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Sexual Performance Anxiety Killing The Mood? We've Got 5 Awesome Tips To Get Your Groove Back

In this article, we define sexual performance anxiety and offer 4 ways to alleviate this anxiety so you can get back to enjoying yourself in the bedroom.

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Sexual performance anxiety can put a damper on any sexual experience.

Feeling a little nervous before sex? Have some butterflies in your stomach? Well, that is perfectly normal and shouldn’t hinder your ability to enjoy yourself.

However, when these nerves rise to an uncomfortable level of anxiousness, your sexual experience can be greatly affected. It’s no wonder performance anxiety is the leading psychological reason for erectile dysfunction (ED). “Performance anxiety” is not an official diagnosis, but some experts find that this is a very common occurrence for sexually active people.

In this article, we define sexual performance anxiety and offer 4 ways to alleviate this anxiety so you can get back to enjoying yourself in the bedroom.

What is sexual performance anxiety?

Sexual performance anxiety can be described as feelings of stress, anxiety, and nervousness relating to having sex with another person. These feelings might build-up throughout a date or these feelings might strike when it's time to “perform” sexually. The anxiety might stem from the idea that a person must satisfy their partner in a precise way. Living up to a perceived expectation can cause panic, anxiety, and overthinking.

Here are some worries that might preoccupy you if you are dealing with performance anxiety:

  • Concern about sexual performance (living up to expectations and giving your partner an orgasm)
  • Feeling self-conscious about your body
  • Worrying if you are “doing it right”
  • Wondering if your penis is “big enough”
  • Worrying that your partner is “faking it”
  • Concerning yourself with the possibility of premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction

These worries can take you out of the present moment, and into a future-moment of possible disappointment, or embarrassment. These worries are enough to make anyone’s head spin. This anxiety can affect your ability to freely enjoy sex and can affect your overall interest in sex. (If sex is anxiety-inducing, you might feel compelled to avoid it altogether.) This anxiety can also affect your ability to achieve erections or orgasm.

Is there a link between sexual performance anxiety and situational erectile dysfunction?

The short answer is, absolutely. Regardless if an anxiety-inducing situation is real or imagined, the body has a very real physiological response to stress.

The hormones released during stressful situations stifle the hormones that are released during a pleasurable and sexual situation. When the body is stressed and perceives a possible threat, it goes into a fight or flight mode. This alone could cause sexual dysfunction.

This stress might cause your body to release hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine. One function of stress hormones is to narrow the blood vessels. This can cause decreased blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to achieve and or, maintain an erection. Additionally, achieving an erection generally requires a level of relaxation.

When caught in the throes of sexual anxiety, it could be very difficult to relax and allow yourself to feel aroused and pleasured. Research has shown a link between a man’s emotional state and his ability to sexually perform. Bottom line is, anxiety can really kill the mood.

Related: Losing Erections? Don’t Panic, Here Are 7 Reasons a Man Might Lose His Erection

The bedroom is not a stage.

Here is something to consider if you deal with performance anxiety: Sex is not a performance at all. There is no audience critiquing your form or your endurance or strength.

If you’re worried about your partner’s perception of you, try to remember, they are also being vulnerable and having a sexual experience too.

Try to think about the things they might be nervous about, and then notice how little you care about these nuanced worries.

Feelings are not fact

The emotional reasoning of “I feel it so it must be true” is inherently flawed. Feelings are not factual. However, this can be hard to logically reason with when anxious.

Something to remind yourself of the next time your mind is swirling with sexual performance worries: just because you feel it doesn’t make it true. This might lessen the power these thoughts have over your emotional response, (and your erections).

5 ways to alleviate performance anxiety

If you are experiencing sexual performance anxiety, know this is very common and can be improved. There are a few things you can do if you are feeling stressed before or during sex.

#1 Try a meditation practice

This might sound like some new-age hippie idea, but mindfulness meditation practices have been proven to improve anxiety and reduce stress and improve situational erectile dysfunction. In a 2018 study, researchers found great promise in the use of mindfulness meditation for the treatment of situational erectile dysfunction. This suggests meditation may provide tools to deal with the performance anxiety response in a brand new way.

