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An Inability to Reach Orgasm


Updated July 14, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Anorgasmia, the inability to reach orgasm during sexual intercourse, is better documented for women than men. While it's true that anorgasmia (also known as orgasmic disorder, orgasmic dysfunction or orgasmic inhibition) is less common in men, there are similarities in both sexes in terms of the possible causes and therapeutic outcomes.

Statistics About Anorgasmia in Men

Statistics vary widely on the extent of the problem of anorgasmia in men, but a range of between 1 to 10 million has been cited. One reason for the very wide statistical variation is to do with the defining qualities of anorgasmia in men. For some men, the disorder presents itself in terms of an inability to reach orgasm only during sexual intercourse. In such cases, it is often possible for orgasm to be reached, but only after prolonged and intense non-intercourse stimulation.

Psychological Causes

It is estimated that around 90 percent of anorgasmia problems are related to psychological issues. Surveys point to performance anxiety as the number one psychological problem. Performance anxiety in this context is not necessarily related to "staying power," or duration of intercourse. It may relate more to attempts to "will" a state of sexual arousal, which in turn leads to a vicious cycle of anxiety.

Other psychological problems, such as stress, are often self-correcting and of relatively short duration. Other causes may be rooted in the development of negative attitudes towards sex, sometimes from childhood. There is also a relationship between anorgasmia and childhood or adult sexual abuse or rape. Marital strife, and boredom within a relationship coupled with a monotonous sex life, are other known contributory factors.

Physiological Causes

The sedative effects of some drugs, including alcohol, are known to impair the orgasmic response. Chronic illness and pain can have a general debilitating effect over many aspects of life, including sexuality. Spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, hormone conditions, and diabetes may also affect orgasm. Also, as men age, there is a natural slowing down of many physiological processes.

Treatments for Anorgasmia

If you're concerned about difficulty coming to orgasm, you may want to see your doctor for a physical examination, in order to rule out any physical causes.

If anorgasmia is due to psychological causes, you may want to seek sex therapy treatment from a qualified sex counselor or sex therapist. Typically, treatment is based around an educational package, which includes homework that addresses the sexual activities and relationship issues identified. Communication training is a key element and the therapist will place emphasis on couples developing playful and/or relaxed interactions and reducing the need to perform sexually and routinely. Graduated assignments lead eventually towards a resumption of sexual activity, but this time, underpinned by new insights and greater enjoyment.

Medically reviewed on 1/20/2012

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