Do you worry about how you’re doing during sexual encounters? You might have sexual performance anxiety. Here’s a primer on what it is, why it might be happening, and what to do about it.
Sex isn’t just physical. Your emotions play a role as well. When your mind is distracted, your body may also have a hard time focusing on sex.
Here are some of the causes of sexual performance anxiety:
- Fear of not meeting your partner’s expectations
- Body image issues
- Relationship problems
- Worry about being too quick or too slow (premature ejaculation or delayed orgasm)
- Orgasm or sexual satisfaction anxiety
The above worries can lead to the release of stress hormones, causing even more anxiety.
Stress hormones can narrow blood vessels. With less blood flow, it’s more difficult to get or keep an erection. Even if you usually don’t have this sort of issue, it can happen when you are anxious about your performance in bed.
While performance anxiety is not diagnosed in women as often as men, it can prevent women from getting sufficiently lubricated and/or reduce desire.
It’s a Catch-22: worrying about pleasing your partner can make it very difficult to do so! When a person is focused on performance instead of giving and receiving pleasure, even if arousal happens, orgasm may not.
Not being able to perform leads to more anxiety, so the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle!
How to Overcome It
Step 1: See your doctor. They will do some tests to see if a health condition or prescription drug is contributing to your issue, take some notes on your sexual history, and discuss the thoughts and feelings hampering your love life.
Step 2. You may be prescribed a medication if the issue is erectile dysfunction or another physical problem. If the culprit is not a medical issue, your doctor might recommend talking openly with your partner about your concerns, trying sexual activities besides intercourse, getting more exercise, using mood-setters like romantic music or movies, or seeing a professional sex therapist.
Step 3: Make an appointment with a sex therapist. Talking about your issues can help you get to their roots, and reduce them—or get rid of them altogether.
Step 4: Be kind to your body and gentle with your emotions. It may take time and going out of your comfort zone, but you can get back to healthy and enjoyable sex with time, honest communication and effort.