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Got an itch you can’t seem to scratch of the sexual variety? Scroll down for tips from sexologists on how to handle it, whether sex is on the table or not!

Ask anyone who’s ever been sexually frustrated and they’ll tell you: That sh*t is real! But it isn’t something you’ll see defined in a medical textbook.

Sexologist Tami Rose, owner of Romantic Adventures, an adult boutique in Jackson, Mississippi, offers this definition:

“Sexual frustration is a natural response to there being an imbalance between what you want (or need) sexually and what you’re currently getting or experiencing.”

It manifests differently in everybody. For some people, it may present as generalized anger or agitation, for others, depression or anxiety. And for some, as recklessness.

There are a bajillion different root causes, but some of the main ones include:

  • lack of arousal
  • lack of orgasm, lack of intensity of orgasm, or lack of multiple orgasms
  • shame in the type of sex you’re having, have had, or want to be having
  • not having the type of sex you want to be having

“Sometimes what folks think is sexual frustration is actually a lack of satisfaction with something else going on in their lives,” says urologist and sexual health expert Dr. Jennifer Berman, co-host of daytime talk show “The Doctors.”

“Sometimes someone feels it because they’re not being properly challenged at work, and sometimes it’s because they’re not connecting with their partner.”

First, know that the feelings and sensations you’re having are completely and totally normal!

“Regardless of gender and sexuality, almost everyone will experience sexual frustration at some point in their life,” says clinical sex counselor Eric M. Garrison, author of “Mastering Multiple Position Sex.”

“Either because they want to have sex when their partner does not, or because they want to be having sex and don’t have someone to do it with.”

He adds: “Mainstream media often make us think that we’re supposed to be having mind-blowing sex all the time, which can add to the feeling of frustration and agitation when we are not having mind-blowing sex all the time.”

Describe your mood in three adjectives. Go on, write ’em down.

Now look at them. If the adjectives you listed are all rainbows and unicorns, you probably aren’t sexually frustrated.

But if they’re all negative — agitated, angry, frustrated, grumpy, irritated, etc. — you need to figure out where those feelings stem from.

Have you been under a ton of stress at work? Did someone rear-end you in the Target parking lot? Chances are your negative feelings are due to situational stress or lack of sleep.

If, however, there’s no obvious nonsexual cause, it’s time to look at your solo or partnered sex life. Ask yourself:

  • Have my boo and I been having less sex than usual? Have I been wanking off less often?
  • Has my partner rejected my last few invitations to have sex (aka advances)?
  • Have I been too tired to jerk off or have sex before bed?
  • Are there things I want sexually that I’m not able to explore?
  • Have I been engaging in “riskier” behavior to get my sexual needs met?
  • Has a recent change in my body or medications affected my ability to have fulfilling sex?

“When it comes to sexual frustration, learning why it’s happening is much more important than that it is happening,” says Garrison. “The why allows you to properly address it.”

Sometimes it’s your body

“Any new injuries, chronic pain, certain diseases, addictions, and gynecological issues can interfere with your ability to have sex or orgasm, which can lead to sexual frustration,” says Garrison.

“And same goes if the partner you usually have partnered sex with is dealing with one of these things.”

Because sex during and right after childbirth can be painful or disinteresting to some vulva owners, it’s common for their partners to feel sexually frustrated during this time, he says.

Certain medications like antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), birth control, and beta-blockers (to name a few) are also known to have funky effects on libido and orgasm.

If you recently went on one of these medications, talk to your doctor about the side effects you’re experiencing.

Sometimes it’s your brain

“Stress and anxiety, especially when ongoing, can really wreak havoc on a persona libido, interest in sex, ability to orgasm, and more,” says Berman.

Same goes for depression. Research from 2012 shows that folks who are depressed have sex less frequently, have a lower libido, and are generally less satisfied in their relationship.

