For Women With Pain Disorders, Sex Can Be Excruciating Experience


In the movies and on television, everybody seems to love having sex, but in real life sexual intercourse is an unbearable experience for many women.

For years Chris Veasley, Allison Nugent and Sara Fontaine suffered in silence with an embarrassing secret: They did not feel pleasure with sex. Instead, they said, they felt excruciating pain.

VIDEO: Millions of Women Find Sex Unbearable

For Veasley, 33, of Providence, R.I., the unbearable vaginal pain extended beyond sex to everyday activities like walking. Even light contact from blue jeans could be too agonizing to bear.

"Riding a bike, sitting for long periods and something as light as touching the area with a Q-tip will send women kind of flying off the exam table," she told ABC News' Dr. Timothy Johnson.

"The best way to describe it is having sandpaper rubbed on an open wound," Fontaine said.

But all the women said what's almost harder than the physical pain is the emotional toll of suffering from such a mysterious condition without a clear diagnosis.

Fontaine, 25, of New York City said she went to 15 different doctors in a desperate search for answers. Some of those doctors said it was psychological.

VIDEO: Sex Pain Leads to Physical, Emotional Anguish

"Having doctors tell you there's nothing wrong even though you know there's something wrong, it's beyond frustrating and it's heartbreaking. I was either on medicine, in treatment for something that I didn't have or I was being told that 'it's all in your head,'" she told ABC News.

Veasley said she also struggled to find a diagnosis. Remarkably, five years into her relationship with her college sweetheart, Melvin, they still had never had sexual intercourse because it was just too painful for her. But it didn't stop them from getting married.

The couple said they found other ways to be sexually intimate, but the desperate search for a diagnosis for this inexplicable pain can either pull a couple closer together or tear them apart.

Fontaine and her husband, Afsheen, said their marriage was seriously strained by her mysterious sexual pain.

"All the results are coming back negative and after I would tell him and he would automatically assume it was himm you know, I am not attracted to him anymore," Fontaine said.

Former Sufferer: Sexual Pain Is 'Kind of an Assault on Your Ego as a Woman'

The men aren't the only ones doubting themselves.

"Part of what makes you a woman is having female sexual organs and when they're not working properly, it's kind of an assault on your ego as a woman," said Nugent, 34, of Tacoma Park, Md.

Her pain ended up being an assault on her marriage as well as her ego, she said.

In fact, Nugent said that her pain was largely to blame for the failure of her first marriage.

"It certainly added a tremendous amount of stress to the marriage," she said. "Handling a serious illness or a chronic pain condition is difficult, no matter what, but handling a chronic pain condition when nobody can tell you what it is you have or how to treat it is just, you know, beyond the pale."

Luckily, Nugent was able to find a doctor who could treat her mystifying pain.

Dr. Andrew Goldstein, who runs the Center for Vulvovaginal Disorders in Washington, D.C., and is a pioneer in the new field of sexual pain disorders, said there are usually real physical reasons why sex is so painful for some women.

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