A study released last week found that persistent genital arousal disorder can cause a variety of other psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
Persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) is also known as persistent sexual arousal syndrome (PSAS). The PGAD moniker is newer and preferred, because it reflects the latest thinking that this is a problem of genital functioning, rather than of sexual desire. The study's lead author is Sandra Leiblum, Ph.D., former President of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health. (I'll write more about her research in the future.)
You wouldn't think they'd need to do a research study to figure out that symptoms such as intense sexual desire that intrudes at inappropriate times, lasts for days and can't be relieved would cause distress.
In our sexist and hyper-sexual society, this malady isn't taken seriously by many in the medical establishment, according to Jennifer Berman, an MD and director of the Berman Women’s Wellness Center. According to this article,
She argues that the medical establishment—particularly, the Food and Drug Administration—has traditionally not taken female sexual complaints very seriously. Says Dr. Berman, “Their attitude is, ‘Women can’t have orgasms? Who cares? It’s not important!’ But it’s going to be important; it’s a quality of life issue.”
Randall Craig, an endocrinologist in Phoenix, says he's successfully treated two patients with PGAD-like symptoms. He hypothesizes that there are four different types of this disorder, one being "endocrine associated PSAS." According to an undated letter he posted on the PSAS Support Group, it's
characterized by minimal or absent refractory phase after orgasm or by chronically elevated sexual arousal due to a hormone related disorder. Women in this category would have PSAS beginning at the time of menopause, or would have increased PSAS symptoms during a specific phase of the menstrual cycle (usually for a few days before the onset of the menstrual period). The three hormones which may play a role in PSAS are progesterone, prolactin, and oxytocin.
He suggests that an insufficient oxytocin release after orgasm could be responsible for the lack of relief and the persistent arousal.
According to Dr. Craig's paper,
It is conceivable that an absent or diminished surge of oxytocin would minimize or prevent resolution of pelvic congestion, or the subjective feeling of relief. Women with oxytocin deficiency may experience very short refractory periods after each orgasm followed by a rapid return of intense sexual arousal requiring another orgasm for relief. Hundreds of orgasms may be needed to eventually release enough oxytocin to diminish the state of prolonged sexual arousal.
In such cases, Craig says, inhaling oxytocin could alleviate the symptoms of persistent genital arousal. I've sent Dr. Craig an email requesting more information; hopefully, he'll respond.
See also The Amazing Vagus Nerve