Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

Persistent genital arousal disorder is the spontaneous and unwanted arousal of the genitals without any sexual desire or interest. The majority of cases are seen in women, with the arousal lasting for days or even weeks. The arousal often persists even after one or more orgasms. The exact cause of this disorder is still unknown.

Key takeaways:
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    Persistent genital arousal disorder is characterized by the spontaneous, unwanted, and persistent arousal of the genitals.
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    The disorder mostly affects women, although men have also reported suffering from the condition.
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    Much is unknown about the cause of the disorder, but researchers believe that possible causes include psychological and hormonal changes, pelvic conditions, and certain medications.

Who suffers from persistent genital arousal disorder?

Persistent genital arousal disorder is a rare disorder affecting mostly women. As it is relatively rare, not much is known about the disorder, and it is unknown exactly how many women suffer from it. In the past, researchers believed that only women suffered from the disorder; however, it has now been found that men also suffer from this condition.

What are the symptoms?

Women suffering from the disorder experience spontaneous, unwanted, and persistent genital arousal and engorgement of the clitoris and labia without any sexual stimuli, such as kissing with a partner or watching pornography. This causes the genitals to throb and become lubricated. Many women also experience clitoral pain, spontaneous orgasms, and pressure in the vagina and labia.

These symptoms can persist for days or weeks and are generally not relieved by one or many orgasms, although they may provide temporary relief. Persistent genital arousal disorder causes significant distress as it interrupts a sufferer's day-to-day life. Many women suffering from the disorder are reluctant to get treatment due to shame or embarrassment.

These symptoms are not to be confused with hypersexuality, otherwise known as a compulsive sexual behavior disorder, which is characterized by an inability to control sexual thoughts and urges. With persistent genital arousal disorder, arousal occurs without any sexual thoughts.

What causes persistent genital arousal disorder?

While the research into the causes of persistent genital arousal disorder is limited, scientists believe that possible causes could include:

  • The stopping or starting of certain medications, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers
  • Pelvic conditions
  • Psychological changes such as stress
  • Hormonal changes, such as menopause

Other studies have found that persistent genital arousal may be caused by a compression of the pudendal nerve, which runs through the pelvic region. Additionally, research has found that damage to the nerves within the spine may be responsible, with one study finding a high percentage of women with cysts on their nerves towards the bottom of their spine presenting with the disorder. When these cysts were removed, 90% of the women reported elimination or significant improvement of the disorder.

Is treatment available?

As the research on persistent genital arousal disorder is limited, and the cause is still unknown, there is no agreed-upon course of treatment. Medical professionals will often provide treatment to manage the symptoms based on what they believe the underlying cause to be. Common forms of treatment include:

  • Numbing creams and ice baths to help number the genitals
  • Medications such as antidepressants
  • Psychology to treat any psychological causes or symptoms such as depression
  • Pelvic floor massage
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which targets nerve pain through electrical currents

Persistent genital arousal disorder is a rare disorder that causes the unwanted and continuous arousal of the genitals in the absence of any sexual stimuli. The disorder, which affects mostly women, is rarely reported, which could be because of the shame and guilt experienced by many suffering from the condition. As such, very little is known about the disorder, including its causes and best forms of treatment.

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