Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD)

No Joke

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) – wait for it – the smirks from the male readers, followed by the comments, “Wish my wife, girlfriend and/or date had that.” Let’s describe the situation a little differently. Recall the regular reminders for the impotence drug commercials, “If you have an erection lasting four hours or more, seek immediate medical attention.” Why seek medical help? The condition is called Priaprism, an erection that doesn’t cease. It’s a painful malfunction that’s treated by a doctor sticking a long needle into the penis to redraw the blood. Hope not many a wife, girlfriend and/or date wish her partner had that experience. Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (PSAS) renamed Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) can be as painful physically and mentally. It is compared to Priaprism in men. Some women describe it as a living hell.

Dr. Sandra Leiblum, PhD

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder was first named by sex therapist Dr. Sandra Leiblum, PhD in 2001 as Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome. As Dr. Leiblum studied patients, she discovered the problem was more a disorder than a syndrome. The definition of a syndrome is a constellation of symptoms that suggest the presence of true disease.

Dr. Leiblum, who died this year, was Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics/Gynecology, Director of the Center for Sexual and Relational Health and Director of the Psychology Internship Program at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ. In an article in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Leiblum and her co-authors identified a series of medical and psychological traits, including depression and panic attacks, which can accompany PGAD. While a number of women are helped by psychiatric drugs, Leiblum vigorously resisted the idea that the problem is necessarily psychological.

Real Women

In one case study, a woman developed Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder during pregnancy. The Disorder returned some months after delivery. Her fears mounted over plans for a long family car trip, when a doctor prescribed the anti-anxiety medication Paxil. Soon after beginning medicating herself, she found the urges became less frequent. Nowadays, she can go up to 10 days without discomfort.

A British collaborator of Dr. Leiblum found that a number of women complaining of PGAD can have concomitant conditions like a yeast infection or a dermatological outbreak around the genitals. Leiblum insisted that the only thing for sure is that both can happen at the same time, not that one causes the other.

Another case reported a young woman in her 20’s who developed Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder prior to menses. She was required to find relief so often during the days prior that she could not hold a job. She spent too much time in the bathroom at work, and at home. She described the ordeal as a continuous state of arousal, with intense tingling and warmth in the vaginal area. The increased discharge soiled her outer clothes with embarrassing wet spots. The sensations were not accompanied by sexual fantasies.

Even an 81 year old woman with a hysterectomy was identified. The woman was married three time and living with her third husband enjoying an active sex life. She developed the Disorder after her hysterectomy. The woman went to several medical doctors including an internist, a reproductive endocrinologist who referred her for psychosexual evaluation when she was found physically healthy. She was every often awakened in the morning by hot flashes, which started recently, and with congestion in her pelvic area. Even though she was using low-dose estrogen, she reported that her vagina was dry and that she occasionally used estrogen cream or other lubricants.

The Disorder was identified in women of various ages, degrees of sexual activity, some with overactive bladders, and others with restless leg syndrome. The problem was identified in a woman after a car accident interviewed in this video. In April 2010, Fox News reported a British woman developed PGAD after falling off her Wii Fit board and damaging a nerve. Until a cause is pinpointed and treatment found, women may have to live with the sensations that can last hours or even days, and beyond any doubt are unwanted and invasive.

Works Cited

Leiblum SR, Nathan S. Persistent sexual arousal syndrome: a newly discovered pattern of female sexuality. J Sex Marital Ther. 2001;27(4):365-380.

Leiblum SR. Sexual problems and dysfunction: epidemiology, classification and risk factors. J Gend Specif Med. 1999;2(5):41-45.

Michael R, Gagnon J, Laumann E, Kolata G. Sex in America: Definitive Survey. Boston, Mass: Little, Brown and Company; 1994.

