What is arousal? Sure, we all know the body signals that we receive, from vaginal wetness, or a hardening penis, but do you know the actual textbook, scientific definition of arousal? According to Meriam- Webster, arousal is “a state of physiological and psychological excitation caused by sexual contact or other erotic stimulation”. So what does this really mean?
Well, arousal is more than just a purely physiological response. Sexual enthusiasm, and the act of being aroused, are also largely attributed to psychological responses that your body. In fact, the arousal theory dives deeply into why and what motivates people and their unique arousal levels.
Arousal is not just sexually related though. Sexual enthusiasm comes in many forms – from night clubs, to skydiving, and other invigorating activities. There is also the state of being overly aroused, where you may seek out activities to destimulate and relax.
Every person’s arousal levels are very unique – and when speaking of sexually, this can be a determining cause of sexual incompatibility in partners. Genetics, life experience, and even your mood can determine the hows and whys of your sexual enthusiasm levels.
Sexual arousal disorders exist in many forms.
Some causes of disorders can be stemmed from things such as depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem can also be a factor in sexual enthusiasm disorders.
Genital arousal disorders are also widely varied. A genital sexual enthusiasm disorder can stem from low estrogen levels, bladder and vaginal infections, and different menopause symptoms. Nerve damage from underlying health conditions can also affect this.
However, on the other side of the genital sexual enthusiasm disorder issues listed above, are overactive genital arousal. Have you ever seen the stories online of women who can’t stop orgasming? This is also a form of sexual enthusiasm disorder. This is known as PGAD – persistent genital arousal disorder.
Hypoactive sexual disorder is also a dysfunction that occurs, typically in women. This causes lower sex drive and desire. Oftentimes, women do not realize they have this and tend to blame it on other things such as a busy and hectic work life.
Arousal can be affected by more than just disorders.
Your arousal can be affected by things such as hormone changes, thyroid problems, and even diabetes. You or your partner may notice that as that time of the month grows closer, your arousal levels intensify. This is very common with many women, and nothing to be concerned about.
So what is sexual arousal?
Sexual enthusiasm is when your body is turned on and begins the process of lubrication and preparing yourself for sexual activity. A woman’s clitoris may swell, and her nerves become hypersensitive. As a man, your penis will most likely become erect. Blood pressure, breathing rates, and heart rates often become elevated. However, not everyone feels aroused purely based on physical touch. Some women (and men) need additional stimulation from sources such as mental and emotional stimulation to achieve their full arousal potential.
There is no “normal” when it comes to arousal levels.
As we mentioned above, everyone’s sexual enthusiasm level varies greatly from person to person. What some men and women may find sexually satisfying and exciting, may not excite the next person. There is nothing wrong with needing different stimulation than your friends or partner do to feel in the mood and ready to have fun.
Sexual Response Cycles.
An unexplored area of the sexual desire and arousal world is the sexual response cycle. This is how your body responds to sexual stimulation and reacts. The steps typically begin with desire, and end with orgasming.
Arousal and desire.
Arousal and desire are similar – but they are also slightly different. Desire is the emotional state of wanting or desiring to have sex, whereas arousal is the physical state of wanting sexual intercourse. You can desire to have sex with someone, but not be aroused and able to. You can also be physically turned on and aroused, but not desire to have sex with the person that created that sensation.
Being sexually aroused does not necessarily equal an orgasm.
Because orgasms are so differently achieved from person to person, being fully aroused does not mean you will orgasm. You may be ready to go, totally wet (or erect) and want to have sex, but your body may not respond to the fullest potential of that elusive orgasm. There’s nothing wrong with that! Penetrative sex alone may not get you there. Focus on foreplay, and building an emotional connection to the person you are with. On the flip side, having an orgasm with minimal connection does not make you a bad person, or mean that you are hyper actively sexual. Again, every single person is different in their unique and individual wants and needs!
What to do if you believe that you have an arousal disorder.
First, remember that you are not alone. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Doctors and psychologists are here to help you! Schedule an appointment with your primary care or OB/Gyn and explain how you feel. They can assist you in any potential physical ways you may need, and refer you to a psychologist if needed. Share with your partner your concerns, and let them know you are trying to figure it out (if you’re comfortable doing so). Your partner should support you and love you no matter what.