How To Stop Sexual Performance Anxiety

How many times has this happened to you: you meet an amazing woman. You go on a date. You kiss. Things get steamy.

And then it all goes horribly wrong.

Maybe it’s all over before she’s anywhere close to having an orgasm, or maybe you can’t get an erection. If so, there’s the possibility that it’s due to the underlying nerves that stem from sexual performance anxiety.

Sexual performance anxiety is well known to cause problems such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction. If you’re not sure if it’s relevant to you, ask yourself if you regularly find yourself worrying about these kind of things:

  • How good your sexual performance will be.
  • How long you typically last during sex.
  • If you’ll be able to get, or maintain, a hard erection.
  • Whether or not your partner will have an orgasm.
  • If she’ll think you’re big enough, handsome enough or good enough in bed.

Most men will have these sort of worries from time to time. But if they become too powerful they can cause all kinds of problems for your confidence and sex life.

Fortunately though, sexual performance anxiety is something which can be dealt with. I know because I suffered from it for a long time, and eventually managed to control it. You can find out more about my experience in my premature ejaculation story.

If it’s something you’re going through right now, this article will hopefully help you find ways to reduce it and go back to enjoying your sex life.

What causes sexual performance anxiety?

There are many possible causes of sexual performance anxiety, and several factors can come together to create a cocktail of negative thinking. Here are a few of the most common contributors.

1. Porn star role models

How often do men watch, read, talk or think about porn? Online movies can quickly lead to you having the wrong idea of what good sex is really like.

This may be both about what women want and/or how well you should be able to perform. The more you watch, the more you see muscle-strapped men going at it like crazy for 20 to 30 minutes.

But this is unrealistic and well beyond what the average man lasts for during sex. It’s also not what most women find adequate or even comfortable. If you look at the facts about premature ejaculation and how long women really want their partners to last, you’ll probably be surprised.

But the damage is already done for most men. Slowly but surely you start to believe you should be able to perform like other guys do. Men forget that these are not ‘normal’ sexual encounters. For example, here are some of the things you can’t possibly know about:

  • The guys may have a break when they change positions and the camera angle changes.
  • He may be using a delay spray.
  • He may have ejaculated shortly before filming.
  • He may not be so attracted to whoever he’s having sex with.
  • He may have already had sex several times that day.
  • He may be using pills like Viagra to keep going.

Those films don’t demonstrate the ideal way to have sex or the ideal length of time. And men are rarely as capable in bed as the films suggest. Nobody puts home videos on the internet of times when it didn’t work out. If you stop comparing yourself to these guys, you’ll have more self-esteem in regards to what you can actually do.

2. Men boasting about their sex lives

Men like to brag and boast about their sexual prowess. Not all men of course, but enough do to make others feel inadequate. Maybe they’re just choosing their ‘best’ moments and making it sound like that is how they are all the time. They may also just be exaggerating or plain lying.

In the same way that when a group of men start telling each other jokes, everyone feels obliged to come up with jokes that are as funny, if not funnier, the same happens when talking about sex.

If someone announces that they lasted ages and their partner had the best time ever, how many men are then going to say, ‘oh, last night I was quite disappointed by my performance’?

So try not to believe what you hear the next time you’re with a group of guys having a beer and the conversation goes that way.

3. Expecting to be amazing every time

Many men also feel that they should be able to perform well every time. This is another unrealistic expectation that can lead to sexual anxiety. There are so many different things that can affect how a particular sexual experience will turn out, for example:

  • Your age.
  • How tired you are.
  • Your hormones.
  • Your health – both physical and mental.
  • Your levels of stress or anxiety about other issues in your life.
  • How you feel about your partner and/or your relationship with them.
  • How you feel about yourself.
  • Some medications that you may be taking.
  • Alcohol or drugs.
  • How long it is since you last had sex.
  • The place where you’re having sex.
  • The memory of your previous sexual experiences and your feelings about them.

All of these factors can come into play in any particular combination. Sometimes leading to a great experience and sometimes leading to an experience that you’re not satisfied with. So it’s important to realize, accept and be OK with the fact that sometimes things just won’t go the way you want them to.

