Worrying That Your Penis Wont Work The Way It Should
Guys judge themselves pretty harshly when their penises dont work the way the want them to.
Will it get hard enough? Will I climax too early? And will I be able to reach orgasm at all?
These are all questions that many guys grapple with going into a sexual encounter, especially if theyve experienced sexual difficulties in the past.
These uncertainties can weigh heavily on your mind and contribute to sexual performance anxiety, leading to more severe issues over time, especially if you find yourself preoccupied with them during sex itself.
How To Cope With Sexual Anxiety
Whether you’re dating someone new or you have a long-term partner, sexual anxiety is real, and it can impact relationships at any stage.
That said, there are plenty of ways to recognize it as it starts to happen and work on moving past it.
Verywell Mind spoke with Candice Cooper-Lovett, LMFT, a licensed sex therapist based in Atlanta, to find out how individuals and couples can address these concerns and move into a healthy sexual relationship.
This article defines sexual anxiety, how to tell if you’re experiencing it, what causes it, and how to cope with it.
What Causes Painful Sex
In many cases, sex can be painful when lubrication is not sufficient. In these cases, the pain can be remedied with the use of a lubricant, such as KY, or by changing up your sexual script in the bedroom to include more kissing and more foreplay to have good arousal stimulating adequate genital lubrication before sex is attempted.
Sometimes, vaginal infections can contribute to sex being painful. Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are infections that can be easily treated for a more comfortable sexual experience. Also, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, and sex too soon after childbirth can all be causes.
Finally, problems in the relationship can contribute to sex being painful. If things are not going well it can contribute to anxiety and fear with sex causing the muscles of the vagina to clamp down making sex uncomfortable or downright painful. In order for sex to be comfortable, the woman must be relaxed. If your relationship needs help, consider talking about the problems outside of the bedroom to see if a resolution can be reached or consider seeing a and Sex Therapist for expert advice, find a referral at www.AASECT.org
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Can Performance Anxiety Make You Lose Your Erection
Yes. Many men find they cant get or keep erections because of anxieties around sex, known as psychological erectile dysfunction. This is actually the leading cause of erectile dysfunction in younger men and doesnt mean theres necessarily something physically wrong with you.
Even if your erectile dysfunction is psychology and not physical, you might still be able to get treatment. Erectile dysfunction medication is effective and safe when approved by a doctor and it can help even with anxiety-related erectile dysfunction.
If your erectile dysfunction is new or sudden, you should speak to a doctor to rule out physical causes for it, regardless of whether it is mainly psychological or not.
What You Can Do
The good news is that anxiety doesnt have to rule your sex life. If youre really struggling, consider finding professional support to help manage the anxiety symptoms. A therapist can address underlying issues and teach you coping skills that will come in handy when its time to get down to business with your partner.
Nelson also has a few at-home suggestions to help combat anxiety and get your game back, starting with self-care. Reduce stress and anxiety symptoms by eating a balanced diet, sleeping at least five to seven hours each night, and participating in hobbies and activities that boost your mood.
If you feel yourself start to get anxious and tense up around a sexual encounter, try conscious breathing exercises. Breathe from your belly slowly, inhaling for seven counts and then exhaling all of that energy.
Put your hand on your belly and breathe into it with every exhalation until you see your stomach rise and fall, advises Nelson. Do this when there is an intrusive thought and use the mantra I am safe, I am present, I give myself permission for pleasure.
The goal is to make each other feel good, and many times when there is no pressure or demand for sex, desire and arousal can surface, says Nelson.
If you struggle with anxiety in bed, dont be afraid to reach out for the support you need, whether its from therapists, doctors, or partners. And most of all, know youre not alone.
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Other Medications For Performance Anxiety:
As well as helping you get and keep erections, there are other medications that can help you manage sexual performance anxiety, including:
- SSRIs these are antidepressants that can help you manage your anxiety, but side effects can include no being able to get or keep erections, and not being able to orgasm
- Beta blockers, like propranolol in some cases, doctors can prescribe propranolol for performance anxiety to help keep your heart rate steady before a performance
- Priligy or EMLA if your anxiety is making you orgasm too quickly, these medications could help you last longer in bed
You Believe The End Is Nigh
No matter how well your relationship is going, you cant shift the nagging feeling that its all about to go a bit Titanic and hit an iceberg before sinking with you on board.
Even the most insignificant disagreement between you and your partner has your stomach churning with fear that your chances of a happily-ever-after have well and truly bitten the dust.
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Is There A Link Between Sexual Performance Anxiety And Situational Erectile Dysfunction
The short answer is, absolutely. Regardless if an anxiety-inducing situation is real or imagined, the body has a very real physiological response to stress.
The hormones released during stressful situations stifle the hormones that are released during a pleasurable and sexual situation. When the body is stressed and perceives a possible threat, it goes into a fight or flight mode. This alone could cause sexual dysfunction.
This stress might cause your body to release hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine. One function of stress hormones is to narrow the blood vessels. This can cause decreased blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to achieve and or, maintain an erection. Additionally, achieving an erection generally requires a level of relaxation.
When caught in the throes of sexual anxiety, it could be very difficult to relax and allow yourself to feel aroused and pleasured. Research has shown a link between a manâs emotional state and his ability to sexually perform. Bottom line is, anxiety can really kill the mood.
What Are The Causes Of Performance Anxiety In Men
There are a lot of potential reasons why a guy might experience sexual performance anxiety.
Most of them stem from the mistaken belief that you will somehow do somethingor not be able to do somethingthat will end up disappointing your partner.
Sex is not like a TV show or movie that needs to be reviewed and critiqued, but turning it into that is just about the quickest way to make sex anxiety-provoking instead of fun.
