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10 Unexpected Things Standing in the Way of Your Orgasm

For some women, an orgasm is as easily attainable as breathing. For others, the “Big O” is only an occasional event, and the stars have to align for it to happen. Then there are those for whom this epic moment of bliss remains a wondrous mystery they’ve only heard or read about, but have never experienced. If you are one of the many women whose orgasms are scarce, you’re not alone. According to statistics from Planned Parenthood, one in three women have trouble achieving orgasm when having sex. And up to 80 percent of women have difficulty having an orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone. So what’s stopping you from reaching the peak of pleasure? Read on to discover the things standing in the way of your orgasm and how you can overcome them.

1. You’ve Never Had One

It seems like a Catch-22: How are you supposed to know if you’ve had an orgasm if you don’t know what an orgasm feels like? According to licensed sex therapist Tonya McDaniel, “For women with lifelong anorgasmia (difficulty in obtaining an orgasm), one of the biggest challenges is that they don’t have the experience to know what the sexual response cycle feels like. It’s not unusual for those women to get stuck in their heads, overthink the process and get disconnected from their bodies. As a result, they will often lose interest or motivation during the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle right before an orgasm.” To combat this quandary, McDaniel suggests, “Often, these women simply need to spend time learning what type of touch and stimulation feels good.”

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2. Lack of Foreplay

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If you want to have a mind-blowing orgasm, the blunt wisdom from teen movie “American Pie” holds true: “You’ve gotta preheat the oven before you stick in the turkey.” Licensed sex therapist Tonya McDaniel explains, “Unfortunately, our culture has been hyperfixated on vaginal stimulation as the primary avenue for sexual stimulation. The truth is the majority of women require some clitoral stimulation to obtain an orgasm.” Certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg adds, “For many women, intercourse alone does not provide enough contact or stimulation with the clitoris for an orgasm to occur. This is where the use of fingers, toys and vibrators can be helpful.”

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3. Not Knowing Your Body

If you don’t know what you like, then how can you tell someone else what does and doesn’t feel good to you? When you understand what turns you on, you can guide your partner to your pleasure points — almost like the airline crew members working on the ground who wave batons to steward planes in on the airport tarmac. So how do you get to that place? Clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet says, “You want to take time to explore what type of touch turns you on and off. Whether solo or with a partner, make sure you pay attention to what you like. And speak up if something doesn’t feel good.”

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4. Not Being Self-Aware

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Once you’ve garnered some sexual experience, you probably know what you prefer in the bedroom — or if you even prefer to do it in the bedroom. According to licensed sex therapist Tonya McDaniel, this is key to crossing the finish line. “You need to identify your gas and brake pedals,” she explains. “Are you the type of person who has the best sex on vacation or when you feel like you are being pulled in a thousand different directions? Do you need a deep emotional connection with someone before you can really let go? Or can you be more sexually adventurous with a one-night stand? Do you get turned on by the idea of getting caught in the act, or do you crave the security of a dark, quite room?” To become more sexually self-aware, she suggests, “Think about your three best sexual experiences and three worst sexual experiences. The goal is to consider any themes or patterns that help you understand what you need to include in your sex life and what things you need to remove so that you can relax and let yourself go.”

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5. Distractions

For many of us, it’s perfectly normal to stream a TV show while scrolling through Facebook on our phones. We’re used to splitting our focus between multiple things at once. But when it comes to “doing it,” focusing on anything else other than “it” pretty much guarantees a lackluster sex session. According to certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg, “Our largest sex organ is our brain. So if you’re distracted it can interfere with your ability to have an orgasm — or even simply get turned on.” So how do you zero in on the mission at hand? Psychotherapist Lynn Ianni, Ph.D., MFT, suggests, “Try focusing techniques that are specifically related to being present in the moment. And don’t be afraid to allow self-focus instead of other-focus.”

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6. Stress and Anxiety

Work. Money. Your relationship. Friends. Kids. Your to-do list. Any of these things can weigh heavily on your mind — even during sexy time — and hinder a happy ending. Clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet says, “It’s important to work on balancing areas of your life — including hobbies, work, time with friends and spending time alone — to reduce high levels of stress.” Certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg adds, “Whatever you do, don’t focus too hard on the Big O. Often, the more you focus on an orgasm, the more elusive it becomes. If you are having sex only to orgasm, you’re making it a pass or fail experience, which adds pressure and can sour the experience quickly.”

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7. Chronic Pain

When most people think of sex, it usually stimulates thoughts of pleasure and excitement. But for some women sex isn’t so joyous. In fact, it can actually be so painful that they may want to avoid it all together. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly three out of four women have pain during intercourse at some time during in their lives. For some, the pain is only temporary; for others, it’s a long-term problem. “If you are one of the women who suffers from chronic pain, talk with your doctor to see if there are any treatment options to alleviate the pain,” says clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet. “Also find exercises that you can do to help you stay active and keep your pelvic muscles strong.”

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8. Side Effects

Medication can also be a factor in an orgasmless sex life. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, antidepressants, antihypertensive drugs (to treat high blood pressure), high cholesterol prescriptions and antipsychotics can all cause sexual side effects, including low libido and decreases in estrogen levels. If you suspect your meds may be the culprit, clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet says, “Talk with your doctor about safe alternatives or other medication options. But don’t discontinue medication without consulting with your doctor.” Licensed sex therapist Tonya McDaniel adds, “Women who have gone through chemotherapy, radiation or have had their ovaries surgically removed can also experience significant decreases in estrogen levels, which can decrease vaginal lubrication — so penetration is more difficult and possibly painful. In this case, a drugstore sexual lubricant can work wonders.”

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9. Relationship Uncertainty

If there’s a lack of trust or a level of vulnerability in the relationship that makes you unsure about it, it can be difficult to completely let go and fully enjoy yourself enough to get to the grand finale. If you think this may be the cause behind your inability to reach climax, psychotherapist Lynn Ianni, Ph.D., MFT, suggests, “Working through relationship or psychological issues with a trained therapist can alleviate relationship issues and open the door to communication — which is the gateway to better sex and, ultimately, an orgasm.”

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10. Sexual Trauma

If you were a victim of molestation, sexual assault or rape, this can definitely impact your comfort level with physical intimacy. You may find it difficult to relax and enjoy being with your partner. Or healthy sex may conjure up memories of your past traumatic experience. Clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet explains, “Trauma and/or abuse can affect your ability to be comfortable with your body as well as your ability to reach orgasm.” She suggests working “with a licensed counselor to process through your trauma/abuse, so you can enjoy a healthy, loving sex life.”

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What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever had difficulty achieving an orgasm? What was standing in the way of you having one? How did you overcome your inability to have an orgasm? Let us know in the comments below!