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Sexual performance anxiety

Anxiety surrounding your performance in bed - what can be done to help with the problem?

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Everybody experiences some sort of performance anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it is nerves before doing an exam or anxiety before going into an interview. We all want to do well when we perform tasks in life and performing well in the bedroom is no different.

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What is sexual performance anxiety?

Sexual performance anxiety is a condition that can affect men or women and it manifests with a person becoming anxious about an imminent sexual encounter; they feel the anxiety because they fear that the way they perform in bed may be seen as ‘dissatisfactory’ or that their partner may not enjoy the experience. For men, the associated stress and anxiety can result in the release of stress hormones which can and do interfere with the mental and physical processes which are vital in order to be able to achieve and maintain a satisfactory erection.

In the case of women, whilst sexual performance anxiety is not diagnosed as frequently, it can have a profound effect on the woman involved. The anxiety may manifest in the following ways:

  • Reduced libido (sex drive)
  • Reduced physical arousal
  • Producing insufficient vaginal lubrication to have comfortable sexual intercourse
  • Inability to achieve orgasm
  • In the case of men, the anxiety may lead to different issues which include:
  • Failure to achieve an erection. One of the effects of stress hormones is to cause constriction of the blood vessels which is part of the fight or flight response. If less blood is able to flow around the penis, it is more difficult to achieve an erection. It is possible for men who ordinarily have no issue with achieving an erection to find that it is not possible when they are stressed
  • An erection can be achieved but it cannot be sustained long enough to have satisfactory sex
  • An erection can be achieved but it is not erect enough to have sexual intercourse
  • An erection can be achieved but orgasm cannot be achieved
  • An erection can be achieved but premature ejaculation results in unsatisfactory sex for the partner
  • Any of the issues outlined above can lead to added anxiety surrounding sex and when someone comes to their next sexual encounter, they will be stressed and so the whole thing happens again. Now there’s a vicious circle!

Causes of sexual performance anxiety

It is important to remember that sexual intercourse is much more than a purely physical response and it involves emotions too. If a person is stressed and so is unable to focus on the enjoyment of sex, the body is also unlikely to be aroused. In short, arousal begins with the brain and then the body will follow.
There are many worries that can lead to sexual performance anxiety and these include:

  • Lack of self-belief about your ‘ability’ in bed and believing you cannot satisfy your partner. This may be down to inexperience or lack of self-confidence. Relating to this, a person believing that they are not good enough in bed may have concerns about ejaculating too early or taking too long to ejaculate
  • If a person has a poor body image, this will make them feel unattractive. In turn, this will make a person believe that they are unattractive to their partner also
  • If there are problems within a relationship, this is extremely likely to impact general relations in the bedroom
  • Some men may believe that their penis is too small and so will not be able to satisfy their partner. In actual fact, this is very rare and can be brought about by seeing unrealistic images in the media
  • Some people may have anxiety relating to whether they will be able to achieve an orgasm or even enjoy the sexual experience

How to overcome sexual performance anxiety?

If you are suffering from sexual performance anxiety, the best first step is to seek advice from your GP. Initially, the main reason for this is so that you can be physically examined. By doing this, the doctor can ascertain whether medication problems or another underlying medical condition are contributing to the issue.

In addition, the doctor will ask about your sexual history and so will be able to determine which kind of help or treatment will benefit you most. There are a number of approaches that can be employed as necessary and these include:

Drug therapy

Whilst the sexual performance anxiety a person experiences may result in erectile dysfunction in men if there are any other contributory health factors involved then alleviating those conditions with medication may help. It may have been an underlying condition that caused the first incidences of erectile dysfunction that caused the anxiety and so medication can help to break the vicious circle.

Boost your sexual confidence

If you are generally an anxious person, it may be helpful in the bedroom if you seek help from your GP. There are many forms of medication available for anxiety and so helping the problem in general then it is likely that things will improve in the bedroom.

Improve your sexual knowledge 

For many people, even those who believe themselves to be experts, a little education never does any harm. The more you can learn about sex, how it works, why it fails and ways to improve things, the better it will become.

Get more exercise

Exercise can help to reduce anxiety levels and scientists have found that if a person takes part in aerobic exercise regularly, it can help to decrease overall stress levels, elevate the mood, reduce mood swings, improve sleep and improve self-esteem; periods of exercise as short as five minutes can begin the process of reducing levels of anxiety.

Communicate!

Be open with your partner! As in any part of life, communication is extremely important in facing the issue of sexual performance anxiety. Sharing your worries and concerns with your partner will make solving the problems easier. It is easy to become isolated, thinking that the problem is yours and yours alone but the problem is as much your partners as it is yours!

Whether the problem is premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, facing the issue together will be very valuable in bringing you closer, especially if you are facing a problem that has been forcing you apart.

How to become intimate with each other again?

There are many ways you can become intimate together without having sexual intercourse. This is your chance to get creative!

  • Mutual masturbation can be extremely intimate, it will also give you an excellent opportunity to find out each other’s likes and dislikes.
  • Have a sensual bath together with candles and dim light! Throw in a glass of wine and it will be even more relaxing.
  • Explore each other’s bodies by giving a sensual massage with scented oils.
  • Take some time to talk, the way you used to when you talked about everything! If you’ve never done it before, why not share your fantasies!
  • Take your mind back a few years and do some of the things you did early on in your relationship. Hold hands, have a kiss and a cuddle, sleep all cuddled up without feeling that you have to have sex. You can also try some new things, start a dance class or visit the gym together.

Sexual therapy 

Talk to a therapist who has experience in the treatment of sexual problems. Therapy can be invaluable in helping to understand and then reduce or get rid of the issues that are at the root of your performance anxiety. If, for instance, the reason for your stress is worry about having premature ejaculation, the therapist will be able to take you through techniques that will give you more control.

Couples Counselling

As this problem affects both members of the partnership, it is valuable for both people to be involved in the process of solving it.

The sex therapist will listen while you describe the problems you are facing. While they do this, they will be able to assess what is the likely cause, that is, is the cause psychological, physical, or a combination of the two. As you speak to the therapist about your experiences together it will help you achieve a better understanding of what is going on. The therapist will be able to recommend exercises for one or both of you to do.

Conclusion

It is important not to be too hard on yourself, these types of problems have a nasty habit of creeping up on you when you’re not looking!

Finding help for the problem is probably the most important part of the healing process but it is important to do this before it takes too great a toll on your relationship! Do it soon enough and there is every chance that you will come through the process much closer and stronger than you were to begin with!

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