And sometimes it’s your rotation — or lack thereof

“With couples, any time one partner feels sexually frustrated [and] they haven’t adequately communicated their desires with their partner, [it] leaves their partner in the dark to their desires,” says Garrison.

Or, it could be that you and your toy or partner aren’t compatible anymore. It happens. Our sexual tastes and preferences change over time.

Do you want to address these feelings? Or do you want to wait for them to go away on their own? The choice is yours.

However, Garrison says it’s time to seek out the help of a sex or mental health professional if these feelings are:

  • affecting your finances
  • affecting how you’re treating your partner or other people in your life
  • causing you to act impulsively or in ways you otherwise wouldn’t, such as skipping work or cheating on your partner

Maybe your partner recently moved across the country. Or maybe you’re a Lone Ranger who’s currently bedridden.

If you’re trying to bust through this frustration without using your or your partner’s hands (or mouth), these tips can help.

Understand why solo sex isn’t on the table

“If someone is sexually frustrated but doesn’t want to masturbate, they should figure out why that is,” says clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, PhD, sex and relationships expert for SexToyCollective.com.

“Is it your sex-negative upbringing talking? Do you feel shame about masturbating? Do you not know how to make yourself come?”

If sex-negative messaging is keeping you from solo sex, she recommends working with a sex therapist — masturbation is some of the best medicine for sexual frustration!

Listen to music that down-regulates you

Now is not the time to stream The Weeknd, Banks, or any other tunes on your sex playlist.

Instead, turn the volume up on something chill, like folk or acoustic.

“Music is a powerful mood manipulator,” says Britney Blair, founder of sex therapy clinic The Clinic and co-founder of Lover, a better sex app.

Exercise

Kickboxing, hot yoga, CrossFit. Blair says once you find the right activity for you, the energy release and rush of endorphins can help.

Volunteer

Might sound cheesy, but Blair says, “shifting the focus off the self and onto another can help.”

Plus, sometimes just doing something other than ruminating over how sexually frustrated you are can be helpful, she says.

Find someone to hug

Garrison says that sometimes it isn’t sex you’re craving when you’re sexually frustrated — it’s human touch.

Known as skin hunger, when we go long bouts of time without cuddling, hugging, or embracing another person, we crave touch — even if it’s not sexual,” he says.

Try hugging your Mom extra long next time you see her. Or ask your BFF if they’d be down to Netflix and cuddle. Or, go to — or host!— a cuddle party.

Take care of other bodily functions

We aren’t just talking about poop here!

“It’s very common for people to ignore their basic bodily needs like hunger, thirst, and sleep,” says Melancon.

For example, how many times have you kept on scrolling and telling yourself “5 more minutes!” until your bladder is about to explode?

“The problem is that when you stop listening to your body, it also stops ‘talking’ to you,” she says.

“Starting to check in with your body about nonsexual needs can help you become more aware of your sexual needs.”

And when you’re aware of your sexual needs? Well, you’re better able to get them met and avoid sexual frustration altogether. Winning!

Remember that all emotion is temporary

“No one feels frustrated, or any other emotion, indefinitely,” says Blair. “Be compassionate with yourself, and know that this too shall pass.”

No boo, no problem. You don’t need to be in a very serious relationship to get yours.

Get down with yourself

That’s right, it’s wanking hour.

If your go-to stroke isn’t helping you bust through this sexual frustration, switch it up!

You might try:

  • long, deliberate strokes up and down
  • jagged, diagonal strokes
  • tapping your “it” spot
  • increasing or decreasing the speed or pressure

Didn’t work? Try making love to yourself

“If you masturbate really quickly, almost like you’re trying to get it over with, you may not be very satisfied and may feel even more frustrated,” says Melancon.

That’s why she suggests making love to yourself. “Take your time, and you’ll end up more satisfied.”

You might even try edging, aka orgasm control, which entails building yourself right up to the brink of orgasm over and over again until you finally let yourself finish with a big bang.

