Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder: Knowing the Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Monali Sharma
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persistent genital arousal disorder

Orgasms are known to be quite pleasurable, but they may also be upsetting and unpleasant.

Genitopelvic Dysesthesia (GD) or Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) is the sexual disorder causing these symptoms.

Unwanted, uncomfortable, and distressing arousal is a symptom of the uncommon sexual disorder PGAD.

PGAD is more common in women, but it has also been recorded in men.

According to research conducted in 2023, 1 – 4% of the population may be afflicted with Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder.

We will learn about Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder in this article, including its symptoms, causes, and how to manage it. 

What is Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder is a rare and upsetting condition that mostly affects women. 

It is marked by spontaneous and persistent genital arousal feelings that aren’t connected to sexual desire or stimulation.

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder is a relatively recent and officially recognized syndrome. 

It has significant psychological and social consequences but is not considered a psychological disorder. 

Instead, it is classified as Sexual Arousal Dysfunction.  

Recommended Article
PGAD is not the only sexual dysfunction a female can experience. 
Discover other such sexual dysfunctions in women & how to manage them by going through WowRxPharmacy’s data report:
Understanding and Addressing Sexual Dysfunctions in Women: A Comprehensive Data Report

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder symptoms

painful and heavy periodsSource: Samotrebizan
Women in discomfort and pain

The symptoms of PGAD vary from individual to individual.

The persistent nature of these emotions may result in distress, anguish, and even humiliation. 

This condition involves experiencing mood swings, catastrophizing (thinking a situation is worse than it is), and even suicidal thoughts or feelings. 

Other common PGAD symptoms include

  • Pain or discomfort in the genitals
  • Tingling in the clitoris
  • Vaginal contractions
  • Vaginal lubrication
  • Unpredictable orgasms
  • Increased blood flow to the genital area, causing swelling and throbbing
  • Feelings of arousal, including wetness, itching, pressure, burning, pounding, and pins and needles

Individuals with PGAD may also experience sexual frustration, anxiety, and anguish as they struggle to control these undesirable sensations. 

If someone experiences any of the above symptoms, they should consult a physician for appropriate treatment.

Causes of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (male & female)

While PGAD has numerous potential causes, identifying a specific cause can be challenging.

The pudendal nerve (a major nerve in the pelvic region)  helps provide sensations in and around the genitalia. 

PGAD is thought to be caused by pinching or squeezing this nerve. 

Some cases of the disorder happen in conjunction with mental or behavioral health problems. 

Mental health and sexual health are often closely related.

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder has been associated with anxiety, depression, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and other similar conditions in both males and females.

Although it is not clear if these factors cause PGAD, their coexistence with the disorder is common.

Abnormal blood flow can also be the cause or contributor to the condition.

In one case, a woman got PGAD after undergoing brain surgery for complications involving the blood vessels there. 

Some women develop Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder after discontinuing cholesterol or Estrogen therapy (using Estrogen patch) due to a stroke.

Tarlov cysts may have a role in the development of this condition.

It looks like some women get PGAD after discontinuing SSRI treatment for depression.

Men can get it as a result of complications associated with a vasectomy or Urinary Tract Infections.

Fact:
Between 1% and 4% of adults have PGAD to a varying degree.

Diagnosis of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (female & male)

painful erectionSource: DAPA_IMAGES
A person suffering from Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

PGAD can be diagnosed using the following traits and conditions:

  • Persistent or recurring genital arousal sensations that are distressing, unwanted, or intrusive
  • These sensations persist for three months or longer
  • Additional bodily sensations in the genitals or pelvis could include pain, tingling, scorching, twitching, or buzzing
  • While the feelings are most commonly felt in the clitoris, they can also impact the vulva, vagina, perineum, bladder, anus, and urethra
  • Individuals may potentially have uncontrollable orgasms, a high number of orgasms, or the sensation that they are about to orgasm
  • These sensations arise in the absence of sexual ideas, fantasies, or interests

As part of the diagnosis, the healthcare practitioner will evaluate the medical history (including any medications being taken) and do a physical exam to look for any abnormalities in or around the genitals. 

Additional tests may be requested to narrow the possible causes, such as:

  • Blood hormone tests: These look for hormonal imbalances such as Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which is common in persons with PGAD
  • Anesthesia testing: Applying a topical or local anesthetic to the genitalia to evaluate if the symptoms remain. If they do, a spinal nerve issue may be the cause of the symptoms
  • Neurological testing: This comprises an in-office test known as Electromyography (EMG), which evaluates involuntary muscle responses to a low-voltage electrical current
  • Doppler ultrasonography: This noninvasive imaging examination uses sound waves to detect AVM, as well as physical evidence of pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Arteriograms: Using a specific dye injected into the bloodstream, this sort of X-ray can detect AVM and other blood vessel disorders
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This is a useful non-radioactive diagnostic tool for soft tissue issues such as disk herniation and Tarlov cysts
Warning:
Do not start taking any medications to manage PGAD without consulting a physician. You may experience adverse effects and drug interactions.

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder treatment

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder is a treatable problem. 

Its treatment options vary depending on the underlying reason. 

Major treatment options include:

Psychological treatment

Women with PGAD may benefit from psychological therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

Additionally, CBT may be useful in managing conditions like Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, and frustration that worsen PGAD side effects.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may be used to treat PGAD if it is severe, although there is a chance of relapse. 

ECT involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.

Medical intervention

Medical interventions such as hormone therapy, nerve blockers, or antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage PGAD symptoms.

This advice depends on what caused the problem in the first place.

Kegel exercises

In addition to psychological intervention and medication, Kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises may be beneficial in the management of PGAD if it is caused by pelvic dysfunction.

Conclusion

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) is a rare and distressing condition predominantly affecting women, characterized by spontaneous and persistent genital arousal unrelated to sexual desire. 

PGAD can have severe psychological and social consequences, such as mood swings, viewing a situation as worse than it is, and even suicidal thoughts. 

While more prevalent in females, PGAD has also been observed in men, with causes ranging from pudendal nerve issues to mental health conditions and abnormal blood flow. 

Diagnosis involves evaluating all the bodily symptoms, a thorough medical history, physical exams, and specialized tests. 

PGAD is treatable, with options like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medical interventions, and kegel exercises depending on the underlying causes.

It is necessary to consult a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment, avoiding self-medication due to potential adverse effects. 

Overall, understanding and addressing PGAD enhances individuals’ well-being and intimate relationships.

You can also read Understanding What is Hypersexuality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment to know about a similar disorder that affects people irrespective of their gender.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes Genital Arousal Disorder?

Genital Arousal Disorder, also known as Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, may result from various factors, including neurological issues, hormonal imbalances, medications, or psychological factors. It leads to spontaneous and persistent genital arousal without sexual desire or stimulation.

What does PGAD feel like?

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder is characterized by spontaneous, persistent genital arousal unrelated to sexual desire or stimulation. Individuals may experience intense genital sensations, discomfort, and distress, often causing significant impact on daily life.

How do you know if you have Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder?

PGAD is diagnosed through a comprehensive medical evaluation by a medical professional. Symptoms include untriggered and intrusive feelings of arousal, such as increased blood flow to the genital area, swelling of the clitoris, and vaginal secretions, which can last for hours, days, or even weeks. 

How do you get rid of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder?

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder is a complex condition that requires consultation with healthcare professionals. Treatment options may include psychotherapy, medications, and maybe lifestyle modifications. Consultation with a qualified doctor is essential for personalized guidance.

Citations:
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