What you need to know:
- A woman with PGAD gets genital stimulation which is not accompanied by sexual desire.
There are no emotions or thoughts of sex attached. Further, the stimulation lasts for hours or even days and sometimes may ease off after orgasm happens.
Orgasm causes relief, not pleasure because it gives a break from the stimulation, although sometimes there may be pain accompanying the orgasm.
"I have had ten orgasms today, I am exhausted, I want them to stop," came the voice of the caller, "and I have not mentioned this to anybody in the world!"
A strange call it was indeed on this Monday afternoon. I did not know who the caller was and so I could not make sense of it.
"Maybe you need to mention this to your man?" I told her.
My suggestion upset her. To avoid a further clash, I requested her to come to the clinic.
The moment she sat down in the consultation room, she closed her eyes and her body jacked as she pressed her thighs together. It took her five minutes to get back to her senses.
"This is the twelfth orgasm I am having today and I think it is because I have banged the door," the 24-year-old woman explains, "they are doing repairs in the office and with each sound of a hammer hitting something I get an orgasm, I think the vibration that goes with the bang causes it."
She looked anxious and harassed and complained of a headache. I offered her water to drink and some pain killers. Once settled, we went deep into discussing her situation.
Her name was Amy. From the age of 13, she had been getting spontaneous genital stimulation, something similar to what a normal person would get at the height of sexual stimulation. Initially, it would go for weeks and there would be no orgasm but at the age of 20, she started climaxing frequently.
She had noted that things got worse when she was on a motorbike or in a car on a rough road. She would suddenly get stimulated. Depending on the length of the journey, she could climax as much as two to three times in one hour. She had realised that the frequency of these occurrences was getting more with time. She was now 24 and there were days that she would not just sustain normal activities because the stimulation was too much.
"With each orgasm, I am left tired and too drained to concentrate on my work," she explains.
This time around the renovations had tipped her balance. She could not explain to her colleagues what afflicted her. She told them that she had unbearable tummy pains and was allowed to take the afternoon off to seek treatment.
Because of her condition, Amy had avoided getting involved with men. She feared that things could worsen if she got involved in romance. In fact, she dreaded the thought of having sex, imagining that she could get multiple and painful bouts of orgasm leaving her paralysed.
Amy was suffering from persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD). The condition is generally taken to be rare although it is suspected that many women could be having it but do not seek care due to fear and embarrassment. A recent Dutch study estimated that there could be 7000 women with the disorder in the world.
A woman with PGAD gets genital stimulation which is not accompanied by sexual desire. There are no emotions or thoughts of sex attached. Further, the stimulation lasts for hours or even days and sometimes may ease off after orgasm happens. Orgasm causes relief, not pleasure because it gives a break from the stimulation, although sometimes there may be pain accompanying the orgasm.
The stimulation may be caused by known or unknown factors. The causes are usually non-sexual in nature. For a number of victims, anything that causes vibration may lead to stimulation.
A most important characteristic of PGAD is that the woman feels harassed and intruded by the condition. She suffers significant mental stress and may go into depression. In fact, most of these women think of committing suicide, noting that people may never understand what they go through.
Currently, there is no definite known physiological cause of PGAD. Some theories point to abnormalities in the nerves around the genitals, others relate it to chemical changes in the body while others point to abnormalities with blood vessels. The lack of knowledge around the physiological basis of the condition makes treatment difficult. In fact, the treatment protocol for now only aims at reducing the severity and frequency of symptoms rather than alleviating it.
"So you mean I will be like this forever," Amy asks.
"Not really, I expect improvement from the treatment plan that we have agreed on," I comforted her as I outlined my treatment plan including counselling to alleviate the mental stress, a cream to numb the genital area, avoidance of causative factors, and pelvic physiotherapy among others.