PGAD 101

Cover photo Mycoze, whose work can be found here. 


One of the most exciting and liberating experiences in life is getting turned on or turning someone else on. After all, once the sexual energy in the room gets flowing between you and a consenting partner — you already know you’re in for a wild ride. However, sexual satisfaction is something that many people, more than you realize, cannot attain. Consequentially, the feeling of being turned on doesn’t ever quite go away, and can actually become painful. The cause in these cases could be Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder.

According to researchers Aswath, Pandit, Kashyap and Ramnath (2016), Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (or PGAD) is “a phenomenon, in which afflicted women [or, in more rare cases, men] experience spontaneous genital arousal, unresolved by orgasms and triggered by sexual or nonsexual stimuli, eliciting stress.” Some who experience this disorder can have spontaneous orgasms at random and potentially embarrassing moments throughout the day. But, the feeling of physical genital arousal will still remain and can cause extreme concern and discomfort.

Some of the most common symptoms of PGAD for women include swelling of the …

  • Clitoris
  • Vagina
  • Vaginal lips
  • Nipples
  • Other parts of the body


In men, PGAD systoms include…

  • Penile pain
  • Erections that last for hours
  • A throbbing, tingling, swelling or sometimes burning sensation in the genitals


According to the Pelvic Pain Foundation’s website, to be diagnosed with PGAD one must experience, “genital arousal [for] an extended time (hours to months); no other cause for genital arousal [can] be present; the genital arousal should be unrelated to feelings of sexual desire; the arousal sensation should feel intrusive and unwanted; and be associated with some distress; and the arousal sensation should persist, at least to some degree after orgasm.”

The causes of PGAD are generally unknown, but it’s been found that, in some women, it can either stem from neurological dysfunction or psychological stress.

Being turned on doesn’t sound fun in this case, does it? It isn’t.

It can negatively impact both social and personal aspects of people’s lives. Individuals with PGAD may develop a fear of going out in public because of how unpredictable their orgasms are, and relationships with significant others may deteriorate due to PGAD-induced sexual incompatibility.

What’s worse is that because of the nature of the disorder — it’s a fairly and not discussed — it’s not taken as seriously as it should be. In fact, the medical community believes there may be many people experiencing PGAD who are unaware that their symptoms are linked to a disorder.

That’s why it’s important to talk about it. In creating an open and safe space for sex and sexual disorders to be discussed, we open the doors for more people to come forward and begin to identify and address ailments like PGAD. More importantly, being open about disorders like these reminds everyone that, no matter the circumstances, you can find ways to own and feel empowered by your sexual nature.