The International Journal of Sexually-Transmitted Diseases and Aids has described a syndrome affecting women – non-stop sexual arousal that can last for months and cannot be satisfied regardless of the number of orgasms.
The paper tentatively calls it Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome, or PSAS.
It seems to affect only a small minority of women but the true extent is unclear.
The study says that, despite the sniggering or smart remarks this condition may cause, the state of endless arousal can cripple a woman’s life.
Sometimes embarrassing and often humiliating, the condition is unwanted because it occurs in the absence of genuine sexual interest. Some women have been so depressed by the problem that they have even been driven to electroshock therapy.
‘Distressing and perplexing‘
PSAS is a “distressing and perplexing condition,” say the authors, David Goldmeier of St Mary’s Hospital in London and Sandra Leiblum of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
“Women with this clinical experience find the symptoms unwelcome since the genital arousal is usually persistent, unprovoked and unrelieved by orgasm.
“Indeed, women with persistent genital arousal report a high degree of psychological distress and even suicidal thoughts.” The syndrome is a physical disorder in which the labia, vulva and clitoris become engorged with blood, causing arousal.
PSAS is different from the psychological condition of hypersexuality, the medical term for nymphomania.
But the causes for the syndrome remain unclear because it is such a newly-identified and thus poorly-explored condition and those who suffer from it tend to do so in silence.
Anecdotal evidence points to the entrapment of local nerves or a disorder in blood circulation around the genitals.
Another suspected culprit is a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Some women who have discontinued with these drugs have reported PSAS symptoms that typically last a few days to a few weeks but which sometimes can last for more than 18 months.
“Due to the reluctance of women to come forward we are unsure how common the problem is,” said Goldmeier, urging women with PSAS not to feel marginalised.
PSAS, the study notes, sheds light on a new aspect of women’s sexuality, which is traditionally dominated by the problem of sexual dysfunction.