Mental Health

Mindfulness Based Therapy

A pattern of feeling pain with sex might lower your arousal and desire for sex. These changes can contribute to the pain you feel with sex1. Research has shown that mindfulness based therapy helps improve low sexual arousal and desire2,3

Anticipating pain during sexual stimulation can lower your arousal. Research has shown that anticipating pain can be enough to generate pain4. Mindfulness therapy can help shift your focus from anticipating pain to instead focusing on the physical changes that occur in your body during sexual arousal. Focusing on these physical changes in a non-judgemental way can help boost arousal which can help lower pain with sex2

If your nervous system is sensitized, you can practice mindfulness daily to help calm your nervous system. Part of the way mindfulness changes the nervous system is by shifting your focus away from pain related thoughts. Focusing on the present moment can regulate anxiety, provide safety and brings down the intensity and impacts of pain related thoughts. Mindfulness trains the mind and it takes time, determination and discipline in order to see results. Speak to your health care provider about mindfulness based therapy. 

Learn more about how the nervous system and low arousal contribute to painful sex.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Research shows that anticipating pain stimulates similar pathways in the brain as experiencing pain5. This is the basis of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which can help reshape your response to pain.

A trained mental health professional can help address your thoughts and emotions about sex, help you build relaxation skills, improve communication between you and your partner, and reduce sexual and performance anxiety.

Research has shown that CBT improves sexual desire and improves quality of sexual life6. Speak to your mental health care provider about CBT.

Learn about how emotions and experiences affect painful sex.

Chronic pain is complex, so you may also want to consider surgeryphysiotherapy or medication in as well.

  1. Orr, N. L., Noga, H., Williams, C., Allaire, C., Bedaiwy, M. A., Lisonkova, S., . . . Yong, P. J. (2018). Deep dyspareunia in endometriosis: Role of the bladder and pelvic floor. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(8), 1158-1166. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.06.007
  2. Brotto, L. A., & Basson, R. (2014). Group mindfulness-based therapy significantly improves sexual desire in women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 57, 43-54. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2014.04.001
  3. Jaderek, I., & Lew-Starowicz, M. (2019). A systematic review on mindfulness Meditation–Based interventions for sexual dysfunctions. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 16(10), 1581-1596. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.07.019
  4. Basson, R. (2002). Rethinking low sexual desire in women. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 109(4), 357-363. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2002.01002.x
  5. Palermo, S., Benedetti, F., Costa, T., & Amanzio, M. (2015). Pain anticipation: an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of brain imaging studies. Human brain mapping, 36(5), 1648–1661.
  6. Trudel, G., Marchand, A., Ravart, M., Aubin, S., Turgeon, L., & Fortier, P. (2010;2001;). The effect of a cognitive-behavioral group treatment program on hypoactive sexual desire in women. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 16(2), 145-164. doi:10.1080/14681990120040078