For some of us, a carefree sex life is something we take for granted. When it comes to all things under the duvet, we don’t think twice about opening a pack of condoms, throwing one on, and getting down to business.
But for some, there can be a real anxiety when it comes to sex. Sure, we’ve all felt a little nervous about sex at some point in our lives, especially during our first time, but in some cases, it can be significantly worse to the point where anxiety is actively hampering sex.
If you want to know more, we’ve got you covered with our intro guide to sexual performance anxiety where we discuss the signs, symptoms and causes as well as possible treatments. Just remember, if you are concerned about anything regarding your sexual health, you should speak with a healthcare professional at the earliest opportunity.
What is sexual performance anxiety?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is sexual anxiety or sexual performance anxiety? Anxiety is typically defined as feelings of worry or general nervousness. Most of us have experienced anxiety at one point or another in our lives, however, it’s the severity of the feelings and how often they arise that can lead to anxiety impairing daily living.
Sexual performance anxiety is no different to other forms of anxiety, however, the trigger is sex. Symptoms can be triggered by the act of sex, general sexual activity, or even discussions of a sexual nature. A sufferer of sexual performance anxiety will often worry that they will not be able to perform sexually or that they will not be able to enjoy sex.
It’s important to note that sexual performance anxiety is not a phobia of sex, the actual phobia of sex is known as Erotophobia. Where someone with sexual performance anxiety may be nervous or anxious about having sex, someone with a sex phobia may not be able to face any sexual act at all. You can read more about erotophobia in our guide on the fear of sex.
What are the symptoms of sexual performance anxiety?
Everyone may experience a few nerves when it comes to sex, it’s completely natural. Butterflies in the stomach, a little nervous energy, maybe even a raised heartbeat; these are all signs that you are excited about what’s to come. The symptoms of performance anxiety, however, can be significantly more impactful. They can include the following but are not limited to:
- Difficulty becoming aroused
- Reluctance to engage in sexual activity
- Reduced sex drive
- Muscle tension
- Panic attacks
- Increased heart rate
In extreme cases for men, sexual performance anxiety may even cause long-term difficulty with achieving or maintaining an erection, which is known as erectile dysfunction. Head over to our overview of erectile dysfunction to learn more.
What are the causes of sexual performance anxiety?
Sexual performance anxiety can stem from a psychological cause however, these causes may not be obviously apparent to the sufferer. One cause in women may be a fear of being unable to achieve orgasm, whereas, for men, a cause may be the fear of not being able to achieve or maintain an erection.
Other causes of sexual performance anxiety in both men and women can include the following:
- Body image issues
- Negative sexual experiences in the past
- Fear of rejection
- Low confidence or worsening self-esteem
- Fear of not being able to perform sexually
How to overcome sexual performance anxiety
Treatments for sexual performance anxiety look at both treating the psychological cause of the problem, as well as managing the symptoms a sufferer may be experiencing because of the disorder. If you feel you are having issues with anxious feelings around sex, then you should visit you GP who will be able to advise on the best course of treatment. This could include the following:
Opening up to your partner
Your GP may suggest you have a sit down with your partner to discuss the issues you have been having. This could be in the form of a professional couples counselling session or something a little more informal.
It may be the case that you are currently single, or that you have had a discussion with your partner, and you do not feel your anxiety is improving. In this case, your medical health professional may recommend psychological counselling to get to the root of the problem.
It may be the case that therapy, as a more long-term solution, isn’t dealing with the symptoms of sexual performance anxiety that you are experiencing, and you are in need of more short-term relief. Your GP may prescribe medication to help alleviate symptoms in such instances.
As mentioned, if you are experiencing some anxiety around sex, this can be perfectly normal. But if you feel it is hampering your sex life or affecting other areas of your life then it’s important to seek the right help. Trust us when we say you are not alone