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This article first appeared on The Online Citizen.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. We all have experienced anxiety at some point of our lives. In fact, anxiety is one mechanism that evolved to keep us alert and help us cope in stressful events or situations. More specifically, performance anxiety refers to self-consciousness about the quality of one’s performance that actually, in turn, decreases the quality of one’s performance.
Sexual anxiety may present itself as a form of performance anxiety. Typically, there is so much preoccupation with the anxiety itself that the person becomes less fully involved in the sexual interaction, bringing about the very failure that is feared.
Male sexual performance anxiety is usually described as when a man has trouble getting an erection. This issue is hardly ever discussed openly by men, for fear of losing their projected ‘macho’ image.
Fears of sexual performance are not limited to men. For women, it might include worries about physical responsiveness—such as the speed with which vaginal lubrication or orgasm is attained, or the length of time that lubrication or orgasm is maintained. On a broader level, anxiety can also be reflected in how much passion, tenderness, intimacy and sensitivity a person feels toward his or her partner.
Sexual anxiety may also be part of a social anxiety complex where people may feel that they are inferior to others in some important way, or where they are overly concerned about other people’s reactions. Whether sexual anxiety is part of performance or social anxiety, it can result in lowered self-esteem, avoidance of sexual encounters, relationship breakdowns and further sexual difficulties.
In this cycle, anticipation of the next sexual encounter arouses the same anxiety coupled with the memory of the previous failure and often perpetuates the problems. It might lead to an avoidance of sexual activity altogether, or at least a minimisation of the amount of sexual interaction that occurs. In turn, the partner might misinterpret the behaviour as a form of rejection. The underlying reason for avoidance is usually to save face so the person feels more in control and less guilty about being inadequate.
These are a few suggestions where anxieties revolving around sexual performance are concerned:
- The first remedy has to be communicating with your partner about what is happening. Attaining the understanding and support of your partner should reduce some of your symptoms. If you find other sexual activities that you can do in bed, this should take some of the stress off sex.
- Focus on enjoying the whole process of sexual intercourse and don’t torment yourself by thinking solely of the end result or goal – the Big ‘O’. The emphasis is on the sensations – staying in your body, remaining in the moment.
- Let go of the erroneous belief that men are always ready, willing, and able to perform sexually. Besides sexual anxiety, there might be other factors at play such as tiredness, illness, resentment, not being attracted to your partner, or just not being in the mood.
- Sexual coaching can take you from where you are at, to where you want to be. Home assignments are given where your goals are broken into smaller, achievable exercises which will help you learn how to overcome your sexual anxiety.
- Hypnosis can reduce sexual performance anxiety to promote a more relaxed and confident sense of self, optimize self-esteem, happiness and boost self confidence.
- Prescription drugs can be used to treat erectile difficulties. The medication works by enhancing nerve signals that causes nerve signals to be sent from brain to the male genital organ, which results in it becoming erect. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra or the newly launched Zydena (in Malaysia) are some of the drugs to choose from.
Lastly, sex is supposed to be un-self conscious and pleasurable. Until you let go of what you ‘ought’ to be doing, or of what is ‘right’ or ‘best’ for you or your partner, you are not going be able to enjoy the experience. We need to learn to let go of control, receive, release and feel.
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.