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Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

By

Allison Conn

, MD, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Pavilion for Women;


Kelly R. Hodges

, MD, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Pavilion for Women

Last full review/revision Aug 2021| Content last modified Aug 2021
Click here for the Professional Version

Persistent genital arousal disorder is excessive unwanted physical (genital) arousal, involving increased blood flow to the genital organs and increased vaginal secretions, without any desire for sexual activity.

What causes persistent genital arousal disorder is unknown. It can be triggered by sexual or nonsexual activity or by no apparent stimulus. Anxiety and worry about when the disorder will recur may perpetuate it. Tight pelvic muscles may contribute to the symptoms—persistent uncomfortable tingling or throbbing in and around the genital area.

In persistent genital arousal disorder, physical changes that are usually triggered by sexual stimulation occur even though the woman has no wish to engage in sexual activity and is not mentally or emotionally (subjectively) aroused. Blood flow to the clitoris increases, causing the clitoris (which corresponds to the penis in men) and vaginal walls to swell (a process called engorgement). The increased blood flow causes vaginal secretions (which provide lubrication) to increase. The genital area may tingle or throb. The sensations persist for hours or days. Most women consider these changes intrusive and are distressed and embarrassed by them.

Doctors diagnose persistent genital arousal disorder based on characteristic symptoms but only when women are greatly distressed by the symptoms.

Treatment

  • Pelvic floor physical therapy

  • Psychologic therapies

Treatment of persistent genital arousal disorder is unclear.

At first, orgasms (including self-stimulated ones) may bring temporary relief, but they often become less effective, as well as being an unsatisfactory, impractical solution.

Pelvic floor physical therapy, including muscle relaxation exercises with biofeedback Biofeedback Biofeedback, a type of mind-body medicine, is a method of bringing unconscious biologic processes under conscious control. In biofeedback, electronic devices are used to measure and report information... read more , may help, especially when combined with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness involves focusing on what is happening in the moment. MBCT combines mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Simple recognition of the existence of this disorder, with reassurance that it can spontaneously resolve, may help some women. Information about the disorder and support are also helpful, as can specific treatment of anxiety, including psychologic therapies and/or drugs.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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