Michelle Thompson’s life is one big climax – for a rare condition called Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (PSAS) means she has up to 300 orgasms a day. This does not mean she has a high sex drive, probably the opposite, she wants the arousal to stop. It has it’s down-sides, finding a partner who can cope with such sexual demands can be difficult.
The cause of PSAS has not yet been established. But it must be something in the part of the brain called the limbic system which controls pleasure and sexual function. Although there is no cure, psychological treatments can help modify the symptoms and enable sufferers and their partners to cope. It is not related to hypersexuality, sometimes known as nymphomania or satyriasis. A number of women have reported these symptoms after they stop taking antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
It wasn’t until Michelle Thompson was 37 that she saw a TV documentary about a woman with the same symptoms she had and realised her constant tingling was more than just a very high sex drive.
It was at this point, in January last year, that she decided to seek professional help. Within months her PSAS had been diagnosed at a specialist clinic.
Michelle says: “There is no treatment for it but I have become very good at disguising it, when I have an orgasm in public. I giggle and blush to cover it up. but I’ve had my When Harry Met Sally moments too.”
“My most embarrassing was last year when I was in a supermarket and an in-store salesman wouldn’t leave me alone. Suddenly I got that feeling and knew I was going to have an orgasm. I tried to make my excuses and leave but he just wouldn’t go away so I climaxed there and then in front of him. You should have seen the look on his face.”
Dr. Carol Cooper says: “Persistent sexual arousal syndrome is extremely rare and I have seen it only once in nearly 30 years in the medical profession. It puts the sufferer in a state of constant arousal where anything and everything triggers strong sexual urges followed swiftly by an orgasm.”
My patient with the condition had to relieve herself many times a day. And because she had to leave her desk to use the loo at work to do this, she found it impossible to hold down a job.
As Michelle discovered, it’s not easy to find a partner who can handle the syndrome. The apparent large sex drive can make the man feel sexually dominated. But some conditions similar to PSAS do have a serious cause. One young woman with an insatiable desire for sex went through hundreds of men before she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The tumour was small but it was growing on the part of the brain that receives signals from the genitals, so she was permanently turned on. There are also some women who have abnormally high levels of testosterone. This is a male sex hormone but normal women have small amounts of it. If they didn’t, they would have no sex drive. But if levels are too high the pursuit of sex and orgasms becomes a perpetual preoccupation. This also sometimes happens with tumours of the ovary.
As for Michelle Thompson, she seems to have a severe form of the condition and I am surprised she is so happy with it as it can make normal life impossible.
For sufferers, psychosexual help is available via GP referral. You could also seek help from GUM (genito-urinary medicine) clinics where no referral is needed and you can make an appointment directly.