It is perfectly natural to have occasional concerns about our sexual ability. However, when these thoughts start to prevail and negatively affect your sexual capabilities – it becomes performance anxiety.
In simple terms, performance anxiety can be described as the stress and worries felt, either before or during intercourse, to deliver a satisfactory experience. This can exhibit itself through a variety of symptoms, such as premature or delayed orgasm, and decreased libido.
Although the issue is surprisingly common, not much detailed research exists on the extent of the matter. However, what is known is that anxiety itself affects around 40 million adults in the United States alone.1
Furthermore, scientists have found that those people who suffer from general anxiety are more likely to experience more specific forms of it, such as performance anxiety.2
Body Reactions When Experiencing Performance Anxiety
Adrenaline redirects blood away from what it considers to be non-essential areas of the body (i.e., your penis) and pushes it towards the heart. Cortisol can narrow blood vessels, which again, lowers blood delivery to the non-essential areas.
These biological reactions can substantially contribute to the physical symptoms of performance anxiety. Some of the most common manifestations of sexual performance anxiety include:
- incapacity to attain or maintain an erection5
- premature or delayed ejaculation6
- loss of sexual desire7
- increased heart rate before and during sex
- decreased interest and enjoyment of intercourse
- feelings of sexual inadequacy
- worries that your penis is too small to please your partner.8
Causes of Performance Anxiety
Sexual performance anxiety can be set off by a number of reasons, but it is most commonly triggered by negative sex-related thoughts. These thoughts, in turn, can be caused by the following factors:
Negative Body Image
The more dissatisfied you are with your body image, the more likely the chance of suffering from performance anxiety and experiencing reduced sexual satisfaction as well as adverse thoughts related to sex.
A recent study indicates that these are the most common areas of male body concern:
- size of the genitals.9
In many circumstances, men may feel that they are not good-looking enough, or are not capable of sexually satisfying their partner.
Concerns about Pleasing the Partner
Research shows that on average, men climax 85.5 percent of the time during sex compared to only 61.6 percent for women.10
Despite this being a scientifically proven fact – men often feel down if their partner doesn’t achieve an orgasm during sex. Studies illustrate that men view it as their responsibility for their partner to reach climax.11
Thus, this can bring about further pressure on a man – concentrating too much on satisfying their partner rather than enjoying the sexual act itself.
Unrealistic Porn Movies
The main issue with porn consumption is that these movies are often idealized and can establish a sense of false or distorted expectations.
Typically, watching adult movies may generate sexual performance anxiety as these display:
- extended lovemaking sessions, often around 30 minutes, whereas statistics show that men usually last six minutes on average12
- women always achieving orgasms during intercourse
- numerous sexual positions which require being physically fit
- muscular and toned male bodies.
All of the above can contribute to men feeling incompetent in the bedroom and put pressure on them to perform to these somewhat false standards.
How to Deal with Sexual Performance Anxiety?
Depending on the specific cause of performance anxiety, there are many techniques and treatments available to alleviate its symptoms and enjoy a satisfying sex life.
Here are some of the most effective ones:
Sometimes your self-confidence just needs a little boost. Since sexual performance anxiety may create a negative loop of thoughts – it’s important to put a stop to this vicious cycle. Medications may help with that as they may help you perform even if you feel anxious.
For example, BlueChew is a very popular ED (erectile dysfunction) pill, which can also help when suffering from sexual performance anxiety.
Learn About Guided Imagery
This is a visualization technique to bring yourself into a less anxious state. Research shows that guided imagery is a proven method that helps alleviate anxiety in around 79 percent of people using this technique.13
The method is known to relax the body and clear your mind of thoughts – relieving stress and allowing you to commence sex in a more calm state of mind.
Concentrating on the feelings you experience during intercourse helps you overrule the worries you may feel before or during sex. This technique is effective at relieving stress in around 60 percent of cases, therefore, helping you cope with negative thoughts.14
During lovemaking, focus on the present moment and the sensations you feel. In doing so – not only are you distracting yourself from the anxiety – but you can also learn to control the timing of your orgasm more effectively.15
Not only does it help manage stress, but being more fit will definitely contribute toward improving your health and well-being in general.
Talk to a Professional
Recent research shows that sexual therapy is an effective solution to tackle sexual performance anxiety.18
Sexual therapists are thoroughly trained to identify the causes of performance anxiety, and recommend appropriate solutions.
Improve Your Diet
A balanced diet can prevent obesity, which, as already discussed, can induce negative self-image issues and contribute to experiencing anxiety.
Furthermore, some foods are proven to elevate libido and sexual desire – the most effective include:
- oysters – high in zinc which is a known testosterone booster19
- pistachio nuts – lower cholesterol level – a cause for erectile dysfunction21 22
- figs – high in magnesium23
Performance anxiety is not a chronic issue and only in rare cases, can be caused by an underlying medical condition. However, most often, it can be treated by addressing the concerns, worries and fears regarding intimacy.
Following the guidelines described in this article will soon help both you and your partner enjoy a fulfilling sex life.
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from psychology, to all sorts of disciplines such as science and news.