Why Someone Might Have Sexual Anxiety
There are many reasons why someone might struggle with sexual anxiety, and it could be something that the person struggling with it doesn’t yet understand about themselves.
Below are some common reasons why someone might experience sexual anxiety:
- Body image issues: If someone is self-conscious about certain aspects of their body, it can be hard to feel confident with sexual partners, especially newer sexual partners.
- Sexual dysfunctions for either partner: While it can be difficult for partners experiencing sexual dysfunctions , it can also be hard for the partner that’s worried about the other person’s dysfunctions.
- Past sexual abuse:People who have experienced sexual abuse often have a difficult time thinking about sex in healthy ways, and it can take a while to take back their own image of what sex should look like for them.
- Relationship issues:This includes fighting, arguing, microaggressions, or just the general inability to be open and honest with your partner.
- Fear of intimacy: It can be hard for people with a fear of intimacy to trust others, which is a big component of good sexual experiences.
- Partner compatibility:If someone doesn’t feel comfortable or attracted to their partner, it can put a huge damper on their desire to have sex and increase their anxiety at the thought of it.
Sexual Performance Anxiety Statistics
While there are no statistics for sexual performance anxiety as a unique diagnosis, we can gain a sense of how prevalent sexual anxiety is by looking at statistics for related issues:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year and an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives7
- Erectile Dysfunction occurs in 18% of men over 20 in the U.S.8
- Lifelong Delayed Ejaculation affects approximately 1% of sexually active men and acquired DE affects approximately 4% of sexually active men9
- Female Orgasmic Disorder is present in approximately 26% of premenopausal women10
- 10-15% of women report never having had an orgasm11
How To Overcome Sexual Anxiety
If your nerves are rooted in feeling pressure to perform, here are a few tips to help you get over sexual anxiety and back to connecting with your partner.
1. Focus on Connection Rather Than a Specific Result
Theres nothing wrong with heavy, passionate action with erotic sparks flying and perfectly timed orgasms. But its unrealistic to expect it to happen all the time. When we get hung up on the ideal sexual experience and dont achieve it, were disappointed. And those thoughts of well, whats wrong with me? start creeping in.
The thing is, theres no right way that sex is supposed to look like. And setting unrealistic expectations of yourself and the experience is setting you up for frustration. Sex becomes about achieving the perfect results and not about the physical and emotional connection you want to share with your partner.
Instead, focus on the connection youre sharing with your partner. If you find yourself focusing too much on the finish line, shift your focus to the current physical sensations. Instead of mentally evaluating and telling yourself a story of how things are going, tune back into the present moment.
2. Communicate With Your Partner
If you feel anxious during sex, tell your partner. Are things moving too fast? Do you need more foreplay? Tell them what kind of intimacy and touch you feel comfortable with.
3. Work on Intimate Touch Beyond Sexual Intercourse
4. Talk to a Sex Therapist
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How To Diagnose Performance Anxiety
Mental and psychiatric conditions can be challenging to diagnose. A provider will usually discuss your symptoms, assess for any underlying medical illness, and may use surveys or worksheets to help quantify your symptoms.
Performance anxiety isnt technically classified as a psychiatric condition, so there is no specific test or worksheet that can be used to diagnose this. However, a provider, or you, can diagnose this by a history of your symptoms alone.
Sexual performance anxiety presents itself differently from person to person. Ejaculating prematurely, inability to orgasm or get aroused, becoming anxious when engaging in sexual activity, or losing interest in sex can all be signs of sexual performance anxiety- but may also signify an underlying medical condition or be signs of another condition.
Just because performance anxiety is not a specific clinically established mental condition does not mean you cant seek treatment from a medical professional.
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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Some Common Issues That Also Occur With Sexual Anxiety
When it comes to sexual anxiety, sex therapists know that many factors can be at play. Here are a few common co-occuring issues.
Erectile dysfunction Its quite a common issue. Its currently estimated that 30 million men in the US experience some level of erectile dysfunction2.
Sexual pain Sexual pain conditions are very real and can impact your self confidence and enjoyment of sex.
Difficulty with orgasm Maybe youve always struggled with achieving orgasms, or maybe its a newer struggle for you. Either way, feeling the pressure to reach orgasm can create negative feelingsfeelings that get in the way of you enjoying sexual intimacy with your partner!
Self-esteem struggles Struggles with body image, lack of self confidence, or internalized feelings of shame also often accompany sexual anxiety.
Sexual trauma Do you get overwhelmed and panicky when it comes to sex? A traumatic experience can have a major impact on your ability to connect with your partner sexually.
General anxiety or other anxiety disorders Sometimes the anxiety you feel in the bedroom is rooted in an anxiety disorder. Or it can even be a combination of both performance and general anxiety.
A sex therapist will work with you to untangle the web of concerns reinforcing your sexual anxiety.
Receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Talking to a therapist can always be helpful with regard to issues of intimacy or anxiety.
Dont be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional about overcoming sexual performance anxiety. An expert in the field should definitely be able to help talk you through the problem and offer solutions.
If youre a bit shy to go in and talk to someone in person, online therapy is a great way to go.
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The Performance Anxiety Cycle
In many cases, men start to become preoccupied by negative thoughts. This leads to more failures and increased anxiety. Once this occurs, a sexual performance anxiety cycle, or a negative feedback loop can be created.
Thats why its important the treat sexual performance anxiety soon than later!
