What To Know About Arousal Non-Concordance

What makes sexual arousal so exciting is that it's a full-body experience. Desire and arousal don't just involve your body but also your brain. Without the brain being stimulated and revved up to experience any type of incoming sex, the body falls flat. Sexuality is all in the brain — a fact that we sometimes forget, or that some of us simply don't know.

"Though we often associate the heart with love and sex, its involvement in sexual processes is actually very minimal in comparison to that of the brain," sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly tells Bustle. "Your brain on sex looks something like this: The pituitary gland is lit up; the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental are activated; the hypothalamus is kicked into high gear... as you're slipping into euphoria, the center of reasoning and behavior in your brain completely shuts off." (After all, there's a reason why the French call an orgasm "la petite mort," which translates to "the little death.")

What this all means for those of us who aren't up on our neurological terminology and their definitions is that the brain is essential to the body's arousal. However, sometimes the brain and body don't align. When this happens, you have what's called arousal non-concordance.

What is arousal non-concordance?

If you've ever been mentally turned on but your body isn't on the same page, or you've been physically turned on but your brain couldn't be any less interested in what's going on, you've experienced arousal non-concordance or arousal concordance, which are just fancy words for a disconnect between the brain and body.

"Arousal concordance and non-concordance describe the simultaneous physical manifestation (or lack thereof) of a mental and emotional state of arousal," physician and sexuality counselor Dr. Kanisha Hall tells MindBodyGreen. "An individual may feel like their body is betraying them. Others report feelings of inadequacy and dysfunction. These feelings bring stress to a person's daily life and relationships."

According to Dr. Hall, reasons why someone might experience arousal non-concordance can be anything from stress to a history of trauma to hormonal imbalance. Or, sometimes our brains — or bodies — are just someplace else, wrapped up in thoughts about other things. This doesn't mean that our desire for our partners is diminished. It just means there's a disconnect that, for what it's worth, will find its way back to a proper connection.

What can you do about it?

According to researcher and "Come as You Are" author Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., who coined the term in her book, 90% of cis women and 50% of cis men have experienced arousal non-concordance. In other words, if it's happened to you, you're hardly alone. So first things first: definitely don't stress about it.

"It is crucial to know and remind yourself that you are not broken, damaged, or flawed if you experience arousal non-concordance," psychologist and certified sex therapist Dr. Kate Balestrieri tells The Zoe Report. "Make note of the context in which you experience non-concordance, so you can be more readily prepared to discuss with a partner, set boundaries that align with your mental and emotional desire, and remain convicted of your own truth about non-consensual experiences."

Human sexuality is extremely complicated, and we learn more and more about how it works the way it does and why every day. Even though researchers have been studying human sexuality, and all its facets, for centuries, there are still mysteries that have yet to be uncovered. Although arousal non-concordance (and concordance) isn't one of those mysteries anymore and has been figured out, keeping in mind its complexity should help put your mind — and your partner's mind — at ease. Things like this happen sometimes, and it's totally normal when they do.