We often refer to the orgasm as the “climax” of sex, suggesting intimacy is a journey toward orgasm. However, many women are unable to have an orgasm. And while some of those women can still find sex satisfying and pleasurable, others may feel frustrated or embarrassed without a climax.
These women are not alone. According to the San Diego Sexual Medicine, 15% of women say they have difficulty reaching an orgasm, and 10% of American women have never had an orgasm.
The medical term for this phenomenon is “anorgasmia,” which is an umbrella term for the psychological, physical, and social reasons why a person is unable to have an orgasm.
Relationship issues with the sexual partner are a main cause of anorgasmia, says Mayo Clinic. These might include a lack of connection with the partner, lack of intimacy or trust, poor communication on how to satisfy each other, or unresolved conflicts.
Yet even when a woman is in the mood and is comfortable with her partner, there may be other medical reasons that prevent her from having an orgasm. Some women may have had orgasms in the past but are currently having difficulty, while others have never had an orgasm.
The exact reasons why women are unable to have an orgasm vary, and research determining the body’s mechanisms that may cause anorgasmia has been inconclusive. However, doctors have noted several conditions that can cause anorgasmia.
According to the Femedic, a medically-reviewed website that covers women’s health, neurological illnesses where the nerve supply to the genitals are disrupted may cause anorgasmia. These conditions include spinal cord damage, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and pelvic nerve damage.
Vulvovaginal atrophy is the thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls that may occur when the body has less estrogen, and the Femedic says it may interfere with anorgasmia. This usually happens in menopausal women. San Diego Sexual Medicine suggests low thyroid hormones may also cause changes in the ability to have an orgasm.
Genital surgery or hysterectomy (the operation to remove a uterus) may be contributing factors. San Diego Sexual Medicine also suggests complications from spinal cord injuries, genital mutilation, or pelvic trauma may affect orgasms.
Certain medications used to treat anxiety and depression are well known to delay orgasm or make it hard to reach orgasm at all. These include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.
Besides the medications used to treat anxiety and depression, mental health problems themselves may be a psychological cause of anorgasmia. Furthermore, Mayo Clinic cites poor body image, stress, cultural and religious beliefs, or past sexual or emotional abuse as potential factors.
There aren’t any medications that can induce an orgasm, but recognizing a potential cause of anorgasmia may help determine a solution. The Femedic recommends visiting a doctor if you suspect there are any physical factors that are making orgasms difficult. For any psychological and/or relationship issues, seeing a counselor or a sex therapist can help determine any potential issues and set a treatment plan that’s right for each individual woman.