Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD): the Female Form of Priapism

Also known as restless genital syndrome, PGAD is a medical condition that is characterized by constant arousal which is usually described by the sufferers of the disease as “spontaneous and unrelenting”. Women who suffer from this condition rarely bring it to light, let alone seek medical attention, since by many it is considered embarrassing to talk about matters pertaining to sexual disorders.

However, contrary to popular belief, PGAD is not induced by sexual desires of any kind. In a way, it is comparable to priapism, a condition which affects male genitalia, inducing persistent penile erections so severe that medical intervention is required to alleviate the symptoms. Sadly, unlike priapism, PGAD is not acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV as a diagnosable medical condition.

PGAD is not linked to hypersexuality

Satyriasis and nymphomania are sexual disorders that affect males and females respectively. They are more psychological than they are physical. PGAD, on the other hand, is characterized by completely unprovoked episodes of intense physical arousal that are not brought on by sexual desire. There are no identifiable triggers to the condition.Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder

The involuntary arousal of the genital region, specifically the clitoris, can go on for hours, days or even weeks, leaving the sufferer in a constant state of agitation, discomfort and pain. Achieving orgasm can only mitigate the problem temporarily since the arousal continues almost immediately.

Women suffering from this condition describe it as disruptive and unwelcome. The fact that climaxing does little to alleviate the condition only serves to make it worse for the women, who are often forced to opt for medication as the last and only resort for their problem.

Sex becomes associated with pain, not pleasure

Although PGAD is not triggered by sexual desire, there are some physical triggers that can either induce or intensify the condition. For example, vibration of the cell phone in a trouser pocket can be the trigger. Some women reportedly experience “painfully intense” arousals every time they use the toilet.

Suffering from chronic PGAD deprives women of the ability to enjoy the pleasure associated with sex. Due to the painful intensity of the arousals, orgasms only serve to alleviate their pain for some time.

Tarlov cysts

A study shows that PGAD might be linked to the presence of Tarlov cysts. These are abnormal spine fluid-filled perineural cysts that form at the sacrum (lower end of the spine). These cysts are present in most women suffering from PGAD; hence, they may be an etiological cause of the disorder.

PGAD sufferers often contemplate suicide as their only escape from what they consider a shameful condition without even realizing that it is a disorder that has nothing to do with their psychological wellbeing.

The marginalization and stigma surrounding these individuals is often inevitable in societies where openly talking about sex is considered a taboo. These women often spend their days feeling physically and emotionally drained.