Sexual intercourse is meant to be an enjoyable activity in which sexual partners enjoy each other physically and emotionally in as intimate a way as possible. With that being said, sexual activity often does go how those involved would want because of many different reasons.
There could be erectile dysfunction issues, a not-so-good relationship, or a host of other things that make the sexual experience a lot less enjoyable than it should be.
Regardless of what the challenge may be, to enjoy sex, communication between partners and seeking help is all but mandatory.
With all that said, today’s focus will be on sexual performance anxiety, which is one of the more prevalent challenges facing those trying to enjoy emotional intimacy and sex. The idea is to cover how it works, the signs to look for, treatment options, and what you can do to cope!
What Is Sexual Performance Anxiety?
This is probably a good time to say that what’s being alluded to here is not the typical anxious feeling people may have before sex. There is nothing abnormal about that. However, sexual anxiety so strong that it prevents the activity from happening at all is an entirely different conversation.
People who have sexual performance anxiety find that their fears and inhibitions are so strong that they either can’t have sexual intercourse at all or they are unable to see it through.
Men experience sexual anxiety more than women do, and it is often a precursor to challenges such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and other problems that can be a nightmare for one’s sex life.
The good news is that it is possible to treat sexual performance anxiety. With that said, if an affected person should choose not to seek treatment, sexual activity can begin to seem very unappealing and uninteresting later on.
Why Is Talking to Your Sexual Partner Important if This Kind of Sexual Dysfunction Is Being Experienced?
Earlier, there was a brief mention of talking to your partner whenever there may be anything hindering you from the kind of sexual experience you would want. Realistically, these challenges are often difficult to speak about. For example, erectile dysfunction is associated with feelings of inadequacy, which makes articulating it hard.
However, it’s essential to remember that sexual anxiety and other challenges like it are treatable, and communicating that you are having a problem is the best way to get back to the point where you enjoy sex.
The last thing you need is to feel like you are a problem or a burden when there is likely a solution out there.
What Do Sexual Performance Anxiety Symptoms Look Like?
Men and women, while they both experience sexual performance anxiety, tend to do so a little differently, which is to be expected based on body composition and how arousal manifests in each person. Men can experience the following:
- A difficult time reaching orgasm during sex
- Challenges getting or sustaining an erection
- A lack of interest in sex
- Premature ejaculation
On the flip side, women may find that they experience the following from sexual anxiety:
- A challenging time becoming aroused
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal dryness
Note that different men can have different mental or physical symptoms associated with sexual performance anxiety, as can different women, so looking out for all these is a good idea.
What Causes Sexual Performance Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is more than something you feel. It is accompanied by changes in your body, some of which could be hampering normal sexual performance. Anxiety tends to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which is fine in small doses, but becomes progressively problematic.
The causes of sexual performance anxiety are varied and they can be psychological and biological. Below is a look at some of them.
Perception and Esteem Issues
Some people are more concerned about their physical appearance or parts of it than others and this is enough to affect their ability to perform sexually, especially when they think that their partner may be focused on these imperfections.
Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions such as general anxiety disorder or depression are often associated with a drop in sexual desire. However, they may also lead to the presence of sexual performance anxiety.
There are so many aspects of life that can be affected by chronic stress, so it’s no surprise to see it listed here as one of the causes of sexual performance anxiety. The stress can be from a variety of places such as work or family life.
Overconsumption of Pornography
The brain is very adept at making associations and it will do so based on what is seen in pornographic films. The result is an inaccurate perception of what sex is supposed to be and feel like, which translates to sexual anxiety in trying to recreate these experiences.
Emotional Disconnection from Your Partner
Intercourse works best when there is both emotional and sexual intimacy between the partners. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Even for partners who love and care for each other, issues they may be experiencing can create sexual dysfunction.
Lack of Experience in Your Sex Life
This typically applies to those just starting with sex. They feel pressure to perform well and get things right.
Trauma from Previous Experience
If there are negative experiences from previous partners or the current one, this can create a sense of sexual anxiety.
How Is Sexual Performance Anxiety Treated?
Sexual performance anxiety treatment will heavily depend on what’s causing it in the first place. For example, if there is a mental health concern at play, psychotherapy may be used to effect change at the behavioral level.
There may also be medication used. Erectile dysfunction is one of the sexual anxiety matters that is often treated this way through prescriptions of medicines such as Viagra or Cialis.
Realistically, treatments for those experiencing sexual anxiety are still in the works as treatment options are being researched.
What Are Some Actions That Can Help with Overcoming Sexual Performance Anxiety?
One of the best things you can do for yourself as someone experiencing sexual anxiety is to get into certain habits that help you to alter your view. Doing so could be the first step to getting the kind of positive sexual experiences you want to have. Some of the recommended actions are:
- Make peace with the fact that sex isn’t always going to be amazing and that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a lack of capabilities on your part.
- Allow the experience to flow. People sometimes don’t spend enough time warming up with foreplay and getting into the mood. There’s no need to rush it.
- Attempt to identify the areas of life that are causing you stress and eliminate them.
- If you don’t understand your sexual needs well, masturbate to understand what works for you better.
- Capitalize on the value of sex therapists. These are people who are very adept at helping you to understand where the root of the problem lies and they are also great at assisting you in getting to a solution.
- Try not to think when having sex. Enjoy the motions and don’t spend time thinking about what may not be going right.
When Is It Time to Seek Professional Help?
The best course of action is to start trying to get through your sexual performance anxiety by using the mechanisms identified in the previous section. If you find that you are doing all these things and they are not helping, then you may need medical assistance.
Should you choose to visit a doctor, expect to be asked about your symptoms and sources of stress. Additionally, blood testing and a physical examination may be done to identify if there is anything physiological at play.
How Can You Best Support a Partner Dealing with Sexual Performance Anxiety?
Maybe you are not the one who may have a mental health condition or require sex therapy. You may find yourself with a partner who is suffering from sexual anxiety. One of the best things you can do is to establish a free-flowing line of communication with no judgment in the mix.
If you’re not the one having the experience, it will likely be tough to relate. Understand that this is not one of those times when you need to grasp the nuances of what is happening. What’s more important is that your partner knows that you are there and willing to listen at any time.
It may also help to navigate sexual experiences based on what feels good instead of what you think should feel good. Sometimes, these actions are not penetrative. Cuddling and being close, for example, are often more eye-opening than you would imagine.
Sexual anxiety is undoubtedly a difficult thing to deal with in a relationship. One part of it is the feelings of shame or guilt that come with it, and another is the fact that identifying what the challenge is may not be the easiest thing in the world.
However, once there is a sense of genuine care between partners and a focus on intimacy, closeness, and connection, finding the right way forward together should be no problem.