Let’s Talk About Arousal Non-Concordance

An erection is a sign of arousal, right? Not quite. Ever wondered why you’re ‘wet’, yet you don’t feel turned on? This is arousal non-concordance, and it's more common than you think.

The human sexual response system is more complex than most of us know. Have you ever wondered why you are mentally turned on but not physically aligned?

The assumption that an erection or vaginal wetness means someone is turned on and wants to have sex is not only incorrect but problematic and potentially harmful.

Mind and body don’t always match. Learning more about the nuanced relationship between what goes on up there and what happens down there will put you in touch with your body and help you have better intimate relationships and more satisfying sex.

Woman touching her neck sensual close up

What is arousal non-concordance?

Arousal non-concordance may seem like a scary scientific term, but it’s the normal and natural occurrence of our minds and bodies not syncing up.

In other words, arousal non-concordance is when someone’s psychological feelings of arousal and desire do not match their body’s physiological cues.

Why are you mentally turned on but not physically signaling the same way?

Think of tickling. Most people don’t enjoy being tickled, but if someone tickles them, their body produces laughter even though they want it to stop.

Our bodies respond to cues we are not aware of.

Humans are designed to physiologically prepare for sex in response to specific stimuli.

This physiological arousal response includes things like erection, vaginal lubrication or ‘wetness,’ increased heart and breathing rate, and increased blood flow to the genitals.

While physical arousal signs often accompany mental arousal, this is not always true.

It’s possible and, in fact, normal for your body to show physical arousal when you are not turned on, in a random situation, or exposed to sexual stimuli you do not find sexually appealing.

Thoughtful woman looking in mirror at home

And though it can be frustrating, it’s also normal to feel mentally turned on and want sex but not have the erection or vaginal wetness you need to get started.

Why does arousal non-concordance happen?

Many factors can cause an arousal disconnect between our mind and body.

Past experience

Past sexual or intimate experiences, whether they be positive or negative, as well as internalized negative messages about bodies or sex, can impact how our body responds in future situations.

Anxiety and stress

Anxiety can impact sex in all kinds of ways, including performance and orgasm anxiety.

Anxiety and stress also have a large impact on our bodies and can hold us back even when we are psychologically good to go.

Fluctuating hormones

Hormones make our bodies do all kinds of unexpected things and impact our physical responses and mental libido, including inhibiting vaginal wetness or giving you erections at inconvenient times.

Environmental factors

Many everyday things can put our bodies on hold and our minds preoccupied.

Factors like the weather, times of day (it’s called morning wood for a reason), the room we’re in, or what we ate for breakfast can all impact our mind-body connection.

Sexual health concept arrangement with food

Medical issues

Are you mentally turned on but not physically responsive?

Various conditions, including endometriosis, erectile dysfunction, PCOS, and other hormone imbalances, can upset our response systems as well as physical and mental discomfort and arousal.

Navigating Arousal Non-Concordance

While experiencing arousal non-concordance doesn't automatically mean something is wrong with you, it can be a sign of underlying emotional or physical issues, as well as a cause of frustration.

Address underlying medical conditions

If you think a medical issue could be impacting your sex life or arousal, discussing these with a doctor is a good start.

You can learn to better understand your body’s functions, and address any problems that may be negatively impacting your body and sex life, and give you back control.

Open communication

Talking openly about what you’re experiencing, even if you don’t fully understand it, will relieve pressure while improving connection and emotional intimacy.

Learn about your body’s signs and situations in which arousal non-concordance occurs.

Feel comfortable to tell your partner that even though your body is sexually aroused, you don’t want to have sex, and know this doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

Create a space where you can talk through shame or misunderstanding with openness and without judgment or assumption.

Two affectionate girlfriends holding hands

Practice mindfulness

Simple mindfulness practices like meditation, deep breathing, and slowing down can increase bodily awareness and help you attune to your physical sensations, uncover unconscious worries, and deal with mental stress.


We can’t recommend lube enough.

If you experience difficulties with natural lubrication when you are psychologically aroused and desire sex, as many vagina-owners do, shop-bought or homemade lubes are a lifesaver.

Be aware of your environment

When you’re experiencing arousal non-concordance, take your immediate environment into account. Is there anything in your current setting that makes you uncomfortable and contributes to a mind-body disconnect?

Maybe your partner is doing or saying something that doesn’t sit right with you. Maybe your bedsheets, lighting, or a buzzing mobile phone make you self-conscious or turn you off.

Arousal and desire vary from person to person.

For anyone who is having sex, it’s crucial to understand the difference between physical signs and psychological desire to approach intimacy in a nuanced and open-minded way, learn what our minds and bodies really want, and respect other’s boundaries.

Importantly, we learn that physical arousal is not the same as consent, which is what makes enthusiastic verbal consent essential in any intimate or sexual interaction.

Our bodies are unique, and no two bodies function in the same way. If you’re mentally turned on but not physically aligned, don’t worry.

Sexual selfcare woman stroking stomach in bed

What arouses you now and how your mind and body operate can change over time. It’s important to keep checking in with your body and feel empowered to tell your partner when something feels good and when it doesn’t.

Bridge the mind-body gap by learning about arousal non-concordance, being kind to yourself, understanding what gets you ticking physically and mentally, and what could be holding you back from pleasure and presence.