Psychological Barriers to Orgasm

Psychological Obstacles to Orgasm

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If you can’t orgasm and you’ve either ruled out or have addressed any physical problems preventing orgasm, it’s good to think about how your mind may be getting in the way of your orgasms. By “mind,” I’m including all the ways you think and feel as well as any mental health issues you may be living with (either diagnosed or not).

Even though in some circumstances you can have a physical orgasm without any mental desire or sexual interest, most of the time you need to be at least somewhat mentally “there” to have, experience and enjoy an orgasm. Anything that gets in the way of you being there can get in the way of you having an orgasm. Here are some common psychological barriers to having an orgasm.

Body Image and Self-Esteem

It’s not true that you have to love yourself or your body to have orgasms or enjoy sex but it probably helps. And certainly for some people, negative feelings and thoughts about their bodies or their own self-worth get in the way when they’re trying to relax enough to orgasm. Ironically, having orgasms, particularly on your own terms, can be a powerful learning experience that you are worthy of pleasure and that learning can extend out to other parts of your life.

Sex Negative Feelings and Beliefs

Messages that you get growing up, from friends, family, religious figures, and the media can influence your individual experience of sexual pleasure and even orgasm. If you believe that sexual pleasure for its own sake is wrong, or that only bad people are interested in sex, it can be hard to enjoy the pleasure as its happening (although, like most psychological effects, this isn’t true for everyone). Others may take pleasure from feeling guilty or bad. But if your beliefs or feelings conflict with your desire to have sex, and if that conflict causes you distress, then you may not be able to enjoy the sex even if you let yourself have it. Challenging negative thoughts and feelings isn’t easy and won’t be fixed overnight. But it is possible with the right support and accurate information.

Orgasm and Mental Health 

A variety of diagnosable mental health issues are known to get in the way of sexual satisfaction and orgasm. Two well-documented mental health illnesses that impact sexuality and orgasm are depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other mental health issues including anxiety can get in the way of orgasms. If you think this may be a reason why you aren’t orgasming, seek the support of a mental health professional who can help you figure out what’s getting in the way, and how it might be treated.


It's common for people who aren’t orgasming to complain that their mind "wanders" during sex. Before they know it, they’re thinking about the dozen things they have to do the next day and not about the very enjoyable task at hand. One reason for this lack of focus is too much stress. Stress can prevent orgasms in many ways. If you’re stressed, you may not feel like having sex in the first place. Or you may be okay at the beginning part of sex, but when it comes to orgasm, you aren't "feeling it" enough to have one. Ironically, orgasms can be a great stress reducer. But you need to reduce your stress enough to have them first.

Performance Anxiety/Great Expectations 

Much has been written about men's experience of performance anxiety. If he’s so worried about being a stud and blowing your mind, he can psyche himself (and his erection) completely out. But women also experience anxiety about their ability to be good sexual partners and that anxiety can prevent them from having an orgasm as well. Basically anything that takes your mind off the task at hand and off what you’re feeling in your body has the potential to get in the way of you having an orgasm. Communicating with a partner is hugely important in reducing these expectations and anxieties.

Being “In a Rut” 

It’s also possible that nothing is getting in the way of your orgasms other than you being out of orgasm practice. It’s easy for us to get into sexual ruts. So, if you haven’t had orgasms for some time, you can get used to not having them and not expecting them. If the reasons you weren't having orgasms are then removed, you may still not have orgasms simply because you don’t expect to have them and you experience a kind of reverse performance anxiety. You don’t try to relax or concentrate, or you don’t try to connect with yourself or your partner, because you’re convinced it’s not going to happen anyway.

One way to tackle this is to make some changes in the way you have sex, when you have it, and where you have it. If the only problem is that you’re in a bad habit of not having orgasms, shaking things up a bit can sometimes help.