Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but it's hard to feel sexy or intimate with your partner when you have sexual performance anxiety. When you're constantly wondering, "Am I doing this right?" "Is my partner enjoying this?" or "Do I look fat?" you become too preoccupied to enjoy sex.
Constant worry over your appearance or ability in bed can make sex stressful and nerve-wracking. It can even make you want to avoid having sex.
Sex is more than just a physical response. Arousal is tied into your emotions too. When your mind is too stressed out to focus on sex, your body can't get excited either.
In this article, you'll learn what causes sexual performance anxiety and discover treatments that will help bring the spark back into your relationship.
Causes of Sexual Performance Anxiety
Many different kinds of worries can lead to sexual performance anxiety, including:
- Fear that you won't perform well in bed and satisfy your partner sexually.
- Poor body image, including concern over your weight.
- Difficulties in your relationship.
- A man’s worry that his penis won't 'measure up.
- A man’s concern about ejaculating prematurely or taking too long to reach orgasm.
- A woman’s anxiety about not being able to have an orgasm or enjoy the sexual experience.
These anxieties cause your body to launch a response called “fight or flight.” Stresshormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine are released in a series of reactions that were actually designed to prepare your body to run or confront a threat. Of course, your partner isn't a threat, which is why this response is so counterproductive to intimacy.
Symptoms of Sexual Performance Anxiety
Your state of mind can have a big impact on your ability to get aroused. Even if you're with someone who you find sexually appealing, worrying about whether you'll be able to please your partner can make it impossible for you to do just that.
In men, one of the effects of the stress hormones is to constrict blood vessels. Less blood flowing into the penis makes it more difficult to have an erection. Even men who normally don't have any trouble getting excited can become unable to get an erection when they're overcome by sexual performance anxiety.
Sexual performance anxiety isn't diagnosed as often in women as it is in men, but it can affect arousal in women too. Anxiety can prevent women from getting lubricated enough to have sex, and it can take away the physical desire to make love.
Anxiety can take both men and women out of the mind-set needed to have sex. When you're focused on whether you'll perform well, you can't concentrate on what you're doing in bed. A distracted lover is an inattentive lover, which can make you feel like even more of a failure. Even if you are able to get aroused, you may be too distracted to reach orgasm.
Sexual performance anxiety leads to a perpetual cycle. You become so anxious about sex that you can't perform, which leads to even more sexual performance anxiety.
If you've got sexual performance anxiety, see a doctor -- someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing your sex life. The doctor can examine you and do some tests to make sure a health condition or medication isn't causing your sexual performance issues. During the exam the 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 are due to physical causes. If a medical issue isn't to blame, your doctor might suggest trying one of these approaches:
Talk to a therapist. Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist who is experienced in treating sexual problems. Therapy can teach you to become more comfortable with your own sexuality, and it can help you understand -- and then reduce or eliminate -- the issues that are causing your sexual performance anxiety. Men who are worried about premature ejaculation, for example, can try some techniques that help them gain more control over ejaculation.
Be open with your partner. Talking with your partner about your anxiety can help ease some of your worries. Trying to reach a solution together might actually bring you closer as a couple and improve your sexual relationship.
Get intimate in other ways. There are many ways to be intimate without actually having sex. 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.
Exercise. Not only will working out make you feel better about your body, but it will also improve your stamina in bed.
Distract yourself. Try putting on some romantic music or a sexy movie while you make love. Think about something that turns you on. Taking your mind off of your sexual performance can remove the worries that are stopping you from getting excited.
Finally, take it easy on yourself. Don't beat yourself up about your appearance or ability in bed. Get help for sexual performance anxiety so you can get back to having a healthy and enjoyable sex life.