Many men are troubled by sexual performance anxiety. The good news is that there are solutions that can help you get your sex life back on track
Sexual performance anxiety is one of the most common sexual issues men deal with. Feeling pressure and stress because you want to impress your partner, or having concerns about your body image is completely normal.
When stress turns into anxiety though, a man can suffer from sexual dysfunction even if he is physically healthy. Performance anxiety usually leads to erectile dysfunction, but it can also lead to premature ejaculation. If you are concerned that you might be suffering from premature ejaculation, you can try our online premature ejaculation evaluation tool. You can learn how to treat premature ejaculation here.
The focus of this article is anxiety-induced erectile dysfunction. The good news is that there are things you can do to stop your sexual performance anxiety and get rid of erectile dysfunction.
What causes sexual performance anxiety?
Negative sex-related thoughts are usually the cause of sexual performance anxiety. In Western society, there are cultural and social pressures on men to perform well sexually. These pressures can lead to negative self-talk, fears, concerns, and bad thinking patterns.
Have you ever had the following thoughts?
- What if I can’t get or keep an erection?
- What if I can’t make her orgasm?
- What if I ejaculate too early?
- What if she doesn’t like my body?
- What if she thinks I’m too small?
- What if she tells others about her bad experience?
If these kinds of thoughts run through your head when you are about to have sex, you are on the path to experiencing sexual performance anxiety.
Why does anxiety affect sexual performance?
Well, as you have probably realized by now, anxiety and good sexual functioning don’t go hand in hand. However, it is important to understand that fear and anxiety are not the same thing.
Fear is a natural mechanism that is there to protect us from danger. When someone isn’t wise enough to avoid danger, his chances of survival go down.
Anxiety on the other hand, is an overwhelming sense of fear that is out of proportion to what should be normally felt in a situation. In our case—sex!
When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is acting like it is in a dangerous situation. Stress-related hormones are released, the heart beats rapidly, the muscles tense, and in some cases the penis blood supply is reduced, which can lead to a loss of erection or difficulty achieving an erection.
This is why finding a way to reduce the sex-related anxiety can help you get your erection back.
How can I know if my erectile dysfunction is stress-related?
Performance anxiety affects men differently. The most common effect is psychological erectile dysfunction. When the body becomes too stressed, it might be difficult to achieve or maintain an erection since the blood flow to the penis decreases.
To know if your erectile dysfunction is stress-related, ask yourself the following question: “Are you able to perform sexually when you are not stressed?” If you have a morning erection and are able to control your erection while masturbating, then your erectile dysfunction is probably stress-related.
It can happen to anyone!
It is commonly believed that up to 20% of all erectile dysfunction cases are psychological.
There is a common misconception that performance anxiety is a young men’s issue, but that is far from true. In fact, even elderly men can suffer from performance anxiety. The relationship status has no effect either. Men in relationships can develop performance anxiety years into the relationship.
Day-to-day stress can have an impact on your sexual performance, and after one or two bad experiences, you could fall into the sexual performance anxiety cycle.
The sexual performance anxiety cycle
Men often fall into the vicious “sexual performance anxiety cycle”. It is completely normal to not be able to achieve an erection once in a while. After all, we’re not machines and sexual performance can be influenced by many outer factors.
The question is: How do you deal with this first sexual failure? In many sexual anxiety cases, the man starts to become preoccupied by negative thoughts, which then lead to more failures, which then further increase his anxiety and soon the sexual performance anxiety cycle is created!
How can I overcome sexual performance anxiety?
When dealing with performance anxiety, the main objective is to find a way to reduce, or completely eliminate, the negative thoughts and fears that trigger your anxiety. Over the next few paragraphs, we cover two effective relaxation techniques that could help you overcome performance anxiety: Guided Imagery and Sensate Focus.
Guided imagery is a simple yet powerful technique that can help you eliminate your negative thinking patterns. During a guided imagery session, you listen to simple instructions given in a specific, descriptive language. The goal is to make you imagine a scenario that helps your body overcome your psychological and physical problems.
Guided imagery is based on the idea that the unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between something you really experience and something you only vividly imagine. By using this technique, we can speak directly to the unconscious mind.
During each guided imagery session, you visualize a successful sexual experience, learning how to stay hard and enjoy wonderful sex; knowing that your partner is also enjoying fantastic sex with you. So, your unconscious mind reacts as though this has really happened.
These imagined successful sexual experiences reinforce positive thinking. Guided imagery basically reprograms your mind to perceive sex as a non-stressful, positive experience. The more you practice it, the less likely you are to have problems during your next genuine sexual experience.
