Find Sex Stressful? How to Get Over Your Performance Anxiety

A couple sitting on a bed, engrossed in conversation and sharing a moment of togetherness.

We all know and understand that sexual health is important, but this is easier said than done for some of us. Having sexual issues is one of the hardest things to deal with. It is an area that often holds a stigma and we may be embarrassed to talk about it. And let’s face it – if we are embarrassed to talk about it amongst our closest friends, there is little chance of many of us seeking professional help, should we feel the need. But here’s the thing, sex anxiety is a lot more common than you might think. This is an issue that can affect both men and women, and it can really make something great seem like a mountain to overcome.

Does sex relieve stress? Yes, an orgasm can absolutely relieve stress and even reduce blood pressure. But if you are undergoing a particularly stressful time in your life or relationship, it can actually end up being a source of your stress. One of the things most people who deal with these issues need to hear is that they are not alone. And you absolutely are not! A lot of people deal with these issues and there are a variety of ways that you can address these. Doing so can greatly improve your sex life, as well as reduce the overall amount of stress you feel in your daily life.

Understand the issue

A woman sitting on a chair, looking distressed with her hands placed on her head in frustration.

There are a lot of times when stress is a natural and even healthy reaction to potentially harmful situations. Let’s look at the science: it is an emotion that we developed through evolution to help keep us safe from predators and aware of potential dangers. However, for many people, anxiety goes beyond this helpful safety mechanism and becomes a serious issue. Anxiety can affect many areas of our life. And does sex help with anxiety? Absolutely. But for some, there is a specific anxiety that plagues them and can do the opposite. This is performance anxiety, specifically as it relates to sex.

While we might often associate this issue with men, it is actually something that both men and women deal with. It can be thought of as being overly conscious of potential sexual failures or shortcomings. This can include things like constantly worrying that your partner isn’t satisfied or wondering how you really stack up in their mind. While to some extent these emotions are natural, they can become a real problem, especially for people in relationships. The thing about anxiety is that it can have actual physiological effects.

These effects can include an inability to get aroused. It can also make it difficult for men to keep an erection and for both men and women to achieve orgasm. It is easy to see why these things would cause one a bit of personal stress. And then there is the issue of the other person being involved. Since sex can be such a personal and charged topic, bringing these issues up at all can seem terrifying. But the thing is, once you start to recognize the signs that you are dealing with sex anxiety, opening up is actually one of the best ways to address the problem.

So what causes this?

A man looking frustrated with his head and hand on a wall outside

Well, the frustrating answer is that a lot of things can cause this. Perhaps you are dealing with an overly stressful period in your life that doesn’t have anything directly to do with your relationship. Say you are stressed from work. Or, if you are having issues in your relationship, this can be the kernel that leads to the development of sexual anxiety. Often, for a variety of issues, someone will feel as if they underperformed sexually and then become nervous that this is going to become a problem again in the future. It is easy to see how this could start to cause a bit of a mental spiral.

Be open with your partner

A couple enjoying each other's company on a cozy couch in their living room at home.

Rather than internalize your issues or feel as if you are lacking in some way, it might be more helpful to look at performance anxiety as a means to open up better lines of communication with your partner. Talking about relationships is hard and often fraught, so talking about sex seems almost taboo, but this is the wrong way to look at it. Real love and relationships are messy and they take work. Things are not always great and sometimes we will have real problems that we will have to address. But this is part and parcel of life and personal growth. We have to do this both within ourselves and within our relationships as well.

Talking to your partner in an open, compassionate, and honest way is a great way to deal with sex anxiety. For some people, they will find out that their concerns are unjustified and that their partner is not unsatisfied with them. In other cases, we may learn that there is still much left to learn about how to please our partners. Whatever the situation, we can rectify it without the relationship imploding, but it will take some uncomfortable, but ultimately helpful, conversations.

Try mindfulness techniques

A couple practicing yoga in their living room, focusing on their poses and finding inner peace.

One of the best ways to overcome any type of performance anxiety is to practice mindfulness techniques. These are techniques that require us to focus on something as simple as our breathing. By doing this, we help to slow our minds down. And this can have a literal physical effect as well. Research shows that relaxation and mindfulness techniques can reduce our heart rates and lower our blood pressure. For people who are dealing with sexual anxiety, these techniques can really help you as well.

By paying close attention to the sensations you feel and what is going on directly in your line of sight and feeling, you can take your mind off your perceived issues or shortcomings. There are a lot of people who find mindfulness techniques incredibly helpful in many areas of their life. Breathing exercises and visualization exercises are a great way to get your brain out of an anxiety loop that threatens to ruin whatever it is that you are trying to do. You can find information about these techniques online and there is plenty of literature, videos, and other media that can help guide you on your mindfulness journey.

Reduce overall life stress

A woman at a desk, hands raised in an "ok" sign.

Life, in general, can be pretty stressful and overwhelming at times. Try as we might, we cannot help but bring at least some of that home with us. And it can start to affect us at home as well. Too much stress can have many negative effects such as fatigue, health issues, and, of course, issues with sexual health and wellness as well. So often our lives are moving so fast that we don’t give ourselves the time to look at our lives and see how out of control they may have become. But if you find that you are dealing with a lot of sex-related stress, you might want to take a step back and take a look at your life.

No matter how many obligations we feel we have, at some point, we have to put our health first. This means finding ways to reduce the amount of stress we deal with in our daily lives. Perhaps we have a stressful commute to work or a job we hate. Over time, this stress can bleed into areas we least expect it. When you find yourself at this crossroads, try to look at it as an opportunity to make positive changes in your life. Reducing your overall stress and the number of obligations you face will help reduce stress in all areas of your life.

Therapy can help

A woman engaged in conversation with a man sitting on a couch.

For some, anxiety not only impacts daily life, it cripples it. No amount of mindfulness or communication with your partner does the trick. That doesn’t mean that there is no help for you, it just means you might want to look for a professional to give you some advice. Plus, there are numerous types of therapy, we are not just referring to talking therapy here! There are multiple avenues you can look at to find what works for you. However for many people, talking therapy works really well. It gives us a safe and objective space to voice our concerns, potential problems and fears. And for a lot of us, this is what is needed to start to reverse the process.

But other kinds of treatment can be helpful too. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven quite successful for people dealing with various kinds of anxiety. CBT includes behavioral or visualization techniques that you can use when you find yourself becoming anxious.

And though it is rare, there are cases where some people may need to obtain pharmacological treatments for this issue. The main point is that there is help out there. Sex can help reduce anxiety and we hate that for some people, it actually causes it. The methods we discuss here are some of the ways you might look to address the problem of sexual performance anxiety if you are dealing with it. We hope that you know you are not alone and that there are ways you can reduce or even eliminate this stress in your life.

Disclaimer: #Dating’s blog posts are for you to view at your discretion, and the sexual health insights presented are for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and readers should seek professional guidance if appropriate.

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