10 Reasons You May Be Unable to Reach Orgasm

A woman in lingerie lays on a bed unable to orgasm

The end goal for sex is usually –climaxing – but what if you’re unable to reach orgasm? Here are some reasons this may be happening to you and what you can do about it.

Key takeaways:

  • Studies show only 10% of women can reach climax easily.

  • Little is known about female orgasms in comparison to male orgasms because of gender biases present in science and medical research.

  • Reaching orgasm is a very personal process and you may need to experiment to find what works for you.

  • There are many reasons you may be unable to orgasm. They can be psychological, physical, or a combination.

  • A history of sexual shame, trauma, or abuse can make it very difficult to feel safe during sex and relax enough to climax.

  • Sex therapy can help if you’re struggling to reach orgasm.

Difficulty climaxing affects people of all genders but research by the Cleveland Clinic reveals that only 10% of women can orgasm easily. That means climaxing is a little more complicated for the other 90% of women, who are likely affected by a multitude of obstructions to orgasm.

The female orgasm hasn’t been studied as extensively as the male orgasm – a consequence of the systemic gender biases present in both science and medical research. Exact data about orgasmic dysfunction is difficult to come by, largely due to the variability in how dysfunction is defined, who is sampled, and the phrasing of questions. One interesting finding is that women who live in countries with a negative cultural attitude toward sex report higher rates of anorgasmia, or difficulty orgasming.

Orgasming is very much an individual process and finding what works for you may just be an exploratory process. Or, it may be a process you should work through with a therapist because there may be outside factors, such as stress or relationship issues, that are affecting your ability to have a satisfying sex life. We talk about common reasons for being unable to orgasm, how you can attempt to fix it, and if sex therapy is a good option to consider.

Common reasons for being unable to orgasm

There are many reasons that women find themselves unable to reach climax. Here are a few:

  • Mood disorders, such as depression

  • Health conditions that cause painful sex, like endometriosis

  • Previous sexual trauma

  • Relationship issues

  • History of gynecological or pelvic surgeries, such as a hysterectomy

  • Not being physically stimulated enough

  • Hormonal changes, such as menopause

  • Medications, including certain types of antidepressants

  • Chronic health conditions, such as autoimmune or heart disease

  • Worrying about sexual performance

Failure to reach orgasm can –be physical and/or psychological. Either way, it’s important to remember that you are not broken and you are whole just as you are. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the more common reasons for being unable to climax.

You may not know how to reach your “O”

It might sound silly, but one reason you’re unable to climax may be because you haven’t practiced how to. There’s a lot of stigma around masturbation – particularly female masturbation – even in more sexually liberated societies like the United States. Masturbation isn’t shameful; in fact, it’s perfectly normal and natural. It can help you become familiar with your body and what you like and don’t like...and what can bring you to climax. Once you know what pleases you, it will be much easier for you to direct your partner to do those things.

You’re not drinking enough water

Water is life, and believe it or not, dehydration can play a role in your ability to orgasm. Fluid is necessary for the arousal tissue that extends into the connective tissue system to slide and glide efficiently for orgasm to occur. So, try drinking a glass of water before engaging in sexual activity and see if that helps.

There’s a history of sexual shame, trauma, or abuse

Even in sex-positive societies, there can be a lot of negative messages about shame and sex that can be internalized. Victim blaming, rape culture, and slut-shaming can all affect the messages you receive around sex, and potentially even your sexual trauma. Feeling unsafe in sexual situations due to past trauma history can even put your nervous system in flight, fright, or freeze mode, which means you’ll find it extremely challenging to relax enough to climax.

What is sex therapy?

Regardless of the reasons you’re struggling to reach orgasm, sex therapy can help. A sex therapist can help you explore your sexuality in a safe space. Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy – no, it doesn’t involve any sexual activity with your therapist – that can help address a myriad of concerns ranging from sexual identity, intimacy challenges, and sexual trauma.

Sex therapists have specialized training to help with these issues. Some of the many issues they can help with include:

  • Sexual wellness