Things That Block Orgasm: What Women Need To Know About Serotonin Balance

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Meg   •   Filed under Sexuality/Relationships

Serotonin does more than keep depression at bay. This neurotransmitter also allows the rest of the brain to communicate with regions responsible for self-control and planning functions. This may explain why serotonin imbalance has been linked to issues from obsessive compulsive traits to substance dependence 1

But a lack of serotonin does more than regulate impulses and alter mood. Serotonin also plays a big role in sexual function. Without enough serotonin, orgasm may not come as quickly, if it comes at all (pun totally intended).


Author Daniel Bergner reports that this sexual connection is a critical one. In his book What Do Woman Want?2, Bergner compiled interviews from prominent neuroscientists, including Dr. Jim Pfaus. Pfaus notes that the balance between serotonin and dopamine regulate sexual behavior, and that alterations in the system can create issues for female lab rats, including lower sex drive.

Other studies have confirmed this relationship in humans, and some go a step further in implicating drugs, like Prozac and other SSRIs, as a potential cause for female sexual dysfunction 1. This is due partly to their ability to alter the balance between serotonin and dopamine, chemicals necessary for arousal and orgasm. Even strong advocates of these drugs, including Peter Kramer author of Listening to Prozac, report that Prozac has been implicated in damage to nearly every bodily system and organ including the thyroid4, a gland responsible for hormone production and therefore sexual desire. However, Kramer notes that this is less common than the usual headache, drowsiness and fatigue usually associated with Prozac.  

Unfortunately, many women are unaware of the sexual side effects when they begin taking these drugs, and end up suffering needlessly.

Orgasm, and the rush of feel good hormones it produces, is critical for patterns of sexual excitement and attachment between couples. When hormones are in balance, the brain is primed to seek future orgasm. But because so many women have sexual dysfunction issues, either from stress imbalances, depression or due to side effects from drug treatment, orgasm can be hard to achieve. But finding a way to encourage it can make a big difference in relationship quality, not to mention the quality of your sex life.

As Pfaus says, "Men had better preform, they'd better learn, they'd better deliver and they'd better keep on delivering."

Truer words have never been spoken, but understanding that the issue may not be your partner alone may assist in improving a less than ideal sex life. It may take evaluating medications and striving for hormonal balance before you get to show your 'O' face.  There is also something to be said for practiceboth alone and with a partner, to figure out what gets you off. However, without the correct balance of hormones, difficulties may still arise. 

If only satisfaction were simply a matter of practice makes perfect.

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Topic-Relevant Resources

What Do Women Want?
An exploration of female sexuality through interviews with prominent researchers in the field, including not yet published research (at this time)

Listening to Prozac
The effect of serotonin and other neurotransmitters on personality and mental health, and the changes in diagnosis itself with the introduction of medications for the "less mentally ill"