The world is full of of embarrassing conditions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Every week, Carian discusses one. This week: Persistent Sexual Arousal Disorder.
Michelle Thompson’s life is one big climax: she has up to 300 orgasms a day. Not the result of a very high sexdrive. She suffers an extremely rare condition called Persistent Sexual Arousal Disorder or Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, that puts her in a state of constant arousal where anything and everything triggers strong sexual urges followed swiftly by an orgasm.
The distinct syndrome only occurs in women and is characterized by ‘a spontaneous, persistent and uncontrollable genital arousal, with or without orgasm or genital engorgement, and unrelated to any feelings of sexual desire.’
The condition can make normal life impossible, as most patients have to relieve themselves many times a day. Orgasms, however, provide only temporary relief. Within hours the symptoms return, sudden and unpredictable. Failure or refusal to relieve the symptoms often results in waves of spontaneous orgasms.
Michelle says: “When I have an orgasm in public I giggle and blush to cover it up. But I’ve had my ‘When Harry Met Sally moments’ too. My most embarrassing moment was last year when I was in a supermarket and an in-store salesman wouldn’t leave me alone. Suddenly I got that feeling and knew I was going to have an orgasm. I tried to make my excuses and leave but he just wouldn’t go away so I climaxed there and then in front of him. You should have seen the look on his face.”
The symptoms can be debilitating and unbearable, causing the discomfort to verge on pain. As a consequence, some sufferers lose their sense of pleasure over the course of time as an orgasm becomes associated with relief from pain rather than the experience of pleasure.
The cause of the Persistent Sexual Arousal Disorder has not yet been established. It could be something in the part of the brain called the limbic system which controls pleasure and sexual function, or an irregularity in sensory nerves. Also there is no cure, but psychological treatments can help modify the symptoms and enable sufferers and their partners to cope.
Sexual Dysfunction in Men and Women, by Stanley Zaslau
Leiblum, S. (2008). Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder in Women: What is Known and What is Unknown Sexologies, 17 DOI: 10.1016/S1158-1360(08)72577-5