Orgasmic Dysfunction

Written by Brian Krans | Published on September 5, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is Orgasmic Dysfunction?

Orgasmic dysfunction is a condition in which a woman has difficulty reaching orgasm, even with proper stimulation.

Difficulty reaching orgasm is common in women. Brown University estimates that one in three women have difficulty reaching orgasm with a partner, even after ample sexual stimulation (Brown University).

Orgasmic dysfunction is also known as anorgasmia or female orgasmic disorder.

What Causes Orgasmic Dysfunction?

Women may have difficulty reaching orgasm due to physical complications or mental or emotional issues.

It can be hard to figure out the underlying cause of orgasmic dysfunction. Contributing factors might include:

  • age, especially in women undergoing menopause
  • chronic illness
  • cultural or religious views on sex
  • embarrassment or shyness
  • guilt about enjoying sexual activity
  • history of sexual abuse
  • hysterectomy (an operation in which the woman’s uterus is removed)
  • medical issues, such as diabetes or neurological disorders
  • use of certain medications, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for depression
  • performance anxiety
  • relationship issues, such as unresolved conflicts or lack of trust
  • stress

Sometimes, a combination of factors can make achieving an orgasm difficult. Stressing about the situation can make it even more difficult to achieve orgasm in the future.

Symptoms of Orgasmic Dysfunction

Orgasms are intense feelings of release during sexual stimulation. They can vary in intensity, duration, and frequency. Orgasms can sometimes occur with little sexual stimulation, while in some cases, it might take a lot more effort.

The main symptom of orgasmic dysfunction is the inability to achieve sexual climax. Having unsatisfying orgasms or taking longer than normal to reach climax are also symptoms.

Orgasmic dysfunction doesn’t refer only to sexual intercourse. It also refers to the inability to reach orgasm during masturbation or direct stimulation of the clitoris.

The Mayo Clinic lists four types of orgasmic dysfunction:

  • primary anorgasmia: You’ve never experienced an orgasm.
  • secondary anorgasmia: You experience difficulty reaching orgasm, even though you’ve experienced them before.
  • situational anorgasmia: This is the most common type of orgasmic dysfunction. It’s when a woman can only orgasm during specific situations, such as oral sex or masturbation.
  • general anorgasmia: The inability to achieve orgasm under any circumstances (Mayo Clinic, 2012).

How Is Orgasmic Dysfunction Diagnosed?

The first step in treating orgasmic dysfunction is talking to your doctor. While it may be embarrassing, it’s the best way to help ensure that you can fully enjoy sexual activity again.

Your doctor will ask questions about your sexual history and will perform a physical examination. The goal of the discussion and examination is to reveal any contributing causes for your sexual dysfunction, such as medication you are taking.

Your doctor may refer you to a gynecologist for a follow-up exam.

Treating Orgasmic Dysfunction

Treatment for orgasmic dysfunction depends on the cause. You may need to:

  • treat any underlying conditions
  • switch antidepressant medications
  • try some form of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy
  • receive direct clitoral stimulation during masturbation and sexual intercourse

Couples therapy is a popular treatment option. It’s a way for couples to connect better intimately. This can address issues both in the relationship and in the bedroom.

Estrogen hormone therapy can help improve desire and blood flow to the genitals for increased sensitivity. Common methods include taking a pill, wearing a patch, or direct application. Testosterone therapy is also an option. However, it has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating orgasmic dysfunction in women.

Some over-the-counter products and nutritional supplements may also help. Oils, such as Zestra, help warm the clitoris and make it easier to stimulate. These oils may be beneficial during both intercourse and masturbation.

Talk to your doctor before using over-the-counter products. They may interact with other medications or produce an allergic reaction.

Living with Orgasmic Dysfunction

The inability to orgasm can be frustrating and have an impact on a relationship. However, you may be able to reach climax with proper treatment and an open mind. It’s important to know that there is nothing wrong with you and that you are far from alone with this condition. Many women deal with orgasmic dysfunction at some point in their lives.

Part of individual or couples therapy focuses on how you view sexual intercourse. There are plenty of ways you can express emotion physically without the goal of orgasm. Meeting with a therapist can help you and your partner and learn more about one another’s sexual needs and desires.

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