We’ve all seen what Hollywood makes of orgasms: the panting, the screaming, the sweating. But did you know around 35% of women claim they are unable to reach climax during sex? In other words, if you’re feeling like the only woman struggling to orgasm, you’re not. Understanding the most common hurdles can help you find the solution that works for you and your body.

What’s holding you back?

Well, it could be any number of things. Research shows that orgasms are just as much psychological as they are physical. Things like intimacy issues or negative self-talk may be playing a part in your struggle to climax. Then there’s the physical aspect—many common medications today have sexual side-effects that may impede your ability to reach orgasm. Other things, like not getting enough sleep or a poor diet, may also impact your sexual performance.

Where to start

Sex Educator Betty Dodson says, “It’s so important for a woman to explore her own body and discover what she likes, what feels good, and how to have orgasms alone before engaging in sex with someone else.” Masturbating can be a great way to explore what your body responds best to and can help you understand what works and what doesn’t. But don’t turn it into a kind of finish line. Start out by noticing what feels best. Make it about understanding what pleases you. Often, when we’re too focused on climaxing, we’ll over-think it and end up ruining the experience.

Use your imagination

As you become acquainted with touching yourself, consider introducing a new element— maybe a different kind of toy, or even a prop, like a feather or blindfold. As any psychologist will tell you, much of our sexual drive surges from our subconscious, which we have very little control over. This means you may actually respond positively to something that you initially think you wouldn’t like. As the saying goes, Don’t knock it till you try it. See if you can be aroused by stimulating other parts of the body, like your nipples or anus. If something makes you uncomfortable, stop. While it’s important to acquaint yourself with your body, you’ll know when something just doesn’t work.

The right touch

Most women require more clitoral stimulation than traditional sex positions offer in order to experience an orgasm. So while plenty of attention should be dedicated to this spot, it’s important to understand what kind of stimulation works best. The clitoris is more than just the small protrusion below the mons pubis; it also runs down either side of the labia in a wishbone shape. Many women alternate stimulation between the labia and the clitoris itself. However, if clitoral stimulation doesn’t seem to be doing it for you, you might want to experiment with vaginal stimulation.

Mind games

Anxiety, to some extent, likely plays a significant role in your struggle to orgasm. Even when the problem is physical, it can be exacerbated by our frustration with the problem. Maybe you’re worried about not being good in bed, or you’re scared it will take too long for you to finish. Whatever the case, anxiety and mental pressure rarely lead to good sex, let alone an orgasm. Try redirecting your thoughts, turning that anxiety into excitement. Instead of letting your mind wander, hone in on the moment, concentrate on what you’re feeling and experiencing in that very instant—sort of like meditation. For others, overcoming those mental obstacles might not be so easy. In cases of sexual trauma, it may be necessary to talk to a therapist who can help with the psychological repercussions that may be interfering with your sex life.

Invest in better sex

There is no shortage of sexy accessories to accompany you in the bedroom. Some, like vibrators and dildos, may facilitate the stimulation you need physically to reach orgasm, while others, like costumes or props, may engage the mental part of your sexuality. A quality lubricant can also greatly enhance your sexual experience, whether by yourself or with a partner. As you experiment with different accessories, you’ll better understand the kinds of sensations and experiences that lead to climax.

Take off the pressure.

Remember, overthinking it can kill your chances for an orgasm. But it’s easier said than done. Ask any golfer who’s ever tied not to shoot for the sand trap, forcing yourself not to think about something can be counterproductive. The trick is to not lie to yourself. It’s perfectly normal to want to orgasm, and you shouldn’t try to convince yourself otherwise. But, with practice, you can learn to let that take a back seat so that you can focus more on the experience itself.

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