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    Sexual performance anxiety

    On this page
    1. What is performance anxiety?
    2. Causes of sexual performance anxiety
    3. Erectile dysfunction and mental health
    4. Sexual performance anxiety treatment
    5. Overcoming sexual performance anxiety

    Reviewed by our clinical team

    Man looking worried with thought bubbles around him

    Most men will experience erection problems at least once in their lifetime.

    And it’s not just men who suffer from sexual performance anxiety, women experience it too, making it difficult for them to enjoy sex. 

    To find out more, we surveyed* 500 people to find out how they are dealing with it. Almost a third (32%) of those surveyed admitted that they have experienced performance anxiety but have never spoken to anyone about it.

    And just 9% of those who have experienced sexual performance anxiety have discussed the issue with friends and family.

    Take some comfort in knowing that not only are these common concerns, they’re also very treatable problems. If your anxiety levels are overshadowing your amorous night in, take a deep breath and read on.

    What is performance anxiety?

    Sexual performance anxiety is feeling anxious or nervous about having sex. These feelings can get in the way of you having sex. 

    Sexual anxiety symptoms

    The main symptoms of sexual performance anxiety are feeling nervous or anxious about having sex. These feelings can cause:

    Causes of sexual performance anxiety

    Causes of sexual performance anxiety for men

    For men, sexual performance anxiety can come from a number of areas. It could be something as small as reading an article about modern day sexual practices and thinking you’re not doing it right, to changes in your body as you grow older.

    Society’s view of what constitutes a ‘good body’ changes from year to year, and as you get older you might start to worry that your body isn’t as great as it once was. People can worry about everything from their beer belly to whether their penis is big enough.

    Other causes of sexual performance anxiety for men include:

    • Alcohol, smoking, illegal drugs and some prescription medicines
    • Recovery from illness or surgery
    • Ageing
    • Stress and anxiety

    So, it’s worth bearing in mind if you know any of these might be an issue. In some circumstances, erectile problems can be the first symptom of other medical conditions, so it’s best to get checked out by your GP to establish whether there is an underlying cause.

    Of the men surveyed, 60% of them have experienced sexual performance anxiety at some point, with 31% never speaking about it with anyone.

    One fifth of men admitted that being intimate with a new person increases the chances of experiencing sexual performance anxiety when dating. A further 11% admitted that the chances increase after they have had alcohol, and 12% are more likely to experience sexual anxiety when they are stressed.

    Causes of sexual performance anxiety for women

    Women can feel just as anxious about sexual performance as men. This can be caused by any number of issues; from a lack of body confidence, to concerns about climaxing and performance.

    Of the women surveyed, half (50%) of them have experienced sexual performance anxiety at some point, with one third (33%) never speaking about it with anyone.

    For a woman, anxiety can cause tension and a reduction in lubrication, which, by nature makes it more physically difficult to have sex. Lubricants are a great option if dryness is an issue, and for some people can actually heighten the sexual experience. Anxiety may also affect a woman’s desire to make love and make it more difficult to achieve an orgasm. 

    Our research revealed that 7% of women are likely to experience sexual performance anxiety when dating, because they feel they haven’t been eating healthily and exercising less.

    There are also issues that can arise from problems in your relationship. Whether you’ve been with the same partner for years and are worried things are getting a bit stale, to someone starting out in a new relationship becoming stressed over whether they can please their new partner – relationships can be the cause, as well as the solution, to performance anxiety.

    Almost one fifth of women (19%) admitted that being intimate with a new person increases the chances of experiencing sexual performance anxiety when dating. A further 12% are more likely to experience it when they are stressed.

    Erectile dysfunction and mental health

    There is a link between mental health and ED – depression can cause the ED, and stress can worsen it too. If you’re going through a period of stress, you might be more likely to experience ED, which can make you even more stressed. Which potentially creates a negative cycle of performance anxiety. 

    Sexual performance anxiety treatment

    Erectile dysfunction treatments

    If you’re having problems getting an erection, medication for ED can be extremely effective from a physical perspective, but it can also help reduce the mental stress of performance anxiety. Some men find that simply having the option of “the little blue pill” in a drawer nearby is enough to help reduce their anxiety and enjoy a healthy sex life. If you think medication might be right for you, you can safely order treatments such as Viagra, Cialis, Spedra, Levitra, Tadalafil Daily and Sildenafil through our Online Doctor consultation.

