Understanding Disorders of Orgasm: Anatomy, Physiology, and Treatment

Understanding Disorders of Orgasm: Anatomy, Physiology, and Treatment

Sexual health is a fundamental aspect of overall well-being, and orgasms play a central role in the human sexual experience. However, various disorders can disrupt the orgasmic process, leading to distress and impacting relationships. This article aims to define common disorders of orgasm, explore the anatomy and physiology of the orgasmic response, and discuss treatment options for patients presenting with these issues.

Defining Disorders of Orgasm:

  1. Premature Ejaculation (PE): PE is characterized by the persistent or recurrent ejaculation that occurs before a person or their partner wishes it, causing significant distress or interpersonal difficulty. It can be lifelong or acquired, and it is one of the most prevalent male sexual dysfunctions. Specifically: “Lifelong premature ejaculation is defined as poor ejaculatory control, associated bother, and ejaculation within about 2 min of initiation of penetrative sex that has been present since sexual debut. Acquired premature ejaculation is defined as consistently poor ejaculatory control, associated bother, and ejaculation latency that is markedly reduced from prior sexual experience during penetrative sex” (Shindel et al., 2019).
  2. Delayed Orgasm: Delayed orgasm is a condition where a person experiences difficulty in reaching orgasm despite adequate sexual stimulation. It can occur in both men and women and may be temporary or chronic. There can be various factors contributing to delayed orgasm, including psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, or certain medical conditions such as hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, or side effects of medications.
  3. Anorgasmia: Anorgasmia refers to the persistent inability to achieve orgasm despite adequate sexual arousal and stimulation. It can be primary (lifelong) or secondary (acquired).
  4. Odynorgasmia: Odynorgasmia is characterized by pain experienced during orgasm. It can result from various medical conditions or psychological factors and requires thorough evaluation.
  5. Retrograde Ejaculation: Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen is redirected to the bladder instead of being expelled through the urethra during ejaculation. It can lead to infertility and requires medical attention.
  6. Anhedonic Orgasm: Anhedonic orgasm is characterized by the absence of pleasure or satisfaction during climax. It can be associated with various psychological disorders or medication side effects.
  7. Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome (POIS): POIS is a rare condition characterized by flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and cognitive dysfunction following ejaculation. Its etiology remains poorly understood.
  8. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder/Genito-Pelvic Dysesthesia (PGAD/GPD): PGAD/GPD is an uncommon condition characterized by spontaneous, persistent, unwanted, and uncontrollable genital arousal that is not associated with sexual desire or sexual stimulation. It can cause intense physical discomfort and distress for those affected, sometimes manifesting as the feeling of constantly being on the verge of orgasm. PGAD can occur in both men and women, although it is more commonly reported in women. The exact cause of PGAD is not well understood, but it is believed to involve abnormalities in the nervous system that regulate genital sensation and arousal. It can sometimes be triggered or exacerbated by various factors such as hormonal changes, pelvic trauma, nerve damage, or certain medications.

Anatomy and Physiology of the Orgasmic Response:

The orgasmic response is a complex interplay of physiological and psychological factors involving several anatomical structures and neurotransmitters. During sexual arousal, blood flow increases to the genitals, leading to erection in males and vaginal lubrication in females. As stimulation continues, muscle tension builds up, culminating in the orgasmic phase characterized by rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor muscles and the release of tension. In males, ejaculation typically occurs simultaneously with orgasm, facilitated by the contraction of the vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and prostate gland.

Treatment Plan for Disorders of Orgasm:

Treatment for disorders of orgasm varies depending on the underlying cause and individual needs. It often involves a multidisciplinary approach, including psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and lifestyle modifications. For example, behavioral techniques such as the stop-start and squeeze techniques can be effective for managing PE. In cases of anorgasmia or odynorgasmia, addressing underlying medical or psychological issues is crucial, and hormone therapy may be considered in certain situations.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Basson, R. (2016). Sexual desire and arousal disorders in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 374(21), 2059–2069.

Bozkurt, A., Soylemez, H., & Penbegul, N. (2014). Retrograde ejaculation and its management. Korean Journal of Urology, 55(12), 775–780.

Corona, G., Jannini, E. A., & Maggi, M. (2010). The hormonal control of ejaculation. Nature Reviews Urology, 7(9), 508–516.

Goldstein, I., Komisaruk, B. R., Pukall, C. F., Kim, N. N., Goldstein, A. T., Goldstein, S. W., Hartzell-Cushanick, R., Kellogg-Spadt, S., Kim, C. W., Jackowich, R. A., Parish, S. J., Patterson, A., Peters, K. M., & Pfaus, J. G. (2021). International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH) Review of Epidemiology and Pathophysiology, and a Consensus Nomenclature and Process of Care for the Management of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder/Genito-Pelvic Dysesthesia (PGAD/GPD). The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 18(4), 665–697. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2021.01.172

Rowland, D. L., & McMahon, C. G. (2008). Abnormal ejaculation and sexual dysfunction. In S. Serefoglu (Ed.), Male Sexual Dysfunction (pp. 111–124). Springer.

Shindel, A.W., Althof, S.E., Carrier, S., Chou, R., McMahon, C.G., Mulhall, J.P., Paduch, D.A., Pastuszak, A.W., Rowland, D., Tapscott, A.H., & Sharlip, I.D. (2019). Disorders of ejaculation: an AUA/SMSNA guideline. Linthicum, Maryland: American Urological Associationhttps://www.auanet.org/guidelines/disororders-of-ejaculation

Waldinger, M.D., Quinn, P., Dilleen, M., Mundayat, R., Schweitzer, D.H., & Boolell, M. (2005). Ejaculation disorders: A multinational population survey of intravaginal ejaculation latency time. The journal of sexual medicine2(4), 492-497. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2005.00070.x

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