Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) is a condition characterized by symptoms of physical sexual arousal in the absence of any actual sexually arousing behavior. This unwanted physiologic arousal can last for hours or even days at a time, or it can occur constantly. PGAD typically does not go away after the person has an orgasm. The symptoms of PGAD are usually described as distressing, intrusive, and unwanted (Jackowich et al., 2016).
PGAD is a condition assumed to primarily affect women, although there have been a handful of case reports about it occurring in men.
PGAD is characterized by symptoms of physiologic sexual arousal (genital vasocongestion, increased sensitivity of the genitals and nipples, etc.) in the absence of feelings of subjective sexual arousal. The person is feeling “turned on,” but they could just be walking down the street or trying to cook dinner.
These symptoms are not fully relieved with any behavioral act (like sex) or over-the-counter remedy. The symptoms of PGAD are usually described as intrusive, unwelcome, unpleasant, and sometimes even painful. PGAD often results in great amounts of distress and is associated with feelings of shame, isolation, and even suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder
Although PGAD is not currently an officially recognized disorder, researchers have proposed the following symptoms for persistent genital arousal disorder:
- Symptoms of physiologic sexual arousal (genital fullness or swelling and sensitivity with or without nipple fullness or swelling) that persist for hours or days and do not subside completely on their own;
- These symptoms do not resolve with ordinary orgasmic experience and might require multiple orgasms over hours or days to remit (for some women, this might include spontaneous and intense orgasms different from deliberate orgasms resulting from sexual excitement and activity);
- Symptoms of arousal are usually experienced as unrelated to any subjective sense of sexual excitement or desire;
- The persistent genital arousal can be triggered not only by a sexual activity but also by non-sexual stimuli or by no apparent stimulus at all;
- Arousal symptoms feel unbidden, intrusive, uninvited, and unwanted, and the symptoms cause at least a moderate degree of distress.
The causes of PGAD are unknown. Some researchers believe it may be related to restless leg syndrome as a similar-type of disorder (and therefore should be called Restless Genital Syndrome).
The prevalence rate of PGAD is likely less than one percent.
Treatment of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder
Because research is sparse on PGAD, there is not a lot yet known about effective treatments for this disorder. Some research case studies have reported success with a variety of treatments, including things such as electroconvulsive therapy, pelvic floor physiotherapy, hypnotherapy, botulinum toxin injections, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and different types of medications.
The use of psychologically-based interventions also have been recommended (including cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based therapies) to treat the impact of PGAD on psychological and sexual well-being.
Jackowich, RA, Pink, L, Gordon, A & Pukall, CF. (2016). Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder: A Review of Its Conceptualizations, Potential Origins, Impact, and Treatment. Sexual Medicine Reviews.