Utrecht University (2008, December 17). Persistent Imminent Orgasms In Women Are Associated With Restless Legs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from­ /releases/2008/12/081216115010.htm

Waldinger et al. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder in 18 Dutch Women: Part I. MRI, EEG, and Transvaginal Ultrasonography Investigations. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01113.x

Waldinger et al. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder in 18 Dutch Women: Part II-A Syndrome Clustered with Restless Legs and Overactive Bladder. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01114.x

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Comments 18 comments

Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

Saw this in a news article. While at first, it appears to be fodder for men to jeer at, it's actually a serious and not-so-sexy condition. A real handicap. As a man, it's difficult not to have some fun with it though, just like we all make fun of the four hour erections on Viagra commercials. "What am I going to do the other 3 hours and 55 minutes?" :)

Harlan Colt profile image

Harlan Colt 6 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

Wow, this is all new to me. I have never heard of such a thing. Well, since I don't have a... um... well... I'll just have to take it as an educational, interesting hub. I did get a kick out of Stan's answer above.

Good hub.

- Harlan

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 6 years ago from United States Author

Ok guys I thank you for at least reading the hub and commenting.

v_kahleranderson profile image

v_kahleranderson 6 years ago from San Jose, California

Hi there Dashingclaire! Well, it is a most interesting hub. I have no doubt that this may be very helpful to someone out there. This, of course, must be a topic that is not easily approached or discussed.

I wonder how many women out there have been walking around feeling this discomfort, and trying to figure out just what their problem is. I, myself, have never heard of anything like this.

Good hub to publish, Dashingclaire!

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 6 years ago from United States Author

v_kahleranderson, thanks for your comment. Many women may be missed diagnosed, and think there's something mentally wrong. The topic is appearing more in mainstream news. This may get the women the help they need.

ediebw 6 years ago

Finding a name and cause of my problems has helped my husband and myself talk a lot about the issues this PGAD causes in a relationship. We have an amazing relationship, but the sex thing has been a problem It boils down to seducing and pleasing me is not a challenge and therefore not nearly as exciting for him as some other sexual relationships have been. This is made worse by the fact that I had a previous lover who loved that I "popped like popcorn" and would work for hours to see how much he could excite me. I would never trade the wonderful marriage that I have now for a relationship with even that fantastic lover, does cause some tensions, especially when I need attention from him and he is having a hard time wanting to play.

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 6 years ago from United States Author

Dear ediebw, thank you so much for sharing a real experience.

LEWJ 6 years ago

Now this is a rare article on here I do believe. Thanks for posting it, for your work in composing it, and for your fan support.

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 6 years ago from United States Author

LEWJ thanks for stopping by. I find your articles more than interesting.

id 6 years ago

i think i have this, its ruining my life.

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 6 years ago from United States Author

I hope you can get help id. Good luck..

AJ 6 years ago

It's such a relieve 2 know I'm not alone. I struggled with this as a child, now in my late 20's I believe its subsided since then, but now I'm pregnant, with a babygirl, and worried she'll have the same condition =(. Could this be hereditary?

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 6 years ago from United States Author

AJ thank you for your comment. One of the places to go to answer your question is Boston University School of Medicine-Sexual Medicine. The school is one of the places doing reseach and has support groups for suffers and their families. Good luck and blessings for your baby girl.

Debbie 6 years ago

I have suffered with PGAD from the age age 26 yrs, I am now 45 yrs old! My boyfriend whom I had been with all my 20's left me when it happened, and my family on learning of my dilemna all treated me differently! My Gynecologist sent me to a psychiatrist when I told him about it! The psychiatrist gave me all sorts of medication including Tegretol and Lithium to treat it he claimed I was going through Mania! Any how they never helped...until the point at which they made me sleepy! What I do know though that ever since taking those medications, my orgasms have never been the same! The intensity of my orgasms have gone, and it it is also very hard to even have one! My life is truly wrecked! I hate my life! All i can do now is pray to God to give me back a normal life!

mcm 4 years ago

Do you have a contact at Boston University School of Medicine. Any help that you can offer is appreciated. (as the info in this article is).

Thank You

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 4 years ago from United States Author

Sorry I don't have a contact other than what is provided. I asked around with no luck before I replied to you.

tatty 4 years ago

Just so relieved to know I'm not alone.

dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 4 years ago from United States Author

Dear tatty, it's a very difficult disorder that so many women know nothing about. Hopefully women's disorders and condition will get more attention and treatment. Best wishes

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