Sexual Performance Anxiety – are you worried about worries?

Sexual Performance Anxiety – are you worried about worries?

Sex is a very intimate and important thing between two people, it promotes emotional bonding and as well as physical pleasure. Sexual performance anxiety can be a very real thing, and you certainly aren’t alone in this. People assume that SPA will only affect you with a new person or very early on in the relationship when you’re trying to make a good impression. But it’s not so. SPA can affect those in long term, committed relationships as well. A lack of confidence in any situation is usually unpleasant, but you might feel the pressure a bit more in the bedroom. After all, you want your partner to have a good time and the feeling that you’re not doing that can affect someone mentally and prolong the problem. Once you’ve got into a vicious cycle with these things, it can be very hard to break it. Sex is meant to be enjoyable but worrying about your performance can ruin all the fun. Especially for guys who usually feel a lot of pressure about performing in bed. So, luckily, there are a few options for combating this problem.

Whether you’re the one suffering, or you’re trying to help your partner, there are few things about SPA that it might help to know.

Common causes of SPA (sexual performance anxiety)

It’s important to bear in mind that it’s not necessarily just a physical thing, it can also be a mental issue too. You may worry about:

  • Your body image. Whether you’re too fat, or too short or too skinny or you’re balding.
  • The fear that you won’t satisfy your partner.
  • That your penis isn’t big enough.
  • Any relationship problems going on.
  • Climaxing too early – or too late.
  • Not enjoying it.
  • Something else entirely.

SPA can often cause problems in getting and maintaining an erection, which is a very real fear for some men. It can be doubly confusing if you’re with someone who you find very attractive and that you definitely want to have sex with. Why won’t your body and your brain work alongside each other?

One reason might be that your body is releasing stress hormones as a direct result of this anxiety. Even if your partner is one that you’re very attracted to, having worries around sexually satisfying her, can prevent exactly that.

You might not realise this, but SPA can affect women too. If they’re nervous, or unsure, then a lack of natural lubrication can be an issue. The fact that lube can be used to eliminate this problem temporarily does make dealing with it slightly easier!

Why does erectile dysfunction happen?

Stress hormones cause the blood vessels to narrow significantly and you don’t need a medical degree to know that narrowed vessels equal a reduced flow of blood into the penis and therefore makes getting an erection harder, or might prevent it completely.

Overcoming sexual performance anxiety.

There are both physical and mental issues which can cause ED, so speaking to your GP about it is the first step. You don’t need to be embarrassed, they are the experts and they will have seen – and dealt with – this problem many times in the past. It’s simply routine for them. What is important is that you choose a GP who you are comfortable with and feel that you can be open with when you’re talking about very private things. Be prepared for some in-depth questions about your sex life and how long you’ve been experiencing these problems. Getting the right information across to the doctor is vital in finding and (hopefully) treating the cause.

The first things to be checked will be to see if there are any physical causes behind the ED, or whether it’s potentially being caused by any medications you might be taking. Once those causes have been ruled out, it’s time to look into your psyche for answers. Don’t feel that if it’s a mental thing you should be able to overcome it simply by changing your thought process, because it doesn’t work like that. Our brains are masters of deceit. Talking therapy might be recommended, but there are also things that you can try at home, such as being open with your partner about how you’re feeling and what’s happening.

What else can I do?

You could also try getting intimate in different ways, to take the pressure off and build back up to penetrative sex. Think along the lines of mutual masturbation, or any sexual contact that you’re going to be comfortable with.

Plus, we’ve mentioned above the need to be open and honest with your partner, and that’s crucial. But what you can also do is use the opportunity to explain that it isn’t them that’s the problem. It might be something that’s worrying them, or they might blame themselves for the situation, so a gentle reassurance that they aren’t causing the problem might come as a huge relief. No one wants to be paranoid in the bedroom.

But most of all, try not to let any SPA build up and up into a huge thing. You aren’t the only one suffering from it, there are potential solutions, there are people you can talk to and, ultimately, there are strategies you can try to stop this problem in its tracks. Just because you’re suffering now, doesn’t mean that you’ll be suffering forever.

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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