Performance Anxiety and How To Overcome It
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
Sex is fun, right? Except sometimes it can be stressful. You want things to flow in bed, but this may not always be the case. Overthinking is something that we’re all guilty of, even the little things, so when you start to worry about your performance and question yourself, there may be no performance at all.
Whether you think you’re not big enough, have doubts as to whether you’re able to last long enough, or if you think your partner isn’t enjoying it, sexual performance anxiety is something that can affect most males.
It’s natural to have doubts, but you shouldn’t let it define you.
Performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction
Feeling stressed and anxious about sex can cause problems for both men and women. For guys, one of the most likely results of sexual performance anxiety is erectile dysfunction (ED), which means that you can struggle to either get or maintain an erection.
You might want to have sex with your partner, but if your head isn’t in the right place, you can have problems getting and staying hard. If you’re too stressed, your body just won’t react the way you want it to. This can be embarrassing, and it can leave you feeling powerless.
Causes of performance anxiety
Having sex isn’t just a purely physical act, and sometimes your emotions can get in the way of having a good time. There are many worries that may run through your head if you are experiencing performance anxiety, including:
- Thinking that your penis isn’t big enough for your partner
- Worrying that you won’t be able to last as long as they want
- Fear that you don’t like to do the kind of things they do, or that you’re not good enough at them
- Poor body image, such as worrying that you’re overweight, not muscular enough, or generally that you don’t like how you look naked
- Fear that you’re not masculine or dominant enough for your partner
- More general worries and stress from your life, be it work, finances, or problems in your relationship
Do I have erectile dysfunction or performance anxiety?
The two are related. Sexual performance anxiety can cause erectile dysfunction if the anxiety is strong enough. But performance anxiety isn’t the only cause of ED. You might feel anxious about sex, but there could be another reason that’s causing it.
There are lots of possible causes of erectile dysfunction; some physical, some mental, and others related to lifestyle choices. Some causes are easily addressed, but others can be more serious.
You owe it to yourself to work out what’s causing any problems and what the solutions are.
How to overcome performance anxiety?
You’re probably asking yourself how to fix performance anxiety. A lot of the time it’s about getting your head right. Try some of the following:
Talk about it
As difficult as this might be, it can really help. Tell your partner how you’re feeling and what’s going on in your head. It doesn’t have to be embarrassing or emasculating. You don’t have to tell them you’re worried you’re not good enough, but frame it instead as being concerned about giving them as much pleasure as you can.
You might find your partner is just as anxious as you are and sharing your feelings may help you both relax and have better sex together.
Get your own expectations straight
You want to give your partner the best sex you can, we get it. But if you’ve had sex before and they’re back for more, remember, it means they like you and they want to do it again, so try not to worry.
If it’s going to be the first time with someone new, then remember that sex is like a conversation. It’s not just down to you, it takes two to have a good conversation, and the better you get to know the person, the better it usually goes. It’s the same with sex. The first time might be a little awkward, but that’s natural. It’ll get better with time.
Become a master of foreplay
Focus on your partner and think about how you can give them as much pleasure as possible. That means getting good with your hands and mouth. It can really take the pressure off.
If you get them screaming your name before you get down to sex, they’ll be a lot more relaxed about what happens after. If your partner is female, the reality is that a lot of women don’t orgasm from penetrative sex anyway, and if you make her climax before you’ve even entered her, she’ll likely be happy whatever else happens.
Exercise to reduce stress and control your thinking
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help to get control of your negative thoughts, so you can get rid of any anxiety before it gets a hold of you. Even small things like taking a hot shower before sex can destress and relax you.
If none of the above are helpful, you can talk to your doctor and ask to be referred to a therapist, who can help you learn to better manage your anxiety. You can also try finding a private therapist through the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy website.
Try erectile dysfunction treatments
Sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) is commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction and is generally safe to use in moderation. It works by relaxing the walls of blood vessels, inside the muscles of certain areas of the body, and has helped many men get their confidence back.
If you don’t have underlying medical problems, you shouldn’t see Viagra as a permanent solution to erectile dysfunction caused by performance anxiety. But it certainly can help as a temporary solution.
If you’re with a new partner, or it’s been a while, or you just feel you need to get your mojo back, Viagra can help to guarantee an erection and can take your mind off your anxiety. You need to make sure you don’t use Viagra as a crutch though. You still need to address the causes of your performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety might feel overwhelming at times. But it’s a common problem and one that you can work to resolve. You can soon get back to your old self.