Overcoming Sexual Performance Anxiety

Sex is an integral part of a man’s life, especially if they are in a committed relationship. Unfortunately, having sex isn’t always the enjoyable experience it should be. Things can go wrong, and a bad experience in bed can lead to anxiety.

This type of anxiety, known as sexual performance anxiety, is not unique to men. However, it occurs more often in men because they often think they should be “in charge” in the bedroom. In fact, many men judge their success in life through their sex life!

However, when men feel anxious before or during sex, they can have performance issues, such as maintaining an erection or premature ejaculation.

It’s prevalent for a man to experience sexual problems once in a while, but if these issues occur often, anxiety will increase, and the cycle of poor sex will continue. Therefore, it’s imperative to stop performance anxiety before it takes over a man’s sex life. Here’s how to overcome sexual performance anxiety.

What is Performance Anxiety?

Performance anxiety is when a person feels anxious or stressed about engaging in any type of activity in which they must perform.

Sexual performance anxiety is similar to music performance anxiety. Just like a musician feels anxious before and during a musical performance, you may feel anxious before or during sex.

This type of performance anxiety often happens when you worry or feel fear about specific aspects of sex. These can include:

• Not being able to please your partner

• Not getting and maintaining an erection.

• Looking good while naked

• Achieving orgasm at the appropriate time

These worries can come from past experiences, nervousness about the first time with a new partner, or be a result of stress in other areas of your life.

No matter the cause, performance anxiety causes you to focus more on your state of mind than your partner.

You can become so distracted that you have trouble focusing on your partner and the joy you both feel. If your thoughts overwhelm you, then you can’t engage well in sexual activity and may even experience erectile dysfunction.

Sexual performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction are often linked. A man can have ED without having performance anxiety. However, performance anxiety can often lead to ED.

ED, in general, is caused by a wide variety of reasons and usually involves a combination of both physical and mental issues. One of the leading causes is stress. Therefore, it makes sense that the stress, worry, and fear of performance anxiety can lead to ED.

In addition to stress, if you suffer from performance anxiety, you are much more likely to feel down, have low self-esteem, and question your ability to perform in bed.

As a result, your body is unable to relax. This means it cannot redirect the blood needed for an erection because it is too busy releasing stress hormones, like epinephrine and norepinephrine, to deal with your fear. And if your penis doesn’t have enough blood, it simply cannot become erect.

What Causes Performance Anxiety?

Performance anxiety is caused by a wide variety of thoughts and feelings. If you experience any negative thoughts about sex, such as thinking that you cannot get an erection or will be unable to please your partner, then you may experience performance anxiety.

Negative self-talk both before and during sexual activity can also affect how you feel and act throughout sex.

Performance anxiety can also happen if you dwell too much on past negative sexual experiences. This can make you anxious and stressed, leading to problems in your sex life.

Another cause of performance anxiety is anxiety about the look and shape of your body. This primarily occurs in men who gain weight or worry about aging. Men often worry about the size of their penis and whether or not they will “measure up” to their partner’s expectations in the bedroom.

Stress that has nothing to do with sex can also cause performance anxiety. Dealing with very stressful situations with your family or at work can affect you in the bedroom.

You may not be able to turn off those thoughts and emotions when you are with your partner. It can be challenging to get “in the mood,” and you may find that you are still so stressed that your body will simply not cooperate.

What are the Symptoms of Performance Anxiety?

There are several different symptoms of performance anxiety, and they will differ from man to man. This is because everyone responds to stress and anxiety in different ways.

Common signs he has performance anxiety include:

• Trouble getting or maintaining an erection

• Inability to orgasm

Premature ejaculation

• Loss of sexual desire

• No interest in sex

How to Manage Performance Anxiety

Overcoming performance anxiety can seem overwhelming, but there many different ways to treat this disorder. It’s always best to see a doctor first to make sure there are no underlying medical conditions that could be causing performance issues. This is especially true if you often deal with ED or premature ejaculation.

Certain medical conditions and medications can lead to sexual dysfunctions, like the inability to maintain an erection. These include high blood pressure and medications, smoking, alcohol use, kidney problems, and beta-blockers. There are several different medical treatments available to men who have sexual dysfunction.

Once your doctor rules out health issues, you can approach performance anxiety by dealing with the issues of the mind. Here are a few ways to relieve the mental and physical symptoms of performance anxiety.