    Premature ejaculation treatments

    Occasional episodes of PE, uncontrolled ejaculating either before or shortly after sexual penetration are common, are nothing to worry about. These can often be explained by circumstance; for example, if you have a new partner or haven’t had sex for a while.

    However, if you keep worrying that you can’t last as long as you should in the bedroom as most men have done at some stage, start by asking yourself whether you are simply comparing yourself to unrealistic expectations. Any time after 60 seconds is considered normal for ejaculation, and a study of 500 men found that the average time they lasted was 5 and a half minutes – perhaps shorter than you might expect.

    Medication (in the form of prescription tablets or an anaesthetic cream), can help you delay your climax, overcome sexual performance anxiety, and gain more control over your sex life. If you’re looking for something that you can use in the moment, there are condoms and creams that contain numbing agents that help to desensitise the penis. 

    Alternatively, you could try a tablet prescription medication called Priligy. This is a selective ‘serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)’ which has been specifically developed for the treatment of premature ejaculation. Priligy has been proven to be very effective in delaying ejaculation. Visit our PE Clinic for a free online consultation to learn more today.

    Overcoming sexual performance anxiety

    Men on average are more open with their experience of sexual performance anxiety than women, however, just 12% of men have discussed it with family and friends, in comparison to only 7% of women.

    The likelihood of speaking with a professional is even less likely for many with just 7% of men having spoken about sexual performance anxiety with a GP or specialist, which again drops to only 5% for women.

    There are a number of ways you could go about tackling sexual performance anxiety. We’ll take a look at a few here:

    Exercises to improve sexual performance anxiety

    Often, sexual performance anxiety stems from worries not about being able to do it, but about how you look while you’re doing it. As people get older they can get out of shape. The same applies for people who have had major surgery. 

    Improving your fitness can boost your confidence as you’ll be in a better physical shape. This matters because exercise pumps blood around the body, not only releasing endorphins, which improve your mood and reduce stress, but also making all your muscles perform better.

    If you haven’t done much exercise in a while, you should take it slowly at first, and speak to your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime.

    Talking

    Like therapy, talking your problems through with your partner often means that you take a big weight off your mind. A lot of your anxieties could well be unfounded when you start to talk them through. You may find that your partner is very understanding. It may be that you’re worrying about nothing at all and you’ll look back in a month or so and wonder what the problem was in the first place.

    You might be able to come up with solutions together. If you’re out of shape and worried about that, you could come up with a sexual routine that is less physically intensive, like side-by-side or extended foreplay. 

    Try something new

    If you’re worried that your sex life has become stale, trying something new in the bedroom is a great place to start. You don’t even need to have penetrative sex. Try extended foreplay, massages or a bit of role play. Take a risk. If you’re experiencing PE, maybe take things slow and avoid contact with your penis – focus on your partner for longer.

    Therapy

    Some people may also like to talk to a professional and have some sexual performance anxiety therapy. Whether it’s by yourself or as a couple, therapy can help you overcome your concerns and anxiety about your performance. Not only will a therapist help you relieve some of the burden by talking it through, they can also teach you techniques that can help with your performance. Therapy for erectile problems is something that can be accessed through some GPs or privately. 

    Realistic expectations

    With sexual advertising, sex scenes in mainstream TV and internet porn at your fingertips, you might start to develop an unrealistic view of what sex is, or should be.

    Concentrate on you

    In an internet age, there’s more and more pressure put on us all to look a certain way. It’s easy to look at an image in the media and feel inadequate, but it’s important to remember that these images are not ‘real’ and may have been photo-shopped. In reality, we all come in different shapes and sizes, and find different things attractive in a partner. Try to let go of your preconceived ideas and embrace your unique beauty. Talk to your partner about your insecurities – if they are someone you love and trust then they are likely to be understanding. You may even discover they like the bits you were worried about. 

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    *Methodology

    Onepulse conducted a survey on behalf of Lloyds Pharmacy Online Doctor and surveyed 500 male and female respondents in the UK between 01/02/23 and 03/02/23. They were then given five questions of multiple choice to describe their experience with sexual performance anxiety in relation to a number of different factors.

    References

    https://patient.info/mens-health/erectile-dysfunction-impotence
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ejaculation-problems/
    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress
    https://patient.info/mens-health/penis-problems/premature-ejaculation

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