This is especially important if you haven’t been having sex for long. Many guys take some time to get used to the excitement and pleasure of sex. So go easy on yourself if your first time(s) don’t go according to plan.

4. Negative thoughts when things don’t go the way you expect

If you do have a ‘bad’ sexual experience it can be easy to draw the wrong conclusions. If you start to draw conclusions such as ‘I’m no good in bed’, ‘I’ll never last long enough’, ‘I’ve lost it’ or ‘I can’t perform any more’ then there’s the chance you’ll slip into the vicious cycle of sexual performance anxiety.

This is when the anxiety itself becomes a major factor in you experiencing premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction for example.

5. The vicious circle

diagram showing the vicious circle of anxietyThe result of this kind of negative thinking may be that you end up in a vicious circle. Your worry about not lasting long enough itself causes you to climax too soon. Or worrying about not getting an erection then stops you from getting one.

This is a common psychological process that happens in many different scenarios. For example, people who have trouble sleeping may start worrying that they can’t fall asleep. That worry then becomes the thing that stops them sleeping.

It could be that your first sexual encounter was over quickly because of a combination of nerves, excitement and not being prepared for the overwhelming experience of having sex.

But rather than thinking it was just you not being used to it, you may have thought ‘oh no, I’m one of those guys that can’t last very long’. And that belief then turned into a fear which meant that it happened the next time, and the next…

As I said earlier, the key is to not allow yourself to make these kind of damning statements. They will eat away at your confidence and keep your stuck in the vicious circle of sexual performance anxiety.

What happens when you have sexual performance anxiety?

If you do start to approach sexual encounters with anxiety, it can effect you in a couple of major ways:

  • You’ll probably not be feeling relaxed before having sex. If it’s with a new partner, then that can of course be quite normal. But the tension created by anxiety is different than the tension created by excitement. The combination of the two is likely to make you climax too quickly, or have other difficulties such as not getting an erection.
  • You may also be stuck in your mind and thoughts, worrying about whether you’ll last long enough this time or if it will ‘happen again’. This means you’re not doing 3 important things:
  1. Fully enjoying the experience.
  2. Being aware of the sensations in your body which will warn you that you’re approaching the point of no return and so need to take action like switching positions or resting.
  3. Keeping relaxed – a physically tense body will ejaculate quicker, or struggle to get an erection.

Ways to control it

Hopefully just reading this will start the ball rolling in undoing some of the negative thinking that you may have about your ability. But realistically, it may take more work to overcome this level of anxiety. Here are some things you can do.

1. Tackle stress and anxiety outside of the bedroom

Performance anxiety doesn’t just have to be tackled in relation to sex. You can also find ways to reduce your overall stress or anxiety levels in life:

  • Try meditation, breathing exercises, mindfulness, yoga or any physical exercise or hobby you find relaxing.
  • Work on other issues in your life which are causing you problems. It could be that work stress if affecting you.
  • Keep yourself fit and healthy with a good diet. This can improve both your physical and mental state.

2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else

This includes professionals, guys in porn movies and your friends.

3. Remember that not every time will be perfect

You won’t always last as long as you want and you may not always get the best erection. There are factors beyond your control, and sometimes you need to accept that.

4. Try not to get into a cycle of fear

I know this is like saying ‘the solution to the problem is to just not have the problem’ which isn’t very helpful. But it’s important to remind you that constantly thinking and worrying that ‘it’s going to happen again’ will make it more likely.

5. Communicate with your partner

If you keep all your worries inside your own head then they will feel bigger, scarier and harder to deal with. Talking openly with your partner may help in several ways. The anxiety is a lot to do with how you think they feel. So if you discuss it, you can work together to find solutions or alternatives to what is currently happening in the bedroom.

6. Changing the goals to reduce the fear of failure

Sexual performance anxiety ultimately boils down to the fear of failure. You may see failure as the inability to maintain a rock hard erection and bring your partner to orgasm through 10 to 20 minutes of penetrative sex. It may be then that you’ve set yourself an unreasonable goal at this moment in your life.

