WORKING WITH EMOTIONAL BARRIERS TO ORGASM

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INADEQUACY OF AROUSAL:  Sex therapists and sex research point out what woman have long complained of: the struggle to achieve orgasm often starts with the inadequacy of arousal.

Decreased sexual desire, questions about sexual arousal, and pain or discomfort during sex are discussed here and on other pages devoted to those issues.

WHAT IS AN ORGASM?  Orgasm is technically the moment when the muscles of your uterus, vagina, pelvic floor and anus involuntarily contract rhythmically and simultaneously, and then relax.   An orgasm can include roughly 1 – 12 contractions lasting about one second each, and the entire orgasm can last anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute.  During orgasm, the brain releases chemicals including oxytocin and dopamine, leading to a feeling of relaxation and well-being.

ACHIEVING ORGASM:  If things are going well, then during foreplay, blood flow increases to your vagina and clitoris.  The vaginal walls secrete beads of lubrication.   As you become more turned on, blood flow continues to flood the pelvic area, breathing increases, as does heart rate, nipples become erect, and there is increased nerve and muscle tension build up in the genitals, pelvis, buttocks, and thighs.   After sufficient stimulation, your body involuntarily releases all that tension—in a series of contractions, which is the orgasm.

PROBLEMS ALONG THE WAY:  Inability to orgasm can be due to any number of physical or emotional roadblocks.  Some research tells us that 60% of women report “faking it” at some point, and research also tells us that orgasm only follows at least 20 minutes of proper stimulation, supporting what we already know: that achieving orgasm is neither easy or instinctive.

EMOTIONAL ROADBLOCKS: Women can face specific emotional challenges during any stage of sexual response.  Some common experiences include:

-Little or no desire for sex or erotic activity
-Inability to maintain a state of arousal
-Fear of pain during sex
-Inability to achieve orgasm

DECREASED SEXUAL DESIRE:  Since the ability to orgasm starts with libido or interest in sexual activity, problems in this area can obviously create problems with achieving orgasm.

POOR AROUSAL & SITUATIONAL CONDITIONS:  Sex therapists and sex research point out what woman have long complained of: that the struggle to achieve orgasm often starts with the inadequacy of arousal, the lack of intimacy and emotional connection with her partner, and the interpersonal challenges that can dampen or block healthy sexual relating.

PAIN DURING SEX:  Pain, or the fear of pain during sex is also a cause of orgasmic difficulty.   Clearly, orgasm cannot take place if you’re in pain or anxious about being injured, and painful intercourse is frequently sited as a cause of anorgasmia.

EMOTIONAL ROAD BLOCKS TO ORGASM:  Sex therapists and sex research point out that emotional and psycho-social attitudes toward sex and sexuality can prevent orgasm.  If a woman harbors strong religious or social preclusions to sexual enjoyment and pleasure, then orgasm can be a casualty of those firmly held beliefs.

FEAR AND CONFLICT:  More often than not, however, a psycho-social and emotional perspective that precludes sexual pleasure is a mask or a cover for more deeply held feelings of fear, antipathy, and entrenched conflict.  Women who struggle with orm but justify their inability to achieve sexual climax with religious or social ideology are caught in a very difficult position in which their own needs seem to contradict their principals.  Nevertheless, unconscious fears and prohibitions can play a large part in curbing a woman’s ability to relax with her sexuality, to enjoy her body, and to claim physical pleasure.

TREATING PSYCHO-SOCIAL ROAD BLOCKS:  Treatment of psycho-social and emotional road blocks to good sexual functioning is like treating any other emotional road block.  The sex therapist is trained to work with you in a way that honors your safety and well-being.  Nothing is rushed or forced.  Rather, the work takes its cues from you.  The pace and the inquiry into this frequently very charged area is deliberately kept slow and steady.  The trust you hold in your therapist is central for a healthy outcome.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN TREATMENT:  Psychoanalysis and sex therapy or sexual psychotherapy encourages you to talk about your background, your history, including your sexual history.  You’ll be encouraged to talk about your current sexual practices.  Your therapist will also invite you to explore your thoughts and feelings about other areas of your life, including your childhood and your social and intellectual development.  You’ll discuss masturbation or self-pleasuring activities and practices, and you even may decide with your therapist to develop some exercises that you can practice in the comfort and privacy of your home.

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