PGAD: When multiple orgasms are not a sign of pleasure

Ladies, what would you do if you didn’t want sex mentally and emotionally, but physically felt as though you did?

Not only are your genitals suddenly aroused and experiencing multiple orgasms, but the sensation doesn’t have any obvious cause, and it came out of the blue at the worst possible moment, and persists the whole day.

Well, for some women this multiple-orgasms-several-times-a-day scenario is real, and it showcases the symptoms of persistent genital arousal disorder.

What is persistent genital arousal disorder?

Persistent genital arousal disorder, more commonly referred to as PGAD, is a fairly common condition typically characterized by:

  • Spontaneous, intrusive, unrelenting genital arousal lasting hours or days
  • Genital arousal that does not resolve despite multiple orgasms
  • Genital arousal existing in the absence of sexual desire
  • Genital arousal created from non-sexual stimuli
  • A feeling of distress associated with the experience

In 2016, research in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine noted women with persistent genital arousal disorder are predisposed to becoming severely depressed and even suicidal, due to the unrelenting nature of the condition.

Lisa Thomas, LMFT Licensed Marriage Therapist, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, tells saludmóvil™ women with PGAD have been shown to:

  • Be significantly more likely to be depressed than women without PGAD (55% vs. 38%)
  • Report panic attacks (31.6% vs. 14.6%)
  • Be more anxious and more likely to monitor their physical sensations
  • Be more likely to endorse negative feelings about their genital sensations
  • Be more likely to complain of chronic fatigue syndrome

Facing the fear of PGAD

Despite the fact this is a known condition, many women avoid treatment for persistent genital arousal disorder.

“It is hypothesized that for a subset of women, psychological factors — namely anxiety, reinforce, exacerbate, and maintain PGAD. That anxiety can function as a barrier to getting help,” explains Thomas.

“Despite its widespread prevalence, there are no existing evidence-based psychological treatments for women with sexual desire and arousal disorders. It’s poorly understood.”

Because of how infrequently women visit their doctors for the symptoms of persistent genital arousal disorder, the International Society for Sexual Medicine notes it’s unclear just how many women experience this condition, and those who do often have other barriers that keep them from seeking help.

Thomas notes many women with PGAD have high rates of childhood and adult sexual abuse or sexual victimization.

Persistent genital arousal disorder treatment options

Don’t lose hope because you think not much is known about persistent genital arousal disorder symptoms. According to Thomas, a new, innovative approach to treatment has helped a number of women with the condition.

It’s something called “mindfulness,” and it’s been shown to help manage the symptoms of persistent genital arousal disorder — without the need for medications or surgical interventions.

“Mindfulness, the practice of relaxed wakefulness, is an ancient eastern practice with roots in Buddhist meditation which has been found to be an effective component of psychological treatments for numerous psychiatric and medical illnesses,” Thomas notes.

She explains, in recent years, mindfulness has been incorporated into sex therapy and has been found effective for treating and coping with persistent genital arousal disorder.

In research from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, follow-up comparisons of women with and without a sexual abuse history revealed that women who had experienced sexual abuse in the past improved more significantly using mindfulness than those who had not practiced it.

Improvements were seen in areas of mental sexual excitement, genital tingling/throbbing, arousal and overall sexual function while viewing erotic films. There was also a trend for greater improvement on depression scores among those with a sexual abuse history.

According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, psychological approaches to persistent genital arousal disorder treatment are currently favored; however, some women may also:

  • Try topical numbing agents
  • Seek pelvic floor physical therapy
  • Have surgery to alter genital nerve tissue
  • Try electroconvulsive therapy

Occasionally, current medications may need to be evaluated. There are some drugs that may cause or worsen PGAD. What’s more, some women may find adding medications, like antidepressants, can help with the symptoms of persistent genital arousal disorder.

How do I achieve mindfulness?

If you’re looking to try mindfulness to manage PGAD symptoms, seeking the help of a sexual health therapist is in your best interests.

Mindfulness, as a whole, is a state of constant, controlled awareness, but learning how and when to use it may require the guidance of a professional.

Still want to give mindfulness a try? Here are some starter tips from Harvard University:

  • Sit quietly.
  • Focus on your breathing.
  • Allow your thoughts to come and go without fixating on them.
  • Acknowledge your body sensations, but don’t dwell on them.
  • Allow emotions to come and go without fixating on them.
  • Acknowledge cravings, but push them aside as you do with other sensations around you.

The ultimate goal is to allow the things you’re feeling to pass you by. Don’t grab a thought and explore it, dwell on it, or analyze it. If you find your mind wandering, refocus on the in-and-out of your breathing.

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Hope Gillette
Hope Gillette

Hope Gillette is a journalist from New York. She specializes in research journalism and has an extensive background in Hispanic health writing. Hope is also a published novelist and award-winning author, as well as a mixed martial arts expert and fitness trainer.