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couple suffering from sexual performance anxiety

Performance anxiety can feel like a formidable mountain that gets in the way of reaching our potential as men, but this is not exclusive to the male gender, and ultimately, it can affect both men and women when left uncontrolled. Some research shows 9% to 25% of men are affected by this type of performance anxiety, and 6% to 16% of women are affected by this condition. That’s why discussing this subject is so important and not allowing it to be swept under the bedsheets. Let’s look at ways you can work together as a couple to overcome PSA and strengthen your relationship!


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For many of us men, too much of our mental health identity is tied up in the concept of virality and our ability to perform whenever needed. Unfortunately, no matter how strong, how young, how masculine you are, and how much testosterone is pumping through your veins ... at some point in every man's life there will be an element of performance anxiety.

It's natural, but did you know it's a form of social anxiety, often triggered by worries about how others are evaluating us? That means there is probably no medical reason for your erectile dysfunction - it's just your mind, through imagery and sexual performance anxiety, being your own worst enemy. This blog post will provide practical strategies to understand and address performance anxiety in sex and erectile dysfunction, equipping you with tools like imagery and focus to overcome this common hurdle that couples face in bed.


Understanding Sexual Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is a type of fear that a person often experiences when they need to perform in front of others, which could range from presenting at work meetings to singing on stage or engaging in sexual activities. Sexual Performance Anxiety is different than erectile dysfunction - ED or premature ejaculation - PE ... though it can lead to those two results.

It is estimated that between 9% and 25% of men are affected by sexual performance anxiety (SPA), but women are not immune to this challenge. However, for them, the sexual dysfunction symptoms can be less obvious than in men, where the failure to maintain a firm erection is a pretty obvious indication that sexual performance anxiety may be impacting your sex life.

It is thought that an estimated 6-16% of women suffer from this also and symptoms in women range from inhibition of sexual arousal, inability to lubricate sufficiently, and difficulty in achieving orgasm. Unfortunately for women, many of these symptoms have been traditionally considered "normal," and many couples choose to simply ignore the symptoms, compensate by just using extra lube, or the woman chooses to accept painful or, at best, uncomfortable sex so that the man can get pleasure ... but leaving the woman unfulfilled sexually. 

Unfortunately for too many women, this can make sexual performance anxiety in females even more stressful and lead to a cycle of sexual dysfunction factors.

This is not the way that a positive sexual relationship should be, and it is why we encourage couples to work together to improve communication, discuss things more openly and try different things that might re-ignite that spark so that both parties can overcome anxiety like this and continue having a fulfilling relationship together.

Various factors, including sex, contribute to its development; these include harboring negative self-perceptions, experiencing past traumatic events related to performance, feeling overwhelming pressure from expectations set by oneself or others, certain physical health conditions, and environmental elements that may heighten stress levels.

Recognizing and addressing these root causes can support individuals in managing and eventually overcoming this form of sexual performance anxiety.

Causes: Negative Self-Talk, Previous Trauma, Perceived Pressure, Physical Health Conditions, Environmental Factors

There are many causes of sexual performance anxiety. Each one has a different effect on us. Some issues are due to sexual performance anxiety, others come from past hurts. Here are some of the main causes:

  • Negative self-talk, particularly about sexual performance anxiety, is what you tell yourself in your head. It can make you doubt yourself and stir up anxiety about your ability to perform.

  • Previous trauma can have a big impact too. If something bad happened before when you tried to perform, it can make you afraid to try again.

  • Perceived pressure from other people, particularly in terms of sexual performance anxiety, makes us feel that they expect too much from us. Examples could be social pressure or fear of failure at work.

  • Physical health problems such as chronic illness or pain can also cause performance anxiety in sex. Sexual performance anxiety makes it harder for you to do what you need to do, and this can make you feel stressed.

  • The place or situation where you are trying to perform is also important. A bad work environment or home situation can make it much more difficult for you, especially with sexual performance anxiety.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of performance anxiety can manifest in various forms. Physical signs of sexual performance anxiety may include a racing heart, dry mouth, or upset stomach. Emotional symptoms such as excessive worry, fear, or feeling overly self-conscious may present as sexual performance anxiety.

