Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome

Medical Mystery: Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome

Private Moments Turn Public When PSAS Renders a Woman’s Body Out of Her Control

Women Arousal
Women who suffer from Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (PSAS) experience unwanted sexual sensations. (PhotoDisc)

PSAS, identified and named just six years ago, remains a mysterious condition that thousands of women wish they didn’t have. They are constantly on the edge of orgasm regardless of time, place or circumstance. And while this situation might sound desirable, funny or just plain weird it is actually akin to being a prisoner: a nightmarish reality where a woman’s body acts independently of her own desires.

ABC News spoke with four women who all experience unwanted sexual sensations. Heather Dearmon, Nancy Austin, and two women who requested anonymity (referred to as Lauren and Emily) all suffer from unintended sexual arousal.

“It’s unwanted sexual sensations in your vagina,” Dearmon said.

“And sex doesn’t help it,” Lauren said. “Orgasm doesn’t relieve it, sometimes it makes it stronger. This is to me, irritating, torture.”


“You spend a lot of time avoiding situations that will set you off,” Austin chimed in.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a professor of surgery at UC San Diego and the head of the Sexual Health Program at Alvarado Hospital, is one of the few researchers studying it.

“It’s spontaneous, intrusive, and unwanted genital arousal — consisting of throbbing, pulsing or tingling without the person’s sexual interest or desire,” Dr. Goldstein said.

Searching for the Cause

Dearmon, Austin, Lauren and Emily searched for years to find out what was wrong but their doctors couldn’t help them.

“I thought I was alone in this,” Dearmon said. “And this is after seeing every kind of doctor imaginable, gynecologist, psychologist, psychiatrist — you know, everything. And none had ever heard of anything.”

The medical consultations were not only confusing but, at times, condescending. Dearmon said one of her doctors told her to get a hobby, and another doctor suggested she become a lesbian.

Dr. Goldstein thinks thousands of women may suffer from PSAS, but the actual number is not known because so few seek a doctor’s help — and most doctors do not know about it.

“Every lecture I give on this, there’s always smirks in the audience: ‘Oh I wish my wife was like this.’ These are professional physicians,” Dr. Goldstein said. “And I said, ‘No, no, you’re, you don’t really want this. You do not want your wife to have this, please.'”

2 responses to “Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome

  1. This is really strange, I have never heard of it. Those doctors sound like real assholes. Now I’ll have to go and look it up. Thanks. I’ve learned something new today.

  2. Thankfully there is an increasing understanding concerning this condition and thankfully science is also (albeit on a modest scale) looking for answers for this devastating illness. Apart from an American Internet study, as far as it is known, The Netherlands is the only country where serious scientific research is conducted.

    Dr. Marcel D. Waldinger is neuropsychiatrist and head of the Department of Consultative Psychiatry and the outpatient Department of Neurosexology at Leyenburg Hospital in The Hague in The Netherlands. He is Associate Professor in Sexual Psychopharmacology at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. For a number of years now Dr. Waldinger has also been involved with neurobiological research regarding PSAS (PGAD). He treats and counsels women suffering from this condition.

    My name is Johanna Vante (Netherlands) and I suffer from PSAS/PGAD

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