You have the power to change that goal though, especially if you discuss it with your partner. Perhaps the two of you can decide that you’ll find other ways of pleasuring one another. The goal could be that you are both satisfied through any means possible.

There’s more than just penetrative sex to be had. You can stimulate and please your partner through manual or oral stimulation for example. You can spend longer on foreplay. Bring in sex toys or try enacting fantasies.

If you talk openly, develop an open mindset and think beyond basic sex, then you reduce the fear of failure by changing what success means. If you pleasure your partner in bed every time through other means, it will build your self-confidence. It will help you feel that you’re a man who can make her happy in bed.

And then little by little this increase in confidence and self-esteem will help you improve on the things you were previously having difficulty with.

7. Consider professional help

Sometimes all the self-help advice in the world doesn’t quite do the trick. You may benefit from professional help from a counselor, therapist or psychologist.

They can be particularly useful for helping you develop more positive ways of thinking. As well as helping you discover any reasons contributing to the sexual worries that you weren’t aware of.

8. Be wary of drugs and alcohol

Both legal and illegal drugs can have an affect on both your sexual functioning and mindset. Many guys realise that drinking alcohol can help them last longer in bed for example. But drink too much and it can stop you getting a proper erection.

It’s a tricky line to walk and in may ways it’s best to stick with the rule that healthy is best when it comes to sex.

9. Slow down, breathe and try to relax

From the minute you start kissing right up to having sex you need to take action to keep yourself calm. Controlling your breathing is one of the best ways to keep both your body and mind more relaxed. Longer, deeper and controlled breaths will keep you steady.

And with the actual act, although there’s no denying the passion of a ‘quickie’ can be exhilarating, it’s not always the best for guys with anxiety.

Women also like a slow, sensual and passionate build up. Take time over the foreplay. And when you do get down to having sex, you don’t need to go at it like a jack-hammer.

Changing the speed, hardness, depth and rhythm can all work well. And it takes the pressure off you to feel you need to do the porn-star thing.

The final word

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, make it this: you can change your expectations about sex right away. Tell yourself that from now on, sex isn’t just about your ability to last forever or be like the guys in porn films.

It’s about you and your partner enjoying each others company, and finding fun and interesting ways to satisfy one another for extended periods of time. Penetrative sex is no longer the only goal.

You might also like

If you have anxiety connected to premature ejaculation, it’s a good idea to tackle the problem from different angles. You could use a numbing spray as a short term measure, but also consider one of my recommended ejaculation control guides to deal with the problem in the long term.

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi,
    Thank you for your article. My husband is currently experiencing a similar problem. He usually gets hard without a problem, but recently he very often loses his erection after just a minute or so and is unable to finish. Now that is has happened a couple of times in a row it seems to be getting worse, probably because of his worry that it will happen again. We are currently trying to have a baby, so changing the goals is not really a useful option. Do you have any tips how I can help him relax and just enjoy?
    Thank you,
    Marie

    • Hi Marie
      Thanks for your comment. I imagine there could be some anxiety/stress in there, but it’s always difficult to work out what’s going on exactly. It’s not exactly relevant to your exact situation, but I wrote a long article you might find useful about the anxiety of being with someone the first time. And at the end I have lots of tips that can help, along with many comments from guys.
      I think whatever the case, he either would benefit from creating a super relaxing environment and taking it really slow and easy, or going the other way and working on boosting libido in general. I’d try both!
      Ethan

  • In men, one of the effects of the stress hormones is to constrict blood vessels. Less blood flowing into the penis makes it more difficult to have an erection. Even men who normally don’t have any trouble getting excited can become unable to get an erection when they’re overcome by sexual performance anxiety.