GenderSymptoms of Sexual Performance AnxietyAdvice & Tips to Overcome Symptoms
Male Sexual Performance Anxiety Factors Difficulty getting an erection, erectile dysfunction (ED) Communicate openly with your partner about your fears and concerns, including sexual performance anxiety.
  Premature ejaculation (PE) Consider seeking therapy or counseling to address underlying issues.
  Reduced sexual desire Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  Fear of underperforming Avoid excessive alcohol or drug use, as they can exacerbate anxiety.
  Concerns about body image or penis size or shape Educate yourself about sexuality and human anatomy to dispel myths and misconceptions.
  Fear of STDs or pregnancy Use protection and get regular check-ups to alleviate health-related anxieties.
Female Sexual Performance Anxiety Factors Difficulty becoming aroused Engage in extended foreplay and explore different types of stimulation.
  Pain during intercourse Use lubricants and communicate with your partner about comfortable positions.
  Fear of not reaching orgasm Focus on the journey rather than the destination; enjoy the sensations without pressure.
  Concerns about body image or appearance Practice self-love and acceptance; consider therapy to address body image issues.
  Fear of being judged or criticized Choose partners who are understanding and supportive.
  Anxiety about fertility or pregnancy Discuss family planning and contraception options with a healthcare provider.

Recognizing these signals is a crucial step toward managing this type of anxiety effectively.

Physical, Emotional, Cognitive, Behavioral

Signs and symptoms of performance anxiety come in many forms.

  • Physical clues may be a fast heartbeat, sweating, shaking, and not being able to breathe well.

  • The way you feel can also show signs of this problem. You might feel fear or worry. You might also feel nervous or doubt yourself.

  • How you think can tell you if you have performance anxiety too. You might think bad things about yourself. Or, you could believe things that are not true. Your thoughts might become twisted.

  • Last, your behavior could change because of this worry. You might start to avoid doing things that make you scared. It may be hard for you to focus on something else while dealing with these feelings of fear and tension.

The Connection Between Mindfulness and Sexual Performance

Mindfulness means being in the now. It helps to cut down fear and worry during sex. This makes for better sexual performance. Studies show that mindfulness boosts pleasure and builds trust between partners too.

The practice of mindfulness also leads to greater satisfaction in bed. You feel closer when you fully attend to each other's needs and wants. Mindfulness helps both men and women feel more at ease during sex, leading to a stronger bond.

Coping Strategies and Support

To support individuals dealing with performance anxiety, some effective coping strategies include practicing mindfulness, challenging any negative self-talk, preparing and rehearsing beforehand, setting realistic expectations for oneself, and seeking professional help when needed.

Practicing Mindfulness

To beat performance anxiety, try mindfulness. It's about staying in the moment and focusing on your current thoughts and feelings. This can help you understand your anxiety without letting it control you. You can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime, by doing simple things like deep breathing or focusing on one thing at a time. Meditation is another helpful tool that reduces stress and increases mental clarity, which is key in handling performance anxiety. It also helps control emotions, crucial for dealing with this issue.

Adding mindfulness and meditation to your daily routine can help manage performance anxiety, including Sexual Performance Anxiety (SPA). Remember, it's okay to seek help and use these tools to better your mental health and well-being.

Challenging Negative Self-Talk

To calm your worries, you must face them. This includes challenging negative self-talk. Often, we play hurtful words in our heads over and over again. We say things to ourselves that we would never tell another person.

These thoughts can twist the truth and cause stress. But there is a way to change this pattern of thinking. To start, notice when you are being hard on yourself. Look at what you're saying with care or as if a friend was speaking those words instead of you.

Then change those harsh words into kind ones - this is using affirmations! For example, swap "I can't do anything right" for "I make mistakes but I also learn from them". Doing so helps grow emotional wellbeing and resilience in tough situations that may arise during marriage life.