The most useful takeaways from using a mediation practice for sexual performance anxiety is the learned ability to take yourself out of your worried mind and into your physical body.

To become more aware of what you are feeling physically and less aware of future-based worries. When you learn to do this, the anxious thoughts don’t have the chance to build up into an anxious frenzy. This is because you’ve had the thought, but instead of operating from that thought, you’ve anchored your mind elsewhere. Anxiety is future-oriented. A perfect match for meditation, which can work the muscle that encourages us to step out of the perceived future and into the present moment.

Try this:

  • Slowly and consciously breathing deeply into your stomach to ground yourself.
  • Using relaxing breathing exercises before and during intimacy can help you stay relaxed and focused.
  • Try guided meditations that focus on anxiety alleviation.
  • Meditate often to feel the best effects. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up.

If you are anxious in other situations, try using these learned techniques in that situation too. The more application the better as this is a learned skill.

#2 Communicate with your partner

One of the best things you can do if you experience performance anxiety is to communicate this to your partner. And don’t worry, you don’t need to tell them every detail if you don’t want to. At first, simply let them know you’re feeling nervous.

They will empathize with you and try their best to make you feel more comfortable or understood. Explain to them what you need to feel more comfortable and at ease.

Perhaps you need to take things slow or set certain boundaries. Introduce the possibility that you might need to stop and take a few breaths, or possibly stop altogether. Make them aware of your boundaries and needs. The only way to be cared for is to let your partners know what you need.

#3 Talk to a therapist about cognitive behavioral therapy

If your sexual performance anxiety is persistent after trying calming techniques and talking with your partner, you might consider talking to a therapist. Therapists often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help reframe certain behaviors. CBT has been proven effective with phobias, anxiety disorders, and stress. CBT practitioners can help you identify beliefs or thought patterns that are contributing to distress during intimacy. Then they can work with you to develop skills to alter the emotional responses to these stressful thought patterns.

In the case of performance anxiety, you might have a belief like “I can’t satisfy my partner, I bet they don’t even enjoy having sex with me”. A CBT practitioner would help identify that belief, challenge the thought, and help replace that belief with a new one.

#4 Try taking penetrative sex off the table

Take the pressure off yourself and try taking penetrative sex off the table. Try other means of intimate sex instead. This might elevate the pressure to “perform”. Focusing more so on the sensual part of sex could be a much-needed reprieve. If penetrative sex is off the table, try other ways of enjoying your partner. Try focusing on more sensual things like:

  • Mega make out kissing
  • Give each other massages
  • Cuddle on the couch
  • Dance with each other (yes, even if you’re a bad dancer)

This could help you, in the long run, to become more comfortable with your partner and yourself.

#5 Treat any underlying sexual dysfunction

Treating any underlying sexual conditions like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation might relieve you of some stress during sex. Getting these conditions treated and managed can help boost your confidence and enhance your sex life. Much of sexual performance anxiety stems from the fear of potential sexual dysfunction. If you think you might have an issue with erectile function, talk to your doctor about treatment options. You don’t need to suffer in silence and hope you can enjoy your next sexual encounter. If you do have an erectile condition, remember it’s a very treatable condition.

Key Takeaways

  • Sex is a mutual, collaborative experience. The pressure is not on one person to “perform”. Sex is not a one-man show.
  • Sexual performance anxiety is the leading psychological cause of erectile dysfunction.
  • Take the pressure off, and communicate with your partner.
  • Consider treating any underlying sexual conditions.
  • Consider mindfulness meditation and CBT therapy.

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Sexual performance anxiety can be a total mood killer.

If you find that you have tried to treat the psychological root cause of sexual performance anxiety and you still struggle with maintaining or achieving an erection - you might be dealing with erectile dysfunction. This is a very common and treatable condition.

That’s why Strut offers free online doctor’s visits with our licensed medical team. If our team finds you are a good match for erectile dysfunction treatment, the prescription can be quickly and discreetly delivered to your door -- so you can get your groove back.

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