The prevalence of persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) may range from about 1% to 4% in North America, according to new research in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
People with PGAD feel sexually aroused in their genitals when they do not feel sexual desire. Symptoms may include tingling and throbbing sensations that can last for hours to days to weeks. These feelings can be quite distressing, and some people with PGAD have difficulty participating in daily activities.
There has been little research on PGAD. For the current study, scientists investigated the prevalence of PGAD in two North American samples: Canadian university students and a nationally representative sample from the United States.
The researchers used criteria from Leiblum and Nathan (2001) as a basis for their study, using the following descriptions:
- Criterion 1: Physiological genital arousal (i.e., genital sensitivity, fullness, and/or swelling) in the absence of sexual excitement or desire.
- Criterion 2: Physiological genital arousal, which persists for an extended period of time (hours to days).
- Criterion 3: Physiological genital arousal, which does not go away after an ordinary orgasm.
- Criterion 4: Persistent (hours to days) genital arousal that is described as “unwanted” or “intrusive.”
- Criterion 5: Persistent (hours to days) genital arousal, with an unknown cause.
The Canadian sample included 1,634 students (1,267 women, 360 men, and 7 non-binary individuals) with an average age of 18. All completed an online questionnaire with the following results:
|Reported all 5 PGAD criteria at any frequency||10.8%||6.8%||0%|
|Reported all 5 PGAD criteria at a moderate to high frequency||1.1%||0.6%||0%|
Approximately 4.5% of the Canadian participants felt distress with one or more of the criteria. Criterion 1 (physiological genital arousal) appeared to be the most distressing.
With an average age of 46, the American group was generally older than their Canadian counterparts. The cohort included 1,026 people (514 women, 506 men, and 6 non-binary individuals).
Their survey results were as follows:
|Reported all 5 PGAD criteria at any frequency||18.8%||11.1%||33.3%|
|Reported all 5 PGAD criteria at a moderate to high frequency||4.3%||2.7%||0%|
About 6.6% of the American group reported distress about their situation. As with the Canadian group, Criterion 1 was the most distressing.
The American study also investigated comorbidities, with restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic pelvic pain being the most commonly reported. About 6% of the women had fibromyalgia.
Most of the American participants were unfamiliar with the term persistent genital arousal disorder.
Higher PGAD prevalence in the American group might be explained by two factors, the authors said. First, the Canadian group consisted of university students, while the American sample was similar to the U.S. population. PGAD could be severe enough to prevent people from attending university, so there could be a lower prevalence among the students. Second, the average age of the American sample was 46, while the Canadian group’s average age was 18. Previous research has shown that the average age of PGAD onset is 37, so lower prevalence among the students could be due to their younger age.
The authors added that prevalence figures might be even higher, as many people with PGAD feel embarrassed about their situation and might not disclose it on a survey. They also noted their results might not apply to populations outside North America.
They encouraged healthcare providers to learn more about PGAD and screen for it in patients with genital discomfort.
International Society for Sexual Medicine
“What is persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD)?”
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Jackowich, Robyn. A., MSc and Caroline. F. Pukall, PhD
“Prevalence of Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder in 2 North American Samples”
(Full-text. Published: October 13, 2020)