Preparing and Practicing

Getting ready before a big moment can help. You should always practice what you will do. This is true for both work and play. It makes your mind feel good and strong. For example, if you have to talk in front of people, try doing it first at home or with friends.

While the topic of masterbation elicits giggles among most men, the reality is that getting to know your body in this way is essential to overcoming Sexual Performance Anxiety. This is even more true for women since less than 20% of women orgasm regularly from vaginal sex alone. As such, learning what works to turn up the heat and achieve release can be communicated to their partners better if they know what it is themselves by experimenting with different techniques on their own in a private setting.

Over time, this practice lowers fear and worry. As you gain skill, the thing that used to scare you becomes fun instead! So preparing and practicing turns out to be self-care strategies too! We build our resilience when we are not afraid of what's next.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Realistic expectations can help deal with stress. Stress often comes from thinking we have to do things perfectly. But no one is perfect. It helps to know what you can do and aim for that.

Talking about it also helps a lot. Clear talks with your spouse are key. You both should know what the other expects in every situation, not just those tied to stress or anxiety issues.

Keep working on this talk over time, as needs and wants can change.

Learning new coping skills may be needed sometimes too. Stay open to trying different ways of doing things until you find what works best for you both.

Seeking Professional Help

You don't have to deal with the stress and fear alone. Ask for help when needed. Seeing a trained therapist or counselor can give you useful tools to fight performance anxiety. They know how to spot signs of anxiety disorders and guide you on better ways to handle them. One thing that is essentual to consider here is that it is possible to treat the physical symptoms such as premature ejaculation by using a delay spray for instance, or using a good sex lube to overcome female arousal issues - but these are not actual treatments for the underlying sexual performance anxiety.

Drugs To Treat Sexual Anxiety issues

There are many drugs such as viagra and cialis that can be prescribed to help overcome symptoms of SPA in both men as well as women. Similarly, anxiety medications that are used to show results with other types of social anxiety may work here as well.

Therapeutic Activities To Treat Sexual Performance anxiety

A sex therapist might prescribe a variety of therapeutic activities to treat sexual performance anxiety. These could include:

  1. Mindful Focus Exercises: These exercises can help individuals stay in the present moment during sexual activity, reducing anxiety by preventing them from focusing on past failures or future worries.

  2. Sensate Focus: This is a technique where couples are encouraged to touch each other without the goal of sexual arousal. This can help reduce pressure and anxiety associated with performance.

  3. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to performance anxiety.

  4. Relaxation Techniques: This could include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to help reduce overall stress and anxiety levels.

  5. Exposure Therapy: This involves gradually facing the source of the anxiety in a safe and controlled environment, which can be particularly helpful for those with severe anxiety.

  6. Communication Exercise: Encouraging open and honest communication about sexual desires and fears can help alleviate performance anxiety.

  7. Sex Education: Sometimes, lack of knowledge about sexual function can lead to anxiety. A therapist may provide education on the topic to dispel myths and misconceptions.

  8. Psychoeducation about Anxiety: Understanding how anxiety works and how it affects the body can help individuals manage their symptoms more effectively.

Remember, it's important to seek professional help and treatment options if you're dealing with sexual performance anxiety. A trained therapist can provide the necessary support and guidance to overcome this issue.

This offers great relief and helps in building strong coping skills. There are also support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions that prove very helpful too! It's an act of bravery to seek professional help, so don't shy away from it.

Breaking the Cycle of Performance Anxiety

We can break the performance anxiety cycle by employing relaxation techniquesguided imagery, and positive self-talk. Facing our fears head-on plays a crucial part in breaking this cycle.

Introducing lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and proper sleep patterns enhances our overall health and reduces anxiety levels. Finding activities that spark excitement and joy helps to distract from negative thoughts while providing mental relief.

It's important to recognize when professional help is needed for managing persistent performance anxiety accurately.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can break the cycle of performance anxiety. These methods calm your mind and body. They ease stress and make you feel good. Deep breathing is a useful method.

