Let’s start with the good news: sex is fantastic. Except for those few times in college when you thought it was acceptable to use shampoo as lube during shower sex, things have been going pretty great.
But for people suffering from obscure sexual disorders, sex isn’t great — actually, sex is nearly unbearable, and can make relationships 10 times harder than they need to be. (That was the bad news about sex, in case you didn’t catch on.)
“Sexual issues lie at the interface between the mind and the body,” explains New York sex therapist Stephen Snyder, one of the few sex therapists who is also a medical doctor. “And sexual problems tend to cause tremendous suffering.”
The statement rings true, but especially when dealing with a disorder so obscure and rare, physicians barely know how to treat it. Where do you go from there? What do you do if you encounter someone with one? And WTF do they even mean?
Below are five sexual disorders you never knew existed. Let’s get weird.
Persistent genital arousal
Having an orgasm might be the single most pleasurable experience in the world. But while missing out on the big O might be frustrating and even painful, would having one on a daily basis be any better?
A swift “hell yes” is expected from the majority, but those suffering from persistent genital arousal are guaranteed to proclaim a resounding “hell no.”
The rare sexual disorder results in women having spontaneous, persistent, and uncontrollable arousal that is unrelated to feelings of sexual desire. Before you go off on a tangent about how enjoyable it is to have countless orgasms without even trying, you should know that it’s practically paralyzing.
“Persistent genital arousal disorder — or PGAD — is one of the most difficult and distressing conditions in all of sexual medicine,” Dr. Snyder explains. “There are many [different] causes of PGAD, from pelvic nerve entrapment to a kind of post-SRI withdrawal syndrome (when one goes off antidepressants), and most of them tend to be very hard to treat.”
Physical arousal can last from a single day to a full week and can prohibit sufferers from doing the most mundane tasks. While orgasms can provide relief, it’s only temporary; symptoms tend to come rushing back after only a few hours. However, identifying certain triggers — like carrying a vibrating cell phone or taking a bumpy car ride — can help victims avoid oncoming episodes.
For those who think peeing in the linen closet instead of the bathroom is the worst kind of sleepwalking you can endure, you’re wrong (although, waking up to find urine all over your towels is incredibly disgusting).
A newly recognized disorder, sexsomnia is exactly what it sounds like: a condition in which a person performs sexual acts while being completely asleep. If the person being sleep-sexed is into it, this is actually kind of awesome. But you know what’s not awesome? Sexual assault cases.
The Daily News reported in 2014 on 26-year-old Mikael Halvarsson, a Swedish man charged with rape after assaulting a female friend he was sharing a bed with. Halvarsson was eventually acquitted after a former girlfriend confirmed a history of disturbed sleeping patterns and experts argued that he did in fact suffer from sexsomnia.
We all know that when a guy gets to the finish line, it’s obvious. So what happens when it sounds/looks/feels like the dude has reached his peak and is fully satisfied, but there’s no actual evidence? Introducing retrograde ejaculation: a disorder that occurs when semen takes the road less traveled during an orgasm. Instead of forcing its way through the penis, the semen shoots into the bladder.
“In order for semen to be ejaculated, a valve between the urethra and the bladder has to shut off,” says Dr. Snyder. “If this valve doesn’t shut properly, semen just flows into the bladder instead. Men with this condition sometimes refer to this as ‘shooting blanks;’ they still have orgasms, but nothing comes out.”
Sounds incredibly painful, but apparently the disorder causes little harm, unless a couple is trying to conceive. According to Snyder, the most common cause of retrograde ejaculation is a side effect from medication, making it relatively easy to cure.
Post-orgasmic illness syndrome
The hierarchy of sexual bliss goes something like this: 1) The actual sex part. 2) The orgasm. And 3) Attaining the world’s most perfect nap post-O.
But for anyone who has ever experienced post-orgasmic illness syndrome, the latter is literally impossible.
Largely unknown among medical professionals, post-orgasmic illness syndrome — commonly referred to as POIS — is an extremely rare condition in which guys feel intense flu-like symptoms (feverishness, runny nose, extreme fatigue, burning eyes) immediately after ejaculating. Talk about killing the moment.
According to Marcel Waldinger, a Dutch scientist and professor of sexual psychopharmacology, the ailment possibly stems from a personal allergy to the subject’s own semen.
While POIS therapy has been tested — men are given diluted shots containing their own semen — a set “cure” has yet to be found.
You know that suffocating feeling you get when trying on holiday turtlenecks? Well, that’s exactly what it feels like to have phimosis. Times 70.
Phimosis is a condition in which the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis, causing what looks like a tight rubber band to form around the tip. Needless to say, any kind of friction can cause serious trauma (mostly emotional).
“Depending on the severity, sex can be excruciatingly painful,” explains New York sex therapist Dr. Michael Aaron. “And treatment typically involves circumcision — most urologists perform full circumcision, rather than partial removal.”
Who would’ve thought the term “cut it off” would sound so sweet?