“Edging is thought to result in a ‘better’ or ‘bigger’ orgasm, which means it may be effective in helping you squash sexual frustration,” says Garrison.

Have a one-night stand

So long as everyone involved consents — and is in the right state of mind to consent — and is aware that this is a one-night stand situation, this is very much on the table.

Just be sure to practice safer sex.

Oh, and please text a friend ahead of time so someone knows where you’re going, or that you’re inviting a “stranger” over.

Consider a friends with benefits situation

Sure, FWBs can be messy. But if everyone is upfront about what they’re hoping to get out of the situation — in your case, sexual satisfaction — situationships can also be awesome!

If you have a friend you’ve been flirting with (and maybe have already hooked up with once before), you might try asking:

  • “Feel free to send me an eye-roll emoji (or ignore this text altogether!) if you aren’t down. But how would you feel about a friends with benefits situation? I’m not currently looking to date, but it’s no secret I’ve always found you cute.”
  • “Hey :). I’m not currently looking for a serious relationship, but I’d love to invite you over for a romantic movie night sometime, if you’re interested.”

When crafting your own text (or even better, bringing it up IRL), follow these rules:

  1. Be honest that you’re not looking for something serious.
  2. Explain exactly what you’re looking for (sex).
  3. Make sure the person can feel comfortable saying no.
  4. Don’t ask again or make them feel weird if they do say no.

Try dating

Just cause you’re not in a relationship now, doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be 3 months from now… And while it isn’t always the case, dating usually equals boning.

So, if you’re feeling “ready” (trust your gut here, folks) to date, enter the dating world!

You might:

  • Download the apps.
  • Tell people you’re dating again!
  • Ask your friends to set you up.
  • Ask someone out, if there’s someone you’ve been crushing on.

Hire a sex worker

Why not get your sexual needs met with the help of a professional? Who you decide to hire will depend on what your sexual tastes are.

For example, if you’re into:

  • being submissive, you might hire a Dominatrix to tie you up
  • watching someone masturbate, you might hire a webcam model
  • giving oral, you might hire an independent sex contractor

No doubt, feeling sexually frustrated when you’re dating someone stinks. Luckily, there are things you can try.

If you haven’t tried it, initiate sex

If the issue is that you and your partner have gotten out of the habit of hooking up and it’s been a minuteeeee, Berman says it could be as easy as inviting your partner to [insert sexual activity here] with you!

Who knows, maybe they’ve been as sexually frustrated as you.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

If “just have sex” isn’t going to work for you two, it’s time to have an honest conversation with your partner about what you’re feeling and why.

“This conversation [may] be hard,” says Garrison. “But it’s necessary.”

Don’t feel guilty for wanting to talk to your boo about how to make your sex life more pleasurable for the both of you.

Here are some ways you might bring it up with your partner, depending on where you’re sexual frustration is coming from:

  • “I was reading an article about pegging, and I think it’s an intimate experience I’d like to try with you. Is that something you might be willing to learn more about and try together?”
  • “I know P-in-V sex hasn’t been possible for you since the baby was born, but I would love to experiment with other kinds of intimacy. Is that something you’d be open to trying?”
  • “I feel like we haven’t been having sex because of [X issue], and I’d really like to talk about it. I miss feeling close to you.”

Take your go-to sex acts off the table

If you and your partner have a sex routine — as many long-term partners do — ruling out the “same old, same old” can help you approach sex from a more experimental place.

“Rather than doing ‘the usual,’ you have to take time to play together and see what else feels good,” says Melancon. Fun!

Tried the above, but still having all these feelings that you don’t know what to do with? It’s time to bring in the pros.

A sex and relationship therapist is a good idea if you’re struggling with sexual shame, sexual impulses, and sexual frustration.

Same goes if you’re looking for someone to go to with your boo.

Being sexually frustrated can be the worst.

Whether you’re single or committed for life — and willing to get it on with your sexy self or not — there are ways to not only stop sexual frustration, but to become sexually satisfied!


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.