It helps lower your heart rate and relaxes your muscles. Visualization is another method to try out, where you use your mind to imagine peaceful images or scenes. Regular practice of these techniques helps manage anxiety better over time, leading to improved performance in different areas of life like work, home chores or marital duties - not just in the bedroom! Meditation also falls under relaxation techniques.

Doing this regularly can train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they pop up. Moreover, biofeedback uses machines that show information about things like skin temperature and muscle tension so that you can learn how chilling out looks for your unique body! So remember, regular use of these powerful tools might be just what's needed to keep performance anxiety at bay.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is like a vacation for your mind. It's a fun and simple way to relax. Picture yourself in a place where you feel happy and calm. Think about what you see, hear, taste, touch and smell there.

Your brain feels like it’s truly in that peaceful place.

This tool can beat performance anxiety too! You can use guided imagery to create positive images in your mind. This eases fear and stress during high-pressure times. With practice, the peace from your "happy place" spills over into real life situations.

You’ll start feeling more at ease when under pressure.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk can beat performance anxiety. It is a strong tool to change how you think about yourself. Think of it as an inside chat that boosts your mood and energy. It shapes your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs deep in your mind.

You train your mind to see the good side of things. This leads to less stress and better coping skills for tough times. So, start today! Speak kind words to yourself and notice the changes it brings.

Facing Fears

Facing fears is a key step in breaking the cycle of performance anxiety. Fear can trap us in a loop of worry and stress. For many, stage fright or fear of public speaking may be the root cause.

It's not about being brave all at once. You start small. First, identify your fears like social situations, panic attacks or self-esteem issues you might have as couples. Next, expose yourself to these fears in tiny steps so they get less scary with time.

A trusted coach or counselor can guide you during this journey towards mental strength and confidence.

Lifestyle Changes To Help Overcome Anxiety Factors

Making small changes to your day can help fight performance anxiety. Here are some simple ways married couples can make these changes:

  1. Start a daily workout plan. This can lower stress and boost your mood.

  2. Eat healthy foods. Good food gives you energy and helps your mind stay clear.

  3. Get enough sleep each night. It helps the body and mind recover from stress.

  4. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as they can add to anxiety levels.

  5. Practice good time management skills to avoid rush and stress.

  6. Find hobbies you both enjoy for fun and relaxation.

  7. Make time each day to relax and unwind, like reading or taking a bath.

  8. Spend quality time together without distractions.

  9. Try learning something new together to build self - confidence and reduce anxiety.

Lowering Stress Levels

Finally, the ability to lower stress has been shown repeatedly to help improve sexual performance even in healthy men and women without any anxiety issues to overcome. This is in large part because they feel a greater sense of confidence but also because of steroid hormones like cortisol that can be released when your body is under stress - this can lead to weight gain, acne, and fatigue among other factors.

So, in simpler terms, when you're less stressed out, not only do you feel more confident, but your body also produces fewer hormones that can make you gain weight or feel tired, which can help boost your performance in the bedroom.

Working With Your Partner To Overcome SPA By Listening To Them

The best sexual experiences always come from those moments where sexual partners listen to each other and focus on pleasureable sensations provided by the other person. For those with worrying thoughts and distracting background noise in their head - this can understandably be more challenging.

However, by taking control of your sex life and focusing on your sexual partner’s needs, some elements of sexual performance anxiety can begin to fade away over time.

Anxiety is tough but we can fight it. We have many tools to win. Doing them often makes us strong and confident. Don't be scared, help is always there for you.

Written by:
Pro-BloggerExpert BloggerThought Leader

With more than 20 years in corporate marketing, including serving as Social Media Director for e-commerce brands such as ProFlowers and Shari's Berries where his focus was on engaging with customers looking to maintain strong relationships, passionate romances, and celebrate special occasions. 

After leaving the corporate world, James launched a series of websites promoting men's lifestyle and travel topics. He knew though that there was something missing ...

As a happily married man who loves to travel with his wife and share incredible experiences with those around them, he realized that there needed to be something else in their portfolio of websites.