If you have never had an orgasm, rest assured that you are not alone. Orgasm problems are the second-most reported sexual problem in women, according to an article in Annual Review of Sex Research. The most reported problem is a lack of or decreased sexual desire.
Between 4 and 7 percent of women deal with what’s known as women’s orgasmic disorder, according to an article in American Family Physician (AFP). The authors define this disorder as follows: “Despite self-report of high sexual arousal or excitement, there is lack of orgasm, markedly diminished intensity of orgasmic sensations, or marked delay of orgasm from any kind of stimulation.”
The inability to orgasm can make you feel negatively toward yourself — maybe you feel like you’re missing out. It can also lead to problems in a relationship. You may feel shame, disappointment, frustration, or inadequacy. You may even feel like you are letting your partner down. But remember: A supportive partner should never make you feel guilty about not having an orgasm.
Learning more about why you’re struggling to have an orgasm may help.
There are a number of potential causes for the inability to orgasm. These causes include:
- Muscular issues, such as hyper- or hypotonicity of the pelvic floor muscles
- Neurogenic problems, such as spinal cord injury or nervous system disorders
- Psychogenic problems, such as relationship issues, poor self-esteem, mood disorders, or side effects of medications for mood disorders
A lack of understanding of the female anatomy or feeling too uncomfortable to discuss the issue can play a role as well.
Understanding your anatomy
You may be surprised to learn that only 8 percent of women orgasm because of penile-vaginal intercourse alone, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). This is because female orgasms usually occur because of stimulation of the clitoris. The clitoris is a small sexual organ located at the top of the vulva, above the vaginal opening and the urethra. It has thousands of nerve endings, and it is the stimulation of these nerve endings that provides feelings of pleasure.
For many women, the clitoris is not stimulated during penile-vaginal intercourse, and some aren’t aware that this stimulation would increase their chances of having an orgasm. Others might feel uncomfortable asking their partners to directly touch or massage the clitoris and even less comfortable doing so themselves.
Sixty-seven percent of heterosexual women admitted to faking an orgasm at least once, the APA reports. The authors of the report speculate that the reason women fake orgasm goes back to the belief that women are supposed to be able to orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse. When that doesn’t happen, they fake it to make their partner feel better. In reality, most women need more than penile-vaginal intercourse to reach climax.
It can be difficult to diagnose an orgasmic disorder, but this shouldn’t deter you from seeking help. Both doctors and patients often feel uncomfortable discussing intimate sexual matters, but opening the door to discussion can help you rule out any medical problems and learn about treatment options.
The AFP report suggests that a complete physical examination should be the first step. This should include an examination of your pelvic floor muscles and checking for adhesions that might be causing problems. Testing your hormone levels and for infections can also point to or eliminate underlying medical conditions.
There are three main ways to treat an orgasmic disorder:
- Some women are able to orgasm through masturbation but not through intercourse. Directed masturbation is used to help women become more comfortable with their bodies and to learn what gives them pleasure. Hopefully, they then share this information with their partner and incorporate these techniques into their lovemaking.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to decrease anxiety and promote changes in attitudes and sexual thoughts that could be interfering with ability to reach an orgasm. Religious and cultural beliefs about sex can sometimes prevent a woman from exploring her own sexual pleasure or from asking her partner to do certain things.
- Sensate focus is a form of sexual therapy that guides a woman and her partner through a series of exercises, moving from nonsexual to sexual touching.
Tips to help you have an orgasm
Without having to seek professional treatment, there are things you can do to help increase your chances of having an orgasm. It is suggested that you talk to a doctor to rule out medical causes first.
- Spend time masturbating to learn about what you find pleasurable and what brings you to climax. Share this information with your partner and incorporate it into your lovemaking. For example, ask your partner to rub your clitoris before, during, or after intercourse, or use your finger to rub it during intercourse.
- Add a lubricant to reduce friction and increase sensual feelings.
- Experiment with different sexual positions to see if there is one that provides stimulation to your clitoris.
- Increase your foreplay and make sure it includes direct stimulation of the clitoris.
- Add sex toys to your lovemaking.
- Set aside time for sex so you can let go of daily stressors and focus on making both partners feel satisfied.
- Read books, such as “The Elusive Orgasm” by Vivienne Cass and “Becoming Orgasmic” by Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.