It is common for people to occasionally have a “mishap” during their sexual intercourse, without any physical cause that can account for it.
However, the extreme pressure that we can project on how we should perform in bed generates, especially in situations such as the one indicated, very difficult feelings that are labeled under the general epigraph of sexual performance anxiety .
In this article we will describe what exactly this health problem is, why it usually occurs and what are some of the most appropriate strategies to deal with it.
- Related article: ” Types of Anxiety Disorders and their characteristics“
Anxiety for sexual performance
Anxiety about sexual performance is usually the result of an extreme imposition for performance in this area. While it is true that it is normal to feel slightly anxious about the imminence of a meeting of this type (especially when a new person is being met), the concern in this case is much greater than expected and extends to condition physiological processes on which sexuality depends .
Thus, it is common for those who suffer for too long to end up complaining of erectile difficulties or an orgasm too fast, short or subtle.
A very significant percentage of people with sexual performance anxiety apprehensively live up to expectations of having an intimate encounter with their partner , or doubt their ability to provide pleasure. Everything is accentuated when in the past there have been situations of “blockade” that could not be solved with success, and that forged the doubts that now grip sexuality. In this emotional house of cards, the last card to fall is self-esteem and desire, which can be obscured by guilt and insecurity.
One of the most common causes for anxiety about sexual performance emerges is the creation of false expectations about what sex should be , often as a result of integrating an idealized image of how events are to unfold during the development of it. . The negative vision of the body can also contribute in a very important way (belief that the penis is too small, that the silhouette is at some point unpleasant or that the chest lacks aesthetic beauty).
All this generates an anxious anticipation of the experience, which can be extended for many days before the scheduled time to happen. It is also enormously common for unpleasant thoughts to arise at the same moment in which it is happening (“I am not able to do this”, “I am making a fool of myself”, “I hope it is not being fixed in this or that part of my body” , “I have to do it with more intensity”, “is not enjoying at all”, etc.), which divert attention from one’s sensations and interfere with the sexual response (prevent or accelerate orgasm, alter erection or lubrication, etc.).
Also stressors in other areas (such as work, studies, etc.) can increase anxiety about sexual performance, being an assumption that requires learning specific forms of relaxation. In those cases where the problem remains, it can be very important to consult with a specialist in this area of knowledge to find concrete solutions.
- You may be interested: ” Sex therapy: what it is and what its benefits are“
What I can do?
Below are several useful keys to mediate this anxiety problem if it occurs . They are aimed both at strengthening the bond with the couple and at developing more concrete strategies to minimize their intensity and impact.
1. Communicate with your partner
Sexuality is an extraordinary form of communication, in which more than mere words are involved. The caresses, kisses and hugs that are part of the contact with the other person are very important; since they facilitate the central production of oxytocin, a hormone linked to positive emotions (such as joy) and that helps strengthen the bond. It is crucial to understand sex, then, as a dialogue in which bodies take the floor.
Sculpting a solid trust with the couple is key, because during sexual intercourse we allow their access to bordering body areas with our last frontier: the skin. Every human being has an invisible security space around him, which can only be crossed by those with whom he feels completely safe. In fact, if there is an unresolved conflict between two people, it is very likely that the friction generates a rejection that interferes with the desire itself; This being a cause that can contribute to sexual performance anxiety.
2. Orient yourself to the most subtle aspects of sexuality
It is quite common that people suffering from sexual performance anxiety are particularly oriented to reach orgasm during their relationships, ignoring the process of interaction that eventually leads to it, where desire unfolds at its best. This perspective makes sex a mechanical and boring activity, which restricts pleasure to just a few seconds, which mediates between the beginning and the end of the orgasm itself.
A useful recommendation for those who suffer from this problem is to seek sexual relations in which a particular emphasis is placed on the subtle aspects , including the preliminary and the simple skin-to-skin contact. It can be interesting, in fact, to hold meetings in which penetration is not contemplated, and in which the different senses are consciously stimulated (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch). This eroticization enhances desire and softens the rigidity with which a sexuality oriented only to the climax is perceived.
3. Do not take it as an obligation
The most destructive thing that can happen regarding sexuality is the acceptance of it as an obligation “with which you simply have to comply.” This is one of the most frequent causes of sexual performance anxiety, especially in cases where the problem has lasted so long that the desire has been seriously injured. Thus, the anticipation of an encounter with the couple becomes a cause for intense concern , being an act completely denatured and oblivious to the real will.
The fact of assuming sex as a task to satisfy is usually the result of not revealing the feelings to our partner, for fear of disappointing her or for the conviction that the situation could degenerate into some major conflict. But the truth is that the fiction that we must put on to pretend desire is a heavy burden for emotional life, and not at all fair with our needs. Talking about it can provide a suitable scenario to find solutions as a couple, and at the same time explore new dimensions of shared sexuality.
4. Break the routine
The routine is, for many aspects of life, a real slab. The time devoted to it feels like purposeless, the necessary but tedious interlude with which we must live. There is ample evidence that when our life goes by too monotonously, it is perceived, by looking back, as excessively brief. And in that case the brain lacks emotional anchors with which to define the experience , sending it to the “spam” tray of our emotional memory.
