'Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder' is a serious problem that hardly anyone knows about
A condition by the name of 'Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder' is an easy target for jokes - but it turns out that living with it is no laughing matter.
Also known as PGAD, the condition has gotten some attention in the tabloids over the last few years, its symptoms too irresistible for headline writers to ignore.
What is PGAD?
Essentially, it means that anyone with PGAD (or Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome, PSAS) lives on the cusp of orgasm all the time.
It's quite a new area of study: it wasn't first diagnosed until 2001.
The Boston University School of Medicine lists PGAD's distinguishing characteristics as:
"...genital and breast vasocongestion and sensitivity, with little or no relief form orgasmic experience. The arousal is unrelated to sexual excitement or desire. PSAS can be triggered by sexual or non-sexual stimuli or no stimuli at all, and is generally unwanted and intrusive."
The important point is that the sensation from PGAD is not connected to arousal or sex. And a quick read of the testimony of women living with the condition drives home the point that it is a waking nightmare of isolation, embarrassment and shame.
What's it actually like?
These are some of the first-hand experiences documented by medical professionals:
“Sitting is unbearable, sometimes causing pressure to orgasm. Standing is the only time I feel nothing.”
“I was constantly feeling overwhelming sensations of sexual arousal, which were purely physical and not accompanied by romantic or sexual fantasies. Basically I felt the need to have repeated orgasms which was never relieved by normal orgasmic experience.”
“The opening of the vagina is just as sensitive and a mere touch will bring me to orgasm. My husband is very sympathetic and relieves the terrible pressure anytime I ask. Those close to me that I’ve told about this at first think it’s funny and then realise that indeed it is not.”
“I was so uncomfortable I thought about jumping off the roof just to make it go away.”
So what causes PGAD?
There's not much agreement on what produces it, but doctors generally believe that it's caused by damaged sensory nerves sending mixed messages to the brain and pleasure centres.
One woman told the Guardian that her PGAD was brought on my a fall that led to a back injury. Another woman has shared her story on Reddit, in which she talks about experiencing 20-30 unprompted orgasms a day. She describes living with PGAD as agonising, adding: "I will even go as far as to say that it’s like my own body is raping me."
How common is it?
There doesn't seem to be exact figures, given the shame and embarrassment that accompanies the condition. One sexual health doctor reckons there are thousands of women suffering from it.
Is there a way to treat it?
Some of the methods that sufferers have availed of include meditation, medication, and a back pain device known as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (Tens) machine, as well as swimming, anaesthetic creams and even ice-filled condoms. Others have tried anti-depressants, cognitive behavioural therapy, and Botox.