Suppose you had unrelenting, unwanted, persistent genital sensations—meaning symptoms like multiple orgasms, genital pressure, genital discomfort, engorgement, throbbing, or pulsation in tissues like the clitoris, vagina, perineum, or anus. Suppose these symptoms were spontaneous, without any sexual interest or activity. Suppose they were persistent without times of relief, occurring spontaneously and lasting for minutes or even hours at a time without warning. (Goldstein, 2019) Suppose these symptoms could be present even when you aren’t sexually aroused and in the absence of sexual stimulation or activity. (Hecht, 2016)
Your first reaction to this might be, “how is this possible?” How can a person experience spontaneous arousal or multiple orgasms daily for hours at a time?
The symptoms listed above are signs of something called persistent genital arousal disorder or PGAD. Individuals with this condition become sexually aroused without sexual stimulation or sexual activity. They may feel like they are having orgasms constantly and symptoms may last hours, days, or weeks at a time. These symptoms, when left untreated, can cause personal distress, significantly disrupt daily life, and may even cause suicidal thoughts. Even when not sexually aroused, PGAD may cause arousal-like erection or swelling in the vagina/clitoris, and individuals with PGAD are often ashamed of having inappropriate genital feelings. Unfortunately, there are few medications and treatments for the symptoms of PGAD.
The first documented case of PGAD was in 2001 by Leiblum and Nathan, reported as PSAS or persistent sexual arousal syndrome. PGAD is associated with spontaneous orgasms or feelings that orgasm is imminent. The individual may feel that they need to reach a point of orgasmic release to alleviate the symptoms of persistent arousal but symptoms may not be relieved with orgasm. That is the frustrating part for these individuals—the lack of relief despite the occurrence of orgasm. PGAD is most common in women but it also has been reported in men. In men, the condition is often referred to as priapism. Priapism is an erection that lasts several hours or more even without anything sexually stimulating or arousing to cause the erection.
In 2009, Waldinger termed the combination of PGAD, which may also include restless leg syndrome, overactive bladder syndrome, and urethral hypersensitivity as Restless Genital Syndrome. Symptoms, in this case, may include unpleasant sensations like burning, wetness, itching, pressure, pins/needles, and feelings of imminent orgasm in the absence of sexual desire or fantasies.
There are two classifications of PGAD: primary-lifelong, which is present throughout the person’s life, and secondary, which is acquired and develops later in life.
PGAD symptoms may include what is listed above and the following:
Possible Causes of PGAD:
It’s vital that you find the right team of providers to help you manage PGAD:
Physician/CRNP/PA: can use trigger point therapy, treat superficial nerve blocks, and apply botox to alleviate the hyperactivity of nerves
Pelvic Physical Therapist: can use manual techniques and exercise therapy to address pelvic floor dysfunction. Can use biofeedback techniques to refine pelvic floor activation. Can mobilize viscera, pelvic organs, and tissue.
Psychotherapist: to address trauma or abuse that may exist in about 50% of the cases and cognitive behavioral therapy
Acupuncturist: to soothe the nervous system stuck in a constant fight or flight pattern
It can feel overwhelming, frustrating, and hopeless when suffering from PGAD. Fortunately, there are ways to manage PGAD that can help you lead a more normal life. Contact us to learn how the pelvic floor specialists at Rebalance Physical Therapy can help you manage your PGAD symptoms.
Case Study from 2010. Rosenbaum TY. Sexual Medicine. Physical therapy treatment of persistent genital arousal disorder during pregnancy; a case report. 2010.
Hecht, Evelyn 2016. A Pelvic Physical Therapist’s Approach to PGAD: Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder. Retrieved from emhphysicaltherapy.com
Goldstein I. Persistent genital arousal disorder update on the monster of sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med 2013: 10;2357-2358.
Jackowich R, Pink L, Gordon A, Pukall C. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder: A Review of Its Conceptualizations, Potential Orgins, Impact and Treatment. Sex Med Review 2016; 1-14.
Leiblum S, Brown C, Wan J et al. Persistent sexual arousal syndrome; a descriptive study. J Sex Med 2005; 2: 331-337.
Butler D, Moseley L. Explain Pain. Noigroup Publications Adelaide, Australia 2013.
In-Person and Online Consultations