Everything You Need to Know About
Dr. Britney Blair, Psy.D., CBSM
Last Medically Reviewed 03.12.22
Did you know that roughly 3 in every 4 adults are sexually active? Whether you're trying for a child, bonding, or just enjoying your night, there are plenty of reasons to engage erotically. But what if you're having difficulty reaching climax?
If you've been coping with anorgasmia, we're here to help. Read on for a quick guide on anorgasmia and strategies for improvement.
What is Anorgasmia?
Anorgasmia is the inability - or difficulty - to orgasm. The condition can take place under a number of different circumstances, and affects women (or people with vulvas). Here are the two types of anorgasmia.
Primary anorgasmia (otherwise referred to as preorgasmia) is often referred to as orgasmic dysfunction. The condition takes place when someone has been unable to achieve an orgasm at any point in their life.
That isn't to say that people with primary anorgasmia cannot climax. It simply means that they have yet to do so. Though often called "lifelong anorgasmia”, the vast majority of those seeking treatment are able to train their body to orgasm.
The term ‘secondary anorgasmia’ is used for people that have difficulty consistently reaching orgasm but have been able to climax in the past.
If you are struggling to consistently reach orgasm DESPITE allowing enough time and ensuring you’re experiencing the right amount of stimulation, it's likely that you're suffering from secondary anorgasmia.
But keep in mind, the average women takes around 20 minutes of clitoral stimulation to reach climax. So if you find yourself think "Why does it take me so long to climax?", it is very likely you aren’t getting adequate stimulation for long enough.
How Do Orgasms Work
While not the “end all be all” of solo or partnered sex, most people agree that pleasure is important. And for most of us orgasm can be intensely pleasurable! Orgasm releases endorphins, reduces stress, and has many other health benefits. During this time, many muscles will tense and relax, helping with muscle pains and increasing blood flow.
Increases connection with a partner
Strengthens the immune system
Reaching orgasm is different for each person. Some find themselves struggling to reach a climax with a partner but are readily able to orgasm during masturbation or solo sex.
Our brains are always going to be central to our sexual functioning, and it's far from uncommon for someone to suffer from anorgasmia due to some sort of mental block. Studies show that many people dealing with anorgasmia may also be experiencing some form of sex or relationship-related anxiety, which can negatively impact their ability to reach orgasm.
Sexual abuse can also lead to anorgasmia for many different reasons, with mental blocks forming as a result of certain sexual experiences.
Upbringings with sex-negative messaging or heavy religious sexual narratives can also cause these mental blocks. An adult that grew up strictly religious and following a faith that may have shamed sexual thoughts may be more at risk for experiencing sexual problems
Causes of Anorgasmia
Anorgasmia is rather common, and there are plenty of things that can cause the condition.
By far and away the most common reason women experience anorgsmia, is because they haven’t spent enough (if any) time exploring their own bodies and routes to pleasure. So the first step for anyone looking to treat their anorgasmia would be to start exploring - either during partnered sex or during solo sex.
Toys and guided masturbation exercises (such as in the Lover app) can be used to really speed up progress here as well.
Read on for some of the most common causes for anorgasmia.
Physical factors can also play a role.
The most common physical cause of anorgasmia is the positioning of the clitoris. Some women are fortunate enough to have a clitoris positioned closer to the vaginal wall, which means they are able to experience much more pleasure during sexual touch.
However other women have a clitoris that is positioned further into the body, which means the amount of touch and stimulation it receives is reduced. This can in turn lead to more difficulty reaching orgasm.
That’s why it is SO important to keep experimenting with different types of stimulation, including different toys, touches, lubes and positions - until you find what works for you.
Hormones are another variable which can impact ease of orgasm for some women to a lesser or greater degree. At certain times of the month it may be much easier to reach orgasm than at other times, as the flow of hormones ebbs and flows within the body.
A number of prescriptions and over the counter medications can have an impact on anorgasmia. Studies have shown that antidepressants and other psychotropic medications can cause anorgasmia in up to 85% of women.
Systemic hormonal birth control can also have a considerable impact on our sexual functioning, including lowering libido and making orgasm more difficult.
If you are concerned that a medication could be contributing to your anorgasmia, always speak with your doctor before taking any action. It could be that your medication is having an impact, but this impact will always need to be weighed against the original reason for medicating by a professional.
Symptoms of Anorgasmia
Clearly, the main symptom of anorgasmia is difficulty reaching orgasm. If you have never reached orgasm before, or you struggle to reach orgasm on the majority of occasions during partnered sex over an extended period of time (for instance, three to six months), then it is likely you’re experiencing anorgasmia.
Unsurprisingly, frustration, anxiety, and general tension are common secondary symptoms of anorgasmia. These sorts of symptoms depend heavily on the person suffering from the condition.
The treatment of anorgasmia has seen some of the most interesting developments in the field of sexual therapy in recent years. A number of studies have shown that mindfulness training, combined with guided masturbation exercises, can have a dramatic impact on the ability of women - or people with vulvas - to reach orgasm.
These exercises are effective for people experiencing both primary and secondary anorgasmia, and can improve the ability of the person to consistently reach orgasm during both solo and partnered sex.
All of our anorgasmia-based treatment programs in the Lover app are based on these exercise techniques. After downloading, we’ll ask you to complete an onboarding diagnosis questionnaire. Using that information, we’ll build you an 8-12 week course of exercises to follow, which can effectively treat both primary and secondary anorgasmia. So far, 91% of women who have started the course report feeling better about their ability to reach orgasm.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ty Canning.
Written by Dr. Britney Blair, Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Lover CSO on February 15th 2022.
Next review date: July 15th 2022.
Lover App Inc used strict sourcing guidelines and only draws from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. Links are to primary sources - including studies, scientific references, and statistics - within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles.