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The term anorgasmic (experiencing anorgasmia) refers to a condition in which individuals do not achieve orgasm during sexual intercourse. Also known as orgasmic disorder, orgasmic inhibition, orgasmic dysfunction, inhibited sexual excitement, and delayed ejaculation, anorgasmia occurs more commonly in women than in men. Anorgasmia has both physical and psychological causes. It is treated primarily by means of therapy and counseling.

Women may be affected by one of four categories of anorgasmia. Primary anorgasmia is a condition in which an individual has never experienced an orgasm. Although women with this condition may enjoy the sexual excitement produced by kissing, touching, hugging, and other forms of foreplay, they do not achieve climax. If a woman enjoys sexual intercourse, her lack of an orgasm may make her frustrated or irritable and she may suffer pelvic pain.

It is not always clear why an individual has primary anorgasmia. Some women are medically unable to climax because they have been victims of genital mutilation in which the clitoris has been removed or the opening of the vagina has been restricted. They may suffer genital pain (dyspareunia), may have scarring from an injury, or may have nerve damage. Often, however, the causes of primary anorgasmia are psychological or cultural. Individuals may be ignorant about sexuality. They may be inhibited by familial or cultural attitudes or may have performance anxiety. They may have had a traumatic sexual experience that makes sexual activity unpleasant or emotionally and physically difficult. They may have unskilled partners who have no understanding of female sexuality, have difficulty maintaining an erection, or ejaculate prematurely. These women simply may not like the person with whom they are having sex.

Secondary anorgasmia occurs when women who experienced orgasms previously lose the ability to have them. This may be caused by the chemical, hormonal, and emotional effects of substance abuse, alcoholism, medications, illness, or menopause. It also may be a psychological response to sexual trauma such as rape.

Situational anorgasmia is the inability to have orgasms in some situations. This term refers to normal variations in sexual response. For example, a woman or a man may achieve climax only with some partners or in some situations. Random anorgasmia occurs when individuals sometimes fail to achieve orgasm.

Males also experience these forms of anorgasmia. They may be unable to achieve orgasm because nerve damage inhibits ejaculation or because they cannot achieve an erection. They may have hormonal imbalances or suffer the effects of substance abuse. They may hold cultural attitudes that prevent them from participating fully in sexual activity or encourage them to "hold back."

Therapy for anorgasmia includes treatment for physical causes when possible but primarily focuses on sex therapies, education, and counseling. Sex therapies involve helping couples focus on sensations, encouraging women and men to discover how their bodies respond by encouraging masturbation or mutual exploration. Counseling helps identify the ideas and emotions that prevent participation and release. Education provides an alternative range of practices and conditions that may help partners find a more satisfying sexual experience.

see also Female Genital Mutilation; Frigidity; Orgasm.


Boston Women's Health Book Collective. 2005. Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wincze, John P., and Michael P. Carey. 2001. Sexual Dysfunction: A Guide for Assessment and Treatment. 2nd edition. New York: Guilford Press.

                                   Judith Roof