Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome

Persistent sexual arousal syndrome causes a lot of anxiety. Furthermore, it affects the sufferer's ability to function normally in all aspects of their everyday life.
Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome

Last update: 05 February, 2021

Can you imagine how it’d feel to not be in control of your own body?  Probably both exhausting and embarrassing. This is what happens to those who suffer from persistent sexual arousal syndrome. This condition is characterized by uncontrollability. An uncontrollability that, far from giving pleasure, actually causes pain. More women suffer from this condition. Furthermore, it can occur in different contexts.

Let’s discover a bit more about this condition. In fact, we’ll discuss both its characteristics and possible causes. In addition, we’ll talk about its treatment, which tends to focus on relieving the patient’s discomfort.

A woman sitting on a bed.

What’s persistent sexual arousal syndrome?

This condition is also called persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD). We associate it with a recurrent uncontrolled and involuntary physiological reaction in the genital area. It can happen in various different contexts.

This disorder is uncomfortable for those who have it. It’s also uncomfortable for those around them. This is because it can occur at any time. Indeed, it tends to occur in situations that aren’t erotic at all. Furthermore, the sufferer doesn’t see their arousal as remotely erotic either.

Consequently, the sufferer feels real psychological discomfort. This is because they no longer associate arousal with anything sexual. In fact, they see it as more of a torment. Furthermore, this excitement isn’t at all in sync with their real sexual desire.

Characteristics of persistent sexual arousal syndrome

Characteristics of persistent sexual arousal include:

  • The sufferer feels extremely uncomfortable.
  • If they move their pelvis, it can trigger an involuntary orgasm.
  • They experience uncontrolled physiological arousal. This is unrelated to any erotic experience.
  • They suffer untimely and inconvenient orgasms.
  • Their reactions aren’t initiated by desire.
  • They’re in a persistent and recurrent state of arousal.
  • Even if they achieve orgasm, it doesn’t reduce their state of arousal. 

We shouldn’t confuse this condition with sex addiction. In this particular disorder, the sufferer is permanently aroused. However, they don’t want to be. A sex addict actually desires arousal.

Possible causes of persistent sexual arousal syndrome

The causes of this syndrome are unclear to date. In fact, it’s not known whether the cause is psychological or physiological.

At the physiological level, it may be caused by:

  • The patient suffering trauma to the base of the spine.
  • Alteration in communication between the patient’s brain and their genital area.
  • Malfunctioning of the patient’s sensory nerves.
  • Alteration in the patient’s hormonal levels. This is due to anti-depressant drugs.

However, Tarlov’s cysts are the most well-known physiological reason for this disorder. These cysts alter the nerve roots of the lower spine. They’re cysts that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid in the nerve roots. They’re located in the sacral area of the spine.

A man in bed.


The cause of this syndrome isn’t clear. Therefore intervention tends to focus primarily on simply making the sufferer feel better. It’s important for the person to see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor might rule out an organic etiology. In which case they should refer the sufferer to a sexologist.

The goal of the therapy is to limit the ways in which the disorder affects the sufferer’s ability to function in their everyday life. Therapy teaches the patient various strategies so arousal doesn’t lead to disabling discomfort. The patient might start by working with how arousal conditions their perception of themselves (self-concept).

In addition, the therapist practices anxiety control with the patient. This therapist might practice psychotherapy, medicine, or sexology. Depending on which of these fields they practice in, they’ll choose a relevant therapy. Therapy also helps the sufferer cope with any uncomfortable social moments they might be experiencing.

In addition, the medical professional reviews the patient’s sex life. This is because, in many cases, their sex life will have changed. In fact, they probably now view it very negatively. Indeed, there’s a possibility they’re unable to perceive their sexuality in a healthy way at all. They need to understand the difference between involuntary orgasmic responses and desired sexual responses. These desired sexual responses occur when the patient’s exposed to appropriate erotic stimuli. Therapy aims to help the patient understand this difference.

Future research is required

Finally, we should point out that a great deal of further research is required on this subject. This is so we can draw conclusions. Because we can only make hypotheses at the moment. Bravo, Carmona, Meléndez, and Ramirez conducted one such research example. In this study, they sought to identify the origin of risk factors such as gender roles and assertiveness in the assessment of sexual dysfunctions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Becker, J.v. & Kavoussi, R.J. (1996). Trastornos sexuales y de la identidad sexual. Tratado de psiquiatría, 691-709.
  • Bravo, C.S., Carmona, F.M., Meléndez, J.C., & Ramírez, S.M. (2005). Disfunción sexual femenina y su relación con el rol de género y la asertividad. Perinatología y reproducción humana, 19(3-4), 152-160.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.