Women searching for help with a female penetration problem may come across both the terms vaginismus and genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD). If that’s you, you might be wondering if these terms refer to the same condition, or if not, how they are related to one another.
The medical field is a dynamic one, with the names and classifications of conditions changing periodically as more is learned about them. This includes the area of sexual dysfunction.
The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)*, published in 2013, no longer includes a specific definition for vaginismus. In fact, the term vaginismus does not appear at all. Instead, the condition is listed under a more general classification of sexual pain disorders—dyspareunia—and referred to as genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder (GPPPD).
While the introduction of this new terminology to describe female penetration issues provides an update several decades in coming, lumping individual female sexual pain problems together is problematic. Lack of specificity complicates both diagnosis and treatment protocols, and particularly the way we talk about these issues. It is more accurate to say that vaginismus is a subset or type of GPPPD, though this is not stated in the DSM-5.
Regardless, it is helpful to be familiar with both the terms vaginismus and GPPPD in educating yourself about what might be causing your penetration issues. Change filters slowly both inside and outside medical and academic communities, resulting in longtime perseverance of old terminology. It’s likely that usage of the term vaginismus will persist indefinitely, both in online resources and by health professionals, to refer to female penetration problems.
*The DSM-5 is the primary diagnostic guide used by the health/medical/academic communities for the classification of mental disorders.