1) Exercise

Exercise isn’t just good for improving your heart health or building muscle. It also improves your sexual health. Men who do not exercise regularly are more likely to deal with erectile function problems.

Just exercising 30 minutes at a time, 2 – 3 days a week, can keep your stress hormones balanced, reduce your resting heart rate, and improve your breathing. Exercise is also a great way to feel less anxious throughout the day.

You can also do specific exercises to improve the health of your penis. Kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic muscles, which will improve the blood flow to your penis.

2) Therapy

Remember that sexual problems can harm men’s health and should be taken seriously. Going to a therapist to engage in talk therapy is a great way to deal with stress and anxiety.

A therapist can help you understand what exactly is causing your stress and ways to manage it, both inside and outside of the bedroom. This can help you relax and enjoy time with your partner.

Therapists can also offer suggestions for ways to feel more comfortable in any type of situation and give techniques for dealing with physical symptoms, like premature ejaculation.

3) Talk to Your Partner

Talking to your partner is another essential part of overcoming performance anxiety. Having an open and honest sex life involves talking about what you enjoy, don’t enjoy, and any fright you may experience before and during sex.

Discuss situations in which you become uncomfortable. Let them know if you feel anxious or engage in negative self-talk. Ask them what helps them reach orgasm and tell them what will help you.

Talking about your thoughts and feelings may be uncomfortable at first. However, it can help reduce any type of sexual dysfunction you or partner may be experiencing.

4) Reduce Stress

Reducing stress in all areas of your life can relieve anxiety symptoms. Stress and anxiety look different for each person, so ways to reduce stress will also vary from person to person.

Common ways to reduce stress include saying “no” to stressful commitments, practicing yoga, getting massages, focusing on the breath in meditation, and finding new hobbies. These activities will help reduce negatives self-talk and negative thoughts. They can also ease muscle tension and prevent your body from releasing stress hormones.

5) Break the Cycle

Performance anxiety can lead to a cycle of low self-esteem, worry, negative self-talk, and poor sexual experiences. It’s essential to understand that just because you have a few bad experiences in bed, doesn’t mean that you will always have those experiences.

Every man has dealt with ED, premature ejaculation, or an unfulfilled partner. Instead of focusing on what you think is a failure, move on. Stay in the moment with your partner and treat each new experience with fresh eyes and expectations.

6) Focus on Your Senses

Performance anxiety often means you’re more caught up in your own mind and negative thoughts, instead of what is happening in front of you (or to you!). Instead of overanalyzing you and your partner’s actions, focus on how you feel. Take the time to really see your partner.

Think about what your whole body is experiencing, not just your penis. Consider lighting candles and playing music to increase your sensory input and help your brain relax.

8) Recognize Anxiety Symptoms

Being able to recognize the symptoms of anxiety can help you realize that you are experience anxiety and not another medical problem. This can also help you focus on the moment and then reduce your anxiety levels.

You may not even realize you are feeling anxious before a sexual situation. However, learning to recognize the symptoms of anxiety can help reduce sexual problems.

Physical symptoms of anxiety include increased blood pressure, high heart rate, dry mouth, accelerated breathing, and muscle tension.

Anxiety symptoms also include racing thoughts, obsessive thoughts, feelings of nervousness, and inability to focus.


Sexual performance anxiety happens to every man, even though it is not often discussed when it comes to men’s health.

It’s normal to have increased anxiety levels when having sex with a new partner or after a stressful experience. Sexual dysfunction can also lead to performance anxiety or vice versa. Fortunately, overcoming performance anxiety can be done!

Treatment includes taking care of your mental health and physical health by reducing stress and exercising.

It’s also important to be honest with yourself and your partner about your thoughts and feelings concerning any sexual problems or dysfunctions you may be experiencing. Engaging in therapy to deal with trait anxiety and other mental health issues can also help you avoid sexual performance anxiety.

Overcoming sexual performance anxiety can take time. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen overnight.

Be honest with yourself and your partner. Take time to enjoy each other’s company and engage in other intimate acts like massages and foreplay. With time, you’ll feel confident, less anxious, and enjoy a healthy sex life again!

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  1. Pyke RE1.. (2019). Sexual Performance Anxiety.. Sexual Medicine Reviews. 19 (1), p30074-5.
  2. McCabe, M. P. (2005). The role of performance anxiety in the development and maintenance of sexual dysfunction in men and women. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(4), 379–388. https://doi.org/10.1037/1072-5245.12.4.379

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