When you think of performance anxiety, you probably think of standing on a stage or giving a speech. But performance anxiety can show up in the bedroom as well. Sexual performance anxiety can interfere with your ability to have a close, intimate relationship and zap your confidence. Both women and men can have sexual performance anxiety.
When you worry about your performance sexually, you are usually worried that the other person won’t find you acceptable or sexy. You might worry that your relationship will end. Some of things people worry about are:
Is my body sexy? Does he think I am too fat (or skinny)?
Are my breasts too flat? Too big? Too floppy?
Will I have an orgasm? What will he think if I don’t have an orgasm?
Will I get an erection? Will I be able to hold the erection?
Will I look like a fool putting the condom on?
Will I come too soon?
Will she think my penis is too small?
What if I look like a fool?
What if the sex isn’t any good?
Will he think I am good in bed? Will he think I am a terrrible lover?
What if he (or she) has an STD?
What if I (or she) gets pregnant?
What am I doing? Should I be doing this?
Sexual performance anxiety is a type of social anxiety. It occurs when you focus on what the other person will think of you. Your performance anxiety really doesn’t have anything to do with your performance - it has to do with worrying about the other person’s reaction. If you are worried about the sexual encounter, chances are you aren’t focused on it and therefore it might not turn out as well as you would like. Unfortunately, this only increases your anxiety the next time until eventually, you might decide to avoid it all together.
The following are some tips to help relieve sexual performance anxiety:
Focus on the moment. Sex can be a wonderful way for two people to connect - physically and emotionally. But, you both have to present in the moment for that to happen. Focus on the person you are with rather than guessing what he or she is thinking.
Accept that sex doesn’t need to be graded. Sex is individual for each couple. It is what makes you and your partner feel good. It isn’t about how well it measures up to your friend’s sex life or even your past experiences. Sex doesn’t need to be graded, it just needs to be enjoyed.
Clear your mind of other worries. If you are worried about your job, finances or other things going on in your life, this is going to increase your anxiety. You might be focusing on everything that can go bad in your life and including this moment in the list. Spend time relaxing and clearing your mind of your other concerns, at least for the time being. If you can’t, tonight might not be the best time for sex.
Recondition your response. If you have been dealing with sexual anxiety for awhile, you probably become anxious at just the thought of a sexual encounter. Take time each day to think about enjoying sex. You don’t want to focus on the act of sex, but your emotional response to it. Think about enjoying the anticipation of making love and picture yourself relaxed.
Allow yourself to not want sex. It is okay if there are times you aren’t in the mood. Sexual anxiety can sometimes occur because you feel pressured to have sex when your partner wants it, even if you don’t. Give the same respect to your partner and accept there may be times you want sex and he or she doesn’t. Letting go of the pressure of needing to perform might relieve the anxiety.
For men - If you are physically having a problem with sex, it might be time to talk to your doctor. While sometimes erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological factors, such as high levels of stress in other parts of your life, it can also signal underlying physical illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. Make an appointment with your doctor for a complete check-up to make sure there aren’t any illnesses contributing to erectile dysfunction.
For women - If you are experiencing pain or bleeding during sex, it might be time to talk with your doctor. Having physical discomfort during sex can increase your anxiety levels.
If you continue to suffer from sexual performance anxiety, consider working with a therapist to find ways to relieve stress and manage anxiety.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.