The same goes for sexuality. When the couple assumes rigid customs in their day to day, including what happens in bed and other spaces reserved for privacy, it ends up becoming a stimulus that does not generate satisfaction or stimulate desire .
People who suffer from anxiety about sexual performance may feel tempted to impose an irreducible regularity on couple moments, seeking control and artificially reducing the likelihood of unforeseen events. This attitude imposes a false sense of security, because it is the motivation that pays a non-assumable bill in the medium and long term.
5. It downplays the small setbacks
We are not perfect machines. It is very normal that, at some point in life, we have a sexual encounter in which things do not happen in the way we had planned.
It is likely that for various reasons (being tired, stressed, sleepy, etc.) we will not be able to perform as desired, but it is a predictable result in the context of the variety of physical and emotional states that can condition sexual performance in non-pathological conditions .
Sometimes, however, a negative experience (especially when it has coincided with the criticism or ridicule of the partner) can profoundly and lastingly alter our feeling of security and sexual self-efficacy. The self-fulfilling prophecy would occur in this case : the anxious expectation that the same incident could be repeated again in the future would provoke a series of behaviors and thoughts that would effectively favor its recidivism.
In this case, therefore, the most important thing is to assume with full naturalness that which is certainly normal: things are not always as we would like them to be, and “imperfection” is also a part of the sex game.
- You may be interested: ” Self-fulfilling prophecies, or how to make a failure yourself“
6. Do not consume alcohol
People who try to mend their feeling of anxiety (in the expectation of having a sexual relationship) by drinking alcohol and using it as a social lubricant are not uncommon. And it is that this substance inhibits the activity of the prefrontal cortex, which immerses us in a state of deceptive euphoria (it is really depressing an important region of our brain). This strategy is used because it allows the laxity of worries and insecurities , although at a very expensive price.
Alcohol decreases the blood supply to the cavernous vessels of the penis, two columns of tissue that enable erection, and reduces local sensitivity (which delays the arrival of orgasm to the detriment of the pleasure experience that is achieved). This last effect is also reproduced in women, who also experience a reduction in vaginal lubrication (due to ethyl dehydration), which can precipitate painful sensations and end up increasing the problem of basic anxiety.
7. Find your own way to communicate in bed
Especially in the case of the first sexual encounters, a large part of what is known about sex comes from sources that distort what this really is . For example, bodies (own and others), or the attitude towards sex, are expected to be an unassuming perfection.
But what really happens is different, because the bodies are far from what has been seen in movies or other media and the performance is not of the intensity that was expected, which implies a feeling of frustration and the raising of some doubts about The ability to please.
Finding our way of communicating is essential, and for that we must first get rid of unrealistic expectations about sex and physical appearances, accepting who we are and seeking to feel safe with sexuality. The above is particularly important in cases of anxiety about sexual performance of young people , such as adolescents who enter into their first interactions of this type.
8. Sex starts beyond the sheets
A proven fact is that sex does not work as an independent element from the rest of the everyday things that develop in common life .
Thus, a relationship is based on passion (intense desire for union with the other), intimacy (ability to generate a shared universe in which the “we” represents) and commitment (fidelity and willingness to project the relationship to the future); all of them being relevant for a higher quality sex. That is, there is an association between bond strength and sexual intimacy.
It is key to bear in mind that sex is not limited to two naked bodies inside a bed , but is cultivated throughout the days in everyday situations; in broad daylight, with or without clothes. And it is that it is the small acts of complicity that end up building enough confidence to move it inside the sheets. It is therefore important to be with a person who not only enchants us physically, but can also contribute something deeper to our lives.
9. Learn to enjoy your own pleasure
Some people may sin from excessive altruism in their sexual relationships. When they are with their partner, they exclusively seek her pleasure, ignoring their needs. The truth is that this unbalanced focus on what the other may be feeling deviates us completely from the sensations that occur in our own corporality, and even becomes counterproductive for both parties.
Many studies indicate that this phenomenon is common among those who suffer from anxiety about sexual performance. It is therefore necessary the right dose of “selfishness” inside the bed, the search for what our body can contribute by exploring some of its most intense and gratifying sensations, in a deliberate and free from prejudice. In short, get rid of the limiting desire to impress and simply enjoy that moment. Only then will you both have a good time.
10. Use a sense of humor and empathy
The sense of humor is a powerful strategy to cope with anxiety in all its possible forms, including sexual.
As noted above, all people are likely to be surprised by an unexpected event while having sex (orgasm comes too soon, erection / lubrication is not as ‘good’ as expected, etc.), and it is precisely at that time when this strategy can make a difference.
Falling into dramatism in the face of such a natural event only brings dark expectations that can contribute to its recurrence in successive opportunities.
When it is our partner who feels embarrassed by an unforeseen such as this, it is essential to make use of our empathy and provide all the understanding you may need. It is common that people who live this situation from “the other side” feel offended by what happened, leaving insecurities on the mattress canvas, which end up working a feeling of guilt that extends beyond what we can sometimes imagine .