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Performance Anxiety Affecting Your Sex Life? These Expert Tips Can Help

By: Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain

Last Updated: December 17, 2021, 12:59 IST

Sometimes, anxiety disorder runs in the family.  Representational photo: Shutterstock

Sometimes, anxiety disorder runs in the family. Representational photo: Shutterstock

Sexual performance anxiety is sometimes confused with erectile dysfunction, but they are two different conditions.

Let's Talk Sex

Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.

To address the widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’, every Friday. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.

The column is being written by Sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr Jain explains sexual performance anxiety and how to cope with it.

Feeling anxious before sex is normal. However, if you are feeling so nervous that you cannot have sex or enjoy sex, you could be suffering from sexual performance anxiety (SPA). Sexual performance anxiety involves a fear or worry related to sexual activity. This can happen during sex, or even before sex.

Sexual performance anxiety is sometimes confused with erectile dysfunction. While sexual performance anxiety can sometimes lead to erectile dysfunction, but they are two different conditions. Erectile dysfunction is the physical inability to get or keep an erection. Sexual performance anxiety is sexual worry or fear of not being able to satisfy a partner, get or keep an erection, or could involve other factors.


Sexual Performance Anxiety Symptoms

Symptoms of sexual performance anxiety can be both physical and psychological. These symptoms can range in severity and may be frequent or could occur occasionally. Men and women can both experience sexual performance anxiety, but some symptoms may be different. These may include:

* Negative thoughts before or during sex

* Worry or fear before or during sex

* Inability to climax or orgasm during sex

* Premature ejaculation (men)

* Delayed ejaculation (men)

* Erectile dysfunction (men)

* Vaginal dryness (women)

* Difficulty getting aroused (women)

* Pain during sex (women)

* Low libido

* Increased heart rate

* Sweating and unsettled stomach

Causes of Sexual Performance Anxiety

Your body goes through specific changes when you are anxious that, in turn, could affect your sexual performance. When you are anxious, you typically experience an increase in hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol. Sexual performance anxiety (SPA) has no single cause. It’s typically caused by a range of biological and psychological factors such as:

1. Having body image and self-esteem issues: People who are overly concerned about their height, weight or appearance of particular body parts might experience SPA when they engage in sexual activities.

2. Feeling emotionally disconnected from your partner: Sometimes SPA can be caused by emotional issues you might be going through with your partner.

3. Dealing with mental health conditions: Depression and generalised anxiety disorder may contribute to SPA.

4. Lack of sexual experience: People who have less sexual experience might feel some performance anxiety when they start having sex.

5. Feeling stressed: Stress affects all aspects of our lives, including sex lives. Sometimes SPA could get triggered because you are stressed at work.

6. Previous negative sexual experiences: Having had negative sexual experiences in the past, either with your current partner or a former partner, can lead to SPA.

7. Overconsuming pornographic content: This can sometimes give you a false perception of what sex should look and feel like. Research has linked porn to the development of sexual dysfunction.

How to Cope with Sexual Performance Anxiety?

The first step in coping with sexual performance anxiety is removing any shame you might be feeling about not having an optimal sex life. In some instances, sexual performance anxiety goes away with time, especially in situations caused by having a new sexual partner or where a relationship issue with your partner has been resolved.

Here are some other tips that can help you overcome sexual performance anxiety:

Meditate: Meditation is often recommended for coping with any form of performance anxiety.

Masturbate: Spend some time with yourself to get a better understanding of your own needs.

Get out of your head: When you are having sex, try to spend more time enjoying its motions instead of worrying about what could be going wrong.

Accept that sex isn’t always perfect: There’ll be some days when you might not just feel up to it. This most likely has nothing to do with your physical ability.

Slow down and take your time: Sometimes, you might not have spent enough time engaging in foreplay with your partner.

Eliminate stress: One of the causes of sexual performance anxiety is stress over other factors in your life like finances or work. Managing stress with meditation, exercise and regular sleep can help.

Consult sexologist: Consulting a sexologist may help you discover the root of your sexual performance anxiety.

Sexual performance anxiety can be challenging both mentally and socially, and can negatively impact romantic relationships. However, with a variety of medicinal and psychotherapy treatment options, plus coping techniques, you can overcome this condition.

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first published:December 17, 2021, 12:59 IST
last updated:December 17, 2021, 12:59 IST