Dont Compare Yourself To Others
Sex can be fantastic, but there is a difference between fantasy and reality.
If youre concerned about your sexual performance, its a good idea to take a hard look at what you imagine sex should be like versus what its really like for most people. For starters, banish notions of gorgeous porn stars or celebrities with picture-perfect bodies.
Licensed psychotherapist Vanessa Marin told Mens Health its important to manage your expectations when it comes to sex. Ask yourself: What, exactly, do you think performance means? What do you expect of yourself in the bedroom?
Then, Marin says, make sure your expectations are reasonable. Would you tell your best friend that he needed to live up to those same expectations? Would you expect the same things out of your partners?
Fantasies, such as steamy romance novels or hot porn movies, can be a great way to get in the mood, but they arent representative of reality. Porn actors are just that: actors. They use any number of tactics to stay hard, including numbing creams and medication. They also work under professional lighting and may perform for hours while they shoot a single scene.
Your love life and your sexual performance can be amazing without attempting to make everything perfect.
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Reasons People Have Sexual Performance Anxiety
One reason a person might suffer from sexual performance anxiety is due to having low sexual self-esteem.
If theyre self-conscious about how they look naked, it may cause them to overthink and wonder how their partner will view them in these situations when theyre the most vulnerable.
Another common reason is simply being afraid that you wont be able to satisfy your partner during times of intimacy. If a couple has issues in their relationship, this could also cause someone to become anxious during sex.
The last reason we want to touch on is being afraid that youll finish earlier than you want to. Although all these fears are valid, they can keep you from fully enjoying this sexually gratifying experience with your partner.
Here are some ways to overcome it.
1 Recognize What Youre Anxious About
âThink about the following questions: Are you only experiencing anxiety with a specific partner? Is it because you plan to try something new? Is it because of the way you view your body?â Dr. Thorpe suggests to O.school.
First identifying what is making you feel anxious can make the concerns feel less powerful and allow you to take the next steps to address the concerns.
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What Else Can Help
If youre struggling with performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction, the most important thing to remember is your intention.
If you focus on overcoming the problem and keep in mind the idea of being able to please your partner, youll be able to work through the issue. With enough perseverance and dedication, youre able to overcome anything. You might even be able to think of some solutions that we didnt mention in this article.
Sexual Performance Anxiety: What Is It And How To Overcome It
Sex is supposed to be fun. It can be a time to explore yourself and your partner in new, intimate ways. Or it can simply be a good, connecting time. But if you feel your anxiety always gets in the way of your enjoyment, you might be experiencing sexual performance anxiety. Such anxiety can pose challenges in the bedroom and it can manifest for a number of reasons. Whatever is causing it, you arenât alone in the feeling. According to a 2010 study published in the Sex Med Review Journal, sexual performance anxiety is actually one of the most common sexual complaints. While it can be difficult to deal with, there are ways to overcome your performance anxiety. First, it can be helpful to simply understand what it is and some of the reasons that may cause it.
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Sexual Anxiety In Marriage
Even in a marriage, we can feel the pressure to perform and please our partner.
When you measure the quality of sex youre having by the number of orgasms you give your partner instead of the emotional connection you shared, you start to emphasize performance over intimacy. You put yourself under a lot of anxiety and pressure to perform at a certain level every time.
The truth is, our bodies change over time. Age, medical issues, life stressors, and more can affect both sexual desire and performance. Instead of feeling shame for things beyond your control, you will enjoy a stronger connection with your partner when you let go of expectations. And engage in more self-compassion!
Premature Ejaculation And Sexual Performance Anxiety
Like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation is a very common sexual issue.
Approximately one-third of men under the age of 60 have at least occasional issues with PE. Doctors define early ejaculation as regularly reaching orgasm within one minute after penetration during vaginal sex.
Whether you have chronic symptoms or symptoms that only occur from time to time, PE has the potential to increase the odds of sexual performance anxiety.
As mentioned above, sexual performance anxiety can potentially lead to PE, which can further increase anxiety. It can therefore become a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, there are numerous solutions to help you overcome this issue.
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How To Know If You Have Sexual Anxiety
This may seem pretty obvious, but it can be hard to tell if you’re dealing with sexual anxiety if you’re in the middle of dealing with something else that might also be anxiety-inducing.
So, start to notice when your mood changesis it a result of a partner initiating physical contact? Is it because you’re anticipating sexual activity in the immediate future? If so, these are probably signs that you’re experiencing anxiety surrounding sex.
Reduce Distractions & Enjoy The Moment
General stress can be a major contributor to performance anxiety. Make sure to reduce distractions during your sexual encounters and set aside plenty of time to relax and enjoy each other. Go slowly and forget about everything else except the feeling of being fully present with your partner.
Notice what happens when you immerse yourself in sensations all over your body, not just your genitalia. Heightened awareness of all five senses and of subtle sensations can help to quiet a spinning mind and enhance full-bodied pleasure. You might also try focusing on your breathing by slowing down and extending your exhales, which can reduce anxiety and bring you back into your body.
There is no right way to have sex. Set aside cultural messages of what sex should look like and how different genders are expected to perform during sexual encounters. Let go of self-judgment about your physique. Dont worry about whether you have an erection or if youre sufficiently wet. Forget about the right moment or right way to have an orgasm and be present in the unique connection you are sharing with your partner instead.
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