Even the most confident guy is bound to be a bit nervous if he thinks his partner is going to be overly critical of his sexual prowess.
Let’s take a quick look at five of the most common reasons guys might experience performance anxiety.
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Create Some Rules Of Engagement For Arguments
All couples argue, but disagreements and their aftermath can be particularly stressful for people with anxiety, Yip said.
Lets say you get into a fight and your partner walks away. Thats annoying for most people, but a person with an anxious mind has a very hard time with the uncertainty of walking away, she said.
To that end, create some guidelines for arguing that help offset your anxiety. Maybe you have a rule that either of you can table a heated discussion, but only if you return to the conversation within 24 hours.
As a couple, decide together what your rules are in advance, so that theres structure and a plan, Yip said. This will help those with anxiety know that theres a next step.
For more advice on how to manage your anxiety, head here.
Overcoming Sexual Performance Anxiety
If you’ve got sexual performance anxiety, see a doctor — someone you’re comfortable enough with to discuss your sex life. The doctor will examine you and do some tests to make sure a health condition or medication isn’t the cause of your problems.
During the exam your doctor will ask about your sexual history to find out how long you’ve had sexual performance anxiety and what kinds of thoughts are interfering with your sex life.
Medications and other therapies can help treat erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems that have physical causes. If a medical issue isn’t to blame, your doctor might suggest you try one of these approaches:
Talk to a therapist. Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist who has experience in treating sexual problems. Therapy can help you understand and then reduce or get rid of the issues that are causing your sexual performance anxiety. If you worry about premature ejaculation, for example, you can try some techniques that help you gain more control.
Be open with your partner. Talking with your partner about your anxiety can help ease some of your worries. When you try to reach a solution together, you may draw closer as a couple and improve your sexual relationship.
Get intimate in other ways. Learn how to be intimate without sexual intercourse. Give your partner a sensual massage or take a warm bath together. Take turns pleasing each other with masturbation so you don’t always have to feel pressured to perform sexually.
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Setting The Stage For Intercourse
Intimacy begins with developing a profound respect for yourself and your partner, which is often enhanced by genuine communication, trust, and honesty. Whether you are married or in a relationship, these truths go a long way to having great sex.
Passionate encounters that come from balanced and healthy relationships rather than emotional neediness or desperation produce better results for stress relief.
How Does Relationship Anxiety Affect Us
As we shed light into our past, we quickly realize there are many early influences that have shaped our attachment pattern, our psychological defenses and our critical inner voice. All of these factors contribute to our relationship anxiety and can lead us to sabotage our love lives in many ways. Listening to our inner critic and giving in to this anxiety can result in the following actions:
- Cling When we feel anxious, our tendency may be to act desperate toward our partner. We may stop feeling like the independent, strong people we were when we entered the relationship. As a result, we may find ourselves falling apart easily, acting jealous or insecure or no longer engaging in independent activities.
- Control When we feel threatened, we may attempt to dominate or control our partner. We may set rules about what they can and cant do just to alleviate our own feelings of insecurity or anxiousness. This behavior can alienate our partner and breed resentment.
- Reject If we feel worried about our relationship, one defense we may turn to is aloofness. We may become cold or rejecting to protect ourselves or to beat our partner to the punch. These actions can be subtle or overt, yet it is almost always a sure way to force distance or to stir up insecurity in our partner.
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What Thoughts Perpetuate Relationship Anxiety
The specific critical inner voices we have about ourselves, our partner and relationships are formed out of early attitudes we were exposed to in our family or in society at large. Sexual stereotypes as well as attitudes that our influential caretakers had toward themselves and others can infiltrate our point of view and shade our current perceptions. While, everyones inner critic is different, some common critical inner voices include:
Critical Inner Voices about the Relationship
- People just wind up getting hurt.
- Relationships never work out.
- Men are so insensitive, unreliable, selfish.
- Women are so fragile, needy, indirect.
- He only cares about being with his friends.
- Why get so excited? Whats so great about her anyway?
- Hes probably cheating on you.
- You cant trust her.
- He just cant get anything right.
Voices about Yourself
- Youre never going to find another person who understands you.
- Dont get too hooked on her.
- He doesnt really care about you.
- She is too good for you.
- Youve got to keep him interested.
- Youre better off on your own.
- As soon as she gets to know you, she will reject you.
- Youve got to be in control.
- Its your fault if he gets upset.
- Dont be too vulnerable or youll just wind up getting hurt.
Finding The Right Therapist
To ensure that you receive adequate and knowledgeable care, make sure that your mental health practitioner is AASECT certified. Sex therapist and sex therapy are not protected terms, meaning that anyone can call themselves a sex therapist in their marketing. Additionally, most mental health licensure requirements contain little or no instruction in human sexuality. AASECT certified providers receive an additional 18-24 months of training and a minimum of 300 additional hours of supervision in sex specific psychological issues.
If youre ready to find a certified sex therapist, try searching an online therapist directory, where you can find someone in your area and filter for specific qualifications
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Treatment Options For Sexual Performance Anxiety
Because performance anxiety can occur for a variety of reasons, treatment usually focuses on identifying and solving the factor or factors that caused the anxiety in the first place.Sometimes, performance anxiety can solve itself as you become more familiar and comfortable with your sexual partner. In other cases, performance anxiety can disappear as you identify and manage sources of stress in your life.Other treatment options for performance anxiety include counseling and sex therapy to work on intimacy and sexual performance, as well as lifestyle changes aimed at reducing your total level of stress and negative thinking.Research also shows that guided imagery, a therapeutic technique for dealing with anxiety, can be effective in helping treat sexual performance anxiety.ED drugs like sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil can also be used in sexual performance anxiety treatment as a way to provide more confidence for men with sexual performance concerns. Like with all prescription medications, this is something thats best discussed with your doctor.