Dealing with Sexual Performance Anxiety

Dealing with Sexual Performance Anxiety

When sexual performance anxiety is disrupting your sex life, is the problem physical, emotional or mental? Is is a combination of different things?

It’s hard to tell with sexual performance anxiety, because it’s usually a “chicken/egg” issue: the performance anxiety creates a snowball effect, in that the more you think about failing sexually, the harder time you have of performing sexually, or maintaining an erection.

It’s first advisable to consult your medical doctor with the problem first, because if there is a legitimate medical issue, they can diagnose the problem and work to create a solution for you. You may also need to consult a urologist if there are other issues, but please do this first to rule out any medical issues that may be problematic.

Having said that, many times the origin of the problem of lack of sexual performance lies in the mind and heart: emotions and thoughts often block our way towards good sex.

Sex, Anxiety, and Feeling Like a Failure

As far as a common concern that I hear when it comes to lack of sexual performance, fear of failure is one of the top ones. Men that I speak with tell me that they are afraid of not pleasing their partner sexually, or that they will not be able to have an erection when they need to. These guys spend so much time in their heads worrying about this outcome happening, that it actually does end up happening, in a self-fulfilling way.

Sometimes, the problem is as easy as diagnosing it; more often, it requires therapy to be able to dig in and unearth the problem from the roots. It could be that there are other issues, such as relationship codependency, people pleasing, issues with women and sex, negative or traumatic experiences around sex in adolescence or beyond, etc. There are plenty of things that could be driving the sexual performance issue, so it would be wise to consider that is may be more complicated that it looks.

As much as it’s helpful to be concerned with your partner’s sexual pleasure, also focus on your own. Communicate what you like sexually, and what you don’t. The more you focus on your own experience, the less you’ll fall into the trap of obsessing about pleasing your partner, and setting yourself up for failure. This doesn’t mean to exclude your partner and her wants; rather it’s balancing the two so that you don’t discount your own needs for the others’.

Sexual performance anxiety often points to fear, so diagnosing your fears, getting in touch with them, and dealing with them (therapy, better communication, journalling), can go a long way to work through them. What is repressed will stay that way, and grow, unless dealt with directly.

Dealing head first with our issues around sex and women may not be the quick fix, but it can help you work through and deal with surprise issues you didn’t know still existed, or inhibitions that therapy can help you conquer.

What Works Better? 

Communication will go a long way with your partner. If you’re clear about how to meet your partner’s sexual needs, and you both talk about it and exchange ideas, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding, as less room for assumption is created. You can try talking through your fears, of not being good enough, of not pleasing your partner, or of your feeling inadequate, with your partner if you feel the safety of your relationship.

Exercise and activities like yoga and mediation can also help training the brain and helping you become more centered in the “here and now,” so that your mind doesn’t wander into other places other than your sexual experience as it’s happening. You need to be fully present to experience all that sex has to offer, and to share the connection that sex brings with it.

Curbing your porn consumption could also help. When you watch porn, especially with regularity, your brain gets “flattened” to sex. Sex becomes an engagement of you and a digital screen, not exactly the fully-tactile and full-sensory experience of human sex. When you dull yourself to sex and dull your senses, you’re going to have a harder time exchanging sexually with your partner.

Real sex is not porn, so don’t confuse the two. I think porn deteriorates our ability to be sexual with another human being, and to be present to all of our insecurities, fears, hopes and apprehensions around sex that we don’t have to deal with if watching porn. Try taking a “porn fast,” and don’t watch or engage with porn for a week or two, and see how your senses can come back to you.

Anxiety around sexual performance is tricky, but hopefully some of these ideas will begin to allow you to consider certain pain points around sex and sexual intimacy for you, and your partner.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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