    • Hi Jack
      Thanks for your comment. I think that’s an excellent point! You’re right in that stress and anxiety can cause any guy to have erection problems. I guess the thing is to work out how to avoid that happening in the first place.
      Ethan

  • I’ve been with my partner for 17 yrs first couple of yrs we had a great sex life. Now when we have sex it does not last more than 5 minutes. We have been to the docs he has had creams pills ect and nothing is working please help

    • Hi Lisa
      It may just be a patch he’s going through, or maybe he’s developed the art of maximizing pleasure in minimum time – something many guys eventually do. I think the trick is to perhaps avoid the things that turn him on the most – positions he enjoys the most, and spend more time on foreplay and positions which he can last longer in. Try to change the mentality from engaging in the most pleasurable bits first to spending time keeping the arousal levels at a lower point and work towards the most pleasurable movements later.
      Ethan

    • How long a guy lasts can often be strongly correlated with levels of seratonin in the brain. Talk to him about depression, this can actually cause PE. In fact, SSRI antidepressants (like Prozac) are often recommended to remedy this issue, because they increase the availability of seratonin in the brain.

  • I haven’t had sex a whole lot so I’m fairly new to it. Whenever we start making out and pushing our bodies together I usually become fully hard but once she’s starts giving me oral I get major anxiety and eventual I lose it to a point where I lose all of my confidence and give up and then start giving her pleasure needs and the sex never happens. I’ve always been ticklish nervous guy so I was wondering if you have any pointers to my issues.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Roy
      This is actually a very common problem. I also have issues with erections the first time I’m with someone new. I wrote an article about not getting erections the first night which has lots of advice you might find helpful. There are also lots of comments from other guys, so reading that will help you feel like you’re not alone, as well as give you ideas for dealing with it.
      Ethan

    • Hi
      Have you tried to practice arousal control techniques before? Or perhaps tried a desensitizing spray or cream? There are lots of things you can try to do to improve your lasting time – have a look at our premature ejaculation product reviews for information about the different options you have.
      Ethan

  • Hi there from few month I m having from with my penis it’s hard always I had blood test done everything is fine when I put Condom on it goes soft any advice plz thanks

    • Hi
      Thanks for your comment. Many guys do have trouble putting a condom on and maintaining an erection. I’ve had this in the past as well, and what I discovered is that to things help:
      1. Only put it on when I have the hardest possible erection. If it’s 80% hard for example, the condom does it’s evil magic.
      2. Get your partner to put it on for you – this often helps keep the excitement.
      3. Stand up when you put it on – the blood flowing downwards can help to keep the erection.
      Hopefully that will help!
      Ethan

  • Hi my problem occurred when after foreplay everything was fine my penis was as hard as a rock but as I was putting the condom on it cut my blood circulation and I couldn’t penetrate ever since then I have had enormous trouble being able to get erections when the time counted!!

    Any Advice?

  • I’ve been having issues for the past month or two and have practically been going out of my mind worried. Thank you for both putting this out in the open and spelling it out. I plan on taking your advice and getting back to normal.

    • Hi Matt

      You’re very welcome. I hope you found some useful tips relevant to your situation, and that things get better soon.
      All the best
      Ethan

  • Your article describes exactly some of the problems I’ve been having lately and it’s been causing big problems in my life. Like every time I get with a new girl I have so many worries in my head I can’t relax and enjoy it at all. They can always tell I’m not happy then start asking me and then I don’t want to talk about it, and it just gets weird. Anyway I think maybe I need to talk about things like you say. Worth a try I suppose. Or maybe I need help lol. Thanks for the great website by the way. I’ve read lots of your articles and am impressed with how well you explain so many things.

    • Hey Brian

      Thank you for your comment, and the compliment. It really helps with the motivation to write when I know people are benefiting from the website.
      Sorry to hear you’ve been having these kind of problems. It sounds to me like you know in your gut what needs to be done too improve things, so I would suggest trying talking. You might find it makes a huge difference straight away. And sharing your worries will hopefully lead to her finding a way to help you relax.
      All the best
      Ethan

      • Hey guys same here …. I have went around to check myself and the problem is lack of partner wanting to show her real /potentiel du to many factors my failures to build a healthy sex life and her arousal and attain orgasm, never achieved by me made a big failure. No pleasure for her ment work to please me . I got slowly rationed . But today is about talking and explaining the failures and how to be egoless and say it straight. Its not about me it’s about us working it out.

        • Hi there
          I think communication is really important for making sex work well for both people. It’s not about one person, but both – as you say.
          Best of luck to you!
          Ethan

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