After the guided imagery sessions, your unconscious mind will think that you have now had many successful sexual experiences. As a result, it will automatically assume that future sexual experiences will also be successful. Your anxiety will reduce, and your ability to enjoy sex will increase too. It’s as simple as that.
Has guided imagery been proven to work?
Guided imagery is actually a well-known therapeutic technique. It has proven to be effective for dealing with anxiety, lower blood pressure, and can help with other stress-related issues.
Research conducted by Professor K. Kuruvilla in 1984 found that most men who are treated with sexual re-education and guided imagery succeeded in overcoming their psychological erectile dysfunction, and were able to achieve an erection whenever they wanted to.
Professor Kuruvilla was Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Christian Medical College, in Vellore, India. He conducted several research studies on this particular treatment. He noted that the long-term results of those who completed the treatment were especially encouraging.
Guided imagery was even proven to be effective for helping cancer patients. Research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in August 1982 concluded that guided imagery “may be an effective procedure for helping cancer patients cope with the adverse effects of their chemotherapy.” The research showed that patients who received guided imagery therapy:
- Reported feeling significantly less anxious and nauseated during chemotherapy;
- Showed significantly less physiological arousal and less anxiety and depression immediately after chemotherapy; and
- Reported significantly less severe and less protracted nausea at home following chemotherapy.
Where can I get guided imagery treatment?
There are a few ways you can get treatment. You can seek out professional help and schedule a session with a certified sex therapist. He or she would be able to guide you on how to perform these exercises and will write or record a guided imagery script for you to follow.
Another option is to write your own guided imagery script and record it yourself, although guided imagery is most effective when it is created in a professional way.
You can also try the Mental Impotence Healer program, which is a guided imagery program that was created specifically for sexual performance anxiety.
Sensate focus is a therapeutic technique that was developed by sex therapists William Masters and Virginia Johnson Masters in the 1960s. The goal of these exercises is to help couples overcome a variety of sexual problems, including sexual performance anxiety.
Sensate focus is all about touch. During the sensate focus exercises, the partners touch and caress each other and focus on their sensations without reaching an orgasm.
The goal is to make the couple feel comfortable with each other’s touch and to develop communication.
During the exercises, you will be completely stress free by eliminating the tension involved in sexual relations. You and your partner are not allowed to reach an orgasm; you do not need to have an erection; and your partner is not required to help you have an erection. In fact, touching the genitals and breasts is forbidden.
Usually after the exercise is over, the couple are instructed to sit down and talk about their experience. The important thing to remember is that this technique requires the full cooperation of both partners.
These exercises can sometimes be guided by a professional, but in most cases this is something any couple can learn to do at home. The sensate focus exercises are described in detail in Helen Singer Kaplan’s book
Other tips for overcoming sexual anxiety
Regardless of which treatment option you choose, there are a few helpful tips that are important to keep in mind. These could help you manage your performance anxiety before or after treatment:
- Communication – Anxiety often comes from a man’s desire to make a good impression on a new partner. Sometimes the best thing to do is to be honest about your anxiety. Sharing your concerns will defuse the stress, and your honesty can create openness between you two, and help building intimacy.
- This is not a race – A current theory suggests that the increase in sexual performance anxiety cases in recent years has been caused by unrealistic expectations developed from watching porn online. Sadly, many people admit that they received their “sexual education” and had their first introduction to sex from watching pornography. But sex is not a race! It is not a test! And it is not a performance! It is fun, genuine, and real. You are not expected to last an hour in bed, have sex in positions only Olympic gymnasts could perform, or make your partner have ten multiple orgasms. Remember, porn is a fantasy and fantasies are supposed to be unrealistic. Take some pressure off and just enjoy yourself.
- Defuse other stress sources – Stress of any kind has an impact on sexual performance. Try to initiate sex with a clear mind. If you can’t, it may be better to postpone until you are in a better frame of mind. Even if you can perform sexually, a lover who is preoccupied and not in the present, attentive, or in the moment is not a good lover.
- Take your time – Some men with performance anxiety have a single goal—get it up and get it in. When they lose or can’t have an erection, they try to arouse themselves by masturbating intensely, or if they still have an erection, they penetrate quickly. Reacting to stress in these ways can make things worse. As we already know, stress has a negative impact on sexual performance. When you have sex, take your time, invest in foreplay, and create intimacy: things might just sort themselves out.
Performance anxiety can be an embarrassing and frustrating issue to deal with, but an important thing to remember is that it can be treated. Unlike some physical sexual and medical issues, sexual performance anxiety resides in your head. This means that overcoming it is achievable with non-intrusive techniques and without the need for medication. Guided imagery programs (such as the mental impotence healer program) and sensate focus exercises could both help you leave your performance anxiety behind you sooner rather than later.