Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.
The problem began when Amanda McLaughlin was only 13.
Along with the changes of adolescence came the rare, painful condition that continues to affect the now-23-year-old’s life.Screenshot/BBC Three
As Kidspot reported, Amanda began experiencing the symptoms of persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) in her early teens. The condition, which leaves sufferers in a near-constant, painful state of sexual arousal, is extremely rare.
To the teen’s distress, that meant that no one around her believed that she was in need of help. Amanda told BBC Three’s “Living Differently“:
“No one ever believed me. I kept saying, ‘I need to have sex, I need to orgasm.’ Like, when I was 15 to 18 stage, I masturbated way more than a normal teenager would.”
She added: “Everybody thought that it was just a sex addiction.”
Amanda’s mother, Victoria, admitted that she didn’t know what to make of her teen daughter’s promiscuity, telling BBC:
“When she first became sexually active, she was having sex a lot. I didn’t know what it was. My whole family thought that she was just a w***e.”
While some might think that a state of constant arousal would be pleasurable, Amanda was quick to correct the misconception. Because of her condition, she cannot hold down a job and rarely leaves the house. She told BBC:
“It feels like you’re about to orgasm, and then it never goes away. So it’s sharp pains all the way through your legs, all the way through your pelvis. It’s just nonstop.”
Without an explanation for Amanda’s behavior, Victoria believed her daughter was “just a hypochondriac.” She teared up as she told BBC how much she regrets dismissing her daughter’s problem:
“I doubted her completely. I still feel guilty. … Your child is telling you that they’re in pain and the doctor is telling you that, basically, it’s nothing. And I believed the doctor over my daughter.”
Victoria said she was relieved when Amanda was finally diagnosed with PGAD. Finally, they had confirmation that there was a reason for her daughter’s issues — and it had nothing to do with sex addiction.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PGAD in women is a sexual dysfunction associated with excessive, non-stop genital arousal that isn’t related to sexual desire or interest. Experiencing orgasm generally doesn’t eliminate the symptoms, and the condition can cause physical and psychological pain.
Amanda is now being treated by Dr. Priyanka Gupta of the University of Michigan. She takes 30 different medications to deal with the pain, and she depends on heat pads, ice packs, and even ice inserts for swelling.
Dr. Gupta told BBC that there’s no cure for PGAD, but they’re trying to find a way to help Amanda live a normal life:
“Because it’s such a rare diagnosis and there’s been such little research we don’t know exactly what causes it. We suspect it’s multifactorial from several different issues.”
Even having a normal relationship is difficult. Amanda said her fiancé, JoJo, has been very supportive, but her condition still causes stress — especially because JoJo doesn’t want sex to become a “chore.” Amanda told BBC that sex doesn’t necessarily make the arousal go away:
“Sometimes I will be crying and begging him to have sex with me just to relieve some of the pressure that I have down there.”
“When you’re begging your man for sex, it’s kind of difficult. Because then it makes you feel like crap, like, ‘Oh, why don’t you want me?’ Even though you know that’s not what it is.”
Amanda is hopeful that in time, she and her doctor can find a treatment that works for her. She believes her “whole life would be different” if she didn’t have PGAD. She could work, plan for a family, and just be happier in general.