Getting the big O is easy, right? Yes, if films and romance novels are anything to go by. But for some, a life without orgasms is a frustrating reality.
‘Anorgasmia’ or ‘Coughlan’s Syndrome’ is the inability to climax. Affecting between 5- 10 percent of women and a smaller percentage of men, it is unclear what actually causes it; reported links range anywhere from sexual trauma, menopause, to diabetes and alcohol consumption.
So, what can you do if you can’t reach orgasm and your relationship and self-esteem is suffering as a result?
Unsurprisingly, this complex issue isn’t one-size-fits-all. Anorgasmia is the umbrella term for being unable to reach climax, but here are a few ways the disorder can take shape:
Primary - those who have never experienced climax in their sexual history. This is much more common in women and can result in low excitement levels, frustration and restlessness.
Secondary - sometimes, people lose the ability to climax and this is secondary anorgasmia. This generally happens alongside another life change, such as new medication, having a baby, or beginning menopause.
Situational - a person can be orgasmic in some ways while being ‘anorgasmic’ in others. Responding to certain stimulation, experiencing climax with certain partners or just with oral rather than penetrative sex are all attributes of situational anorgasmia.
Can anorgasmia be cured?
The short answer is yes - people can recover from anorgasmia. But sometimes it isn’t a quick or easy fix.
The causes of anorgasmia can be physical, emotional or psychological. Or a combination of all three. Therefore, treatments can vary from person-to-person.
Treatments tend to either fall into the medical category, or lifestyle changes and therapy. The latter covers relationship counselling, sex therapy and personal efforts to try and satisfy your sexual needs, like masturbation and getting creative in the bedroom.
Medically speaking, treatments are a little more complicated. Some medications have side-effects that can stop you from orgasming, like anti-depressants, so your GP may look at changing your prescription or dosage if safe to do so.
If you are entering the menopause or are post-menopausal, oestrogen therapy can be offered to boost your sexual morale. This comes in the form of a pill, patch or gel which eases menopausal side effects such as vaginal atrophy (dryness down below), loss of libido and incontinence, while also increasing your intimate sensation.
The best place to start if you think you’re suffering with anorgasmia is to experiment – both physically and mentally.
Get to know your body and how you feel when you’re intimate with yourself or your partner. Everyone is stimulated by different things and one you can identify what you like, you’re more likely to be able to reach an orgasm.
Take it slow and only ever do things you feel comfortable with trying. And be as open as possible with your partner; it should be a journey of discovery for both of you.
Remember, most women need either direct or indirect clitoral stimulation to climax, so focus your attention on this too. Experimenting with sex toys can help amplify sensations for both partners, making orgasms more likely.
If this holistic approach fails you, it might be time to talk to a professional, either your GP, a sex therapist or relationship counsellor.
The first step is making an appointment but always be prepared for the questions they are likely to ask. As this disorder is so personal, the questions likely will be too. Make a list of your symptoms, sexual history, medical conditions and medication before you go.
Don’t be put off by embarrassment. You certainly aren’t the first and won’t be the last to experience anorgasmia.