Overstimulation During Sex Is Normal — Here's How to Deal With It

Remember that rumor running around on social media that using a vibrator (or just masturbating a lot in general) can cause desensitization of the clitoris? Yeah, that's not true. Using a vibrator on your genitals is completely safe. But it is possible to experience temporary numbness or even soreness during or after sex. It's called overstimulation or sometimes clit overstimulation — but it's not just from masturbation, as this feeling can happen during internal (vaginal) sex, oral sex, or any kind of ongoing genital contact.

Often, it can feel like you're hypersensitive to touch and have to back off, or you may not feel much of anything. Don't worry too much, though — and don't believe the vibrators-are-bad rumors: overstimulation is normal and typically temporary, usually lasting just a couple of minutes.

If you've experienced overstimulation, it can be frustrating to need to take a break or transition out of sex in the middle of pleasure. It can even be a little nerve-wracking. But there are ways you can avoid overstimulation, and that starts with understanding how it happens in the first place. Here's what you need to know.

Overstimulation Sexually: Meaning

Overstimulation describes what happens when genital contact goes from feeling really great to uncomfortable or numb, says sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, MA, sexpert to the sexual-wellness brand Lovers.

"Overstimulation happens because of high arousal paired with repetitive action," says Stewart. This happens either after an orgasm (usually multiple) or just before, and Stewart says most people experience "numb and even sore" genitals.

While the numbness can be frustrating, many people will experience this at some point in their lives.

Some people are just more sensitive than others, while others may experience overstimulation if they are having more sex than usual. However, if you experience consistently painful sex, you should consult your doctor, as it could be caused by vaginismus, hormonal changes (such as those caused by menopause, childbirth, or menstruation), or an infection (including a yeast infection or an STI).

Overstimulation: How to Avoid It

To avoid overstimulation, definitely use lube during sexual activity to prevent chafing or unnecessary friction on the genitals. If you're particularly sensitive, Stewart suggests using barriers or layers (like keeping your underwear on while you use a vibrator, for example) to prevent direct genital contact. "[You can also] move around the most sensitive parts so that you are not directly on the part that will lead them to overstimulation," says Stewart.

But again, the numbness or soreness is almost always normal and will go away. So when feeling overstimulation or think you're getting close to it, the best thing to do is slow down and take a break. Stewart recommends "focusing on a different part of the body so that you can get the blood moving and circulating to the different erogenous zones. This can help spread that energy of arousal and then, if you feel up to it again, you can try again." She advises waiting 15 to 20 minutes before returning to the genitals — but only if you're still in the mood.