Sexual Performance Anxiety is a common condition, whereby individuals are anxious about their performance in the sexual arena. Anxieties may revolve around being good at sex, maintaining an erection, premature ejaculation and worries about being obese or if you're ‘sexy’ enough for your partner. It may cause physical symptoms and problems with relationships. However, sexual performance anxiety can be overcome in a variety of ways.
A key symptom of sexual performance anxiety can be a loss of libido. It’s natural that you will mentally and physically avoid something which makes you anxious. Other symptoms may be irritability with your partner due to the difficulty in communicating about the subject. More serious symptoms of sexual performance anxiety may include depression and more generalized anxiety disorder.
Men are more likely to be diagnosed with sexual performance anxiety. In men, emotional anxiety can cause physical problems. The stress hormones related to feelings of anxiety can restrict blood flow. If the flow of blood to the penis is restricted then getting and maintaining an erection may be difficult.
In women, anxiety about sex can affect their ability to feel aroused and thus reduce the amount of lubrication the body creates. This can make sex uncomfortable or painful and cause a viscous circle of general anxiety about sexual activity.
Worries and concerns about sexual performance are common, however, in some individuals, these worries can turn into anxiety and have a disastrous effect on your sex life and sometimes on your relationship with your partner. Reasons for anxiety can range but may include worries about doing it right and worries about whether your partner is enjoying themselves. In men, worries about penis size can cause anxiety as can worries about premature ejaculation. For both genders, concerns about being overweight or unattractive are common. Women may be concerned about taking too long to climax, or indeed worries about climaxing at all or even or enjoying the experience can cause anxiety.
The root problem of these concerns may be born out of inexperience, or due to negative comments from an ex-sexual partner. In some cases, they may have been caused by sexual trauma. In other cases, there can be no obvious root problem.
Communicating with your partner is a key way to overcome thoughts and anxieties about sexual performance and is the first step to overcoming your worries. In most cases, your partner will be sympathetic and helpful and possibly relieved that your worries are internal rather than about them. Talk through your exact concerns, e.g. premature ejaculation, feeling overweight or not being good in bed. Allow your partner to be open about what they want in bed, too.
Seeing a therapist is sometimes the best course of action, especially if you don’t have a long-term pattern and the problem has existed for many years with different sexual partners. Some therapists such as psychotherapists will get to the cause of the problem. Other therapists such as hypnotherapists can help rid you of bad thoughts whilst CBT or NLP can change the way you actually think.
Find other ways to be intimate which may help you feel closer to one another. This can be a substitute for sex, but can also help lead to better, less anxious sex in the future. Take a bath together, enjoy a massage, or simply go for a meal just the two of you.
Exercise reduces stress and increases hormones such as endorphins which make you feel happier. It also helps you lose weight and may make you feel better about your body in general. Those who are fitter tend also to have more energy for sex, are able to last for longer without climaxing and are able to maintain erections for longer.