Have you ever met someone you really liked, and everything seemed to go perfectly up until the moment you first end up in bed together?
And then it starts to go horribly wrong.
Maybe you reach climax before she’s anywhere close to having an orgasm. Perhaps you can’t get an erection, or it goes soft when you try to put a condom on or have sex.
If this sounds familiar, there’s a possibility that sexual performance anxiety is contributing to the problem you’re having.
If it’s something you think you might be experiencing, this article will hopefully help you find ways to tackle it and enjoy your sex life in full.
How do you know if you have performance anxiety?
Do you regularly worry about any of the following:
- How good your sexual performance is.
- How long you typically last during sex.
- If you’ll have a good enough erection.
- If your partner will have an orgasm.
- If she’ll think you’re big enough, handsome enough or good enough in bed.
Many men will have worries like these from time to time. But if they become too overwhelming, they can cause problems for your confidence and sex life.
It’s not just men that can experience this problem though. Researchers have found that performance anxiety has a key role in either the development or continuity of sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
You can deal with it
Fortunately, sexual performance anxiety is something which can be overcome – even if that seems like a distant hope right now.
I know from personal experience because I suffered from it for a long time, and eventually managed to control it.
What causes it?
There are many possible causes of sex anxiety, and several factors can come together to create a cocktail of negative thinking. Here are a few common reasons:
1. Porn star role models
How often do you watch porn, or even see what seems like incredible sex in normal movies? Adult movies, however, often present a very skewed image of what ‘normal’ sex is like.
This may be both about what your partner
But this is unrealistic and well beyond what the average man lasts for during sex (5.4 minutes according to some sex surveys).
It’s also not what most women desire (7 to 13 minutes is adequate according to one famous survey).
It’s also worth bearing in mind that men in these movies have some help to perform as well as they appear to, such as:
- Filming in more than one take.
- Use desensitizing products like sprays or creams.
- Ejaculate before filming.
- He may not be attracted to the other woman/man.
- Have sex several times per day.
- Use pills like Viagra to keep going.
Nobody puts home videos on the internet of times when it didn’t work out.
So don’t compare yourself to porn actors, and you’ll have more self-esteem in regards to what you can do.
2. Men boasting about their sex lives
Men like to boast about their sexual prowess. Not all men, of course, but enough do to make others feel inadequate. Maybe they just choose their best moments or get creative with the truth.
When men start telling jokes, everyone feels obliged to come up with jokes that are equally funny. 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 done in under 2 minutes’?
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
Men can 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.
- 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 it results in a great experience; other times not so satisfactory.
So it’s important to realize, accept and be okay 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. It can take 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 it doesn’t turn out how you expected
If you do have a ‘bad’ sexual experience it can be easy to draw the wrong conclusions.
If you allow thoughts like ‘I’m no good in bed’ or ‘I’ll never last long enough’ to stick in your head, there’s the chance you’ll slip into the vicious cycle of anxiety about your sex life.
This is when the anxiety itself can become a major factor in issues like premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction.
5. The vicious circle
The 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 stops you from getting one.
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 ‘damn, 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
The key is to not allow yourself to make these kinds of damning statements. They eat away at your confidence and keep you stuck in the vicious circle of stress and worry about the next time.
What happens when you have sexual performance anxiety?
If you enter into sexual encounters with anxiety, it can affect you in a couple of major ways.
First of all, you’ll probably not be feeling relaxed before having sex. If it’s with a new partner, that’s very normal. But the tension created by anxiety isn’t the same as excitement.
The combination of the two might make you climax too quickly, or have other difficulties such as not getting an erection.
Secondly, you can get stuck in your mind and thoughts, worrying that it will ‘happen again’. This means you’re not doing 4 important things:
- Enjoying the experience to the max.
- Being aware of the sensations in your body which warn you that you need to switch positions, rest, relax or just breathe.
- Keeping relaxed – a physically tense body will ejaculate quicker or struggle to get an erection.
- Paying attention to what your partner is doing and how they are feeling.
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 sex.
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
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 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, people in naughty films, that guy in the bar 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 sometimes, 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 remember 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 and harder to deal with.
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 great foreplay, manual stimulation or with some new oral sex skills
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 might benefit from professional help from a counselor, therapist or psychologist.
They can be particularly useful for helping you develop more positive ways of thinking. And help you discover any reasons contributing to the sexual worries that you weren’t aware of.
8. Avoid drugs and alcohol
Both legal and illegal drugs can have an effect on both your sexual functioning and mindset.
Many men realize that drinking alcohol can help them last longer in bed, for example. But drink too much and it can stop you from getting a proper erection.
It’s a tricky line to walk and in many 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 if you’re a natural born worrier.
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 jackhammer.
Changing the speed, hardness, depth, and rhythm can all work well.
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 have endless erections at the click of a finger. Neither is orgasm the only goal, and if your partner doesn’t climax, it’s a failue.
Sex should be about you and your partner enjoying each others company. And finding fun and interesting ways to satisfy
Check out the uplifting personal story about overcoming anxiety around sex on medium.com. The author described how a sex therapist helped him see things differently.
Healthline.com has a thorough article looking at different aspects of how performance anxiety can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Do you get anxious about sex? What do you think causes it or helps you relax? Leave a comment!
My bf and I have been together for years. We were together for 4 years, had great sex without any problem, then we broke up for 2 years, and then got back together. Now we can’t have sex because he loses his erection almost every single time we’re about to have sex. We have sex maybe once every 2 to 3 months. He is hard while were messing around, he has no problem getting hard, but the second he realizes were about to have sex, his erection that was ready to go, just disappears. And he can’t get it back. Then he gets upset, gets stomach aches, goes silent. This has been going on since we got back together. I’ve tried being supportive, being patient, distracting him, foreplay without any kind of expectation of sex. He even got some pills to help him get an erection and keep it, but the problem with that is 1)they don’t always work 2)you can’t take them every day just in case we have sex that day but then if we don’t just be walking around with an erection and 3) taking them on a planned basis like, hey lets plan to have sex this day, and have sex on a schedule. You just can’t do that, it feels too forced and unnatural. My boyfriend is also non romantic, not a very intimate person either, he’s pretty self centered and self focused. So we don’t have sex, we don’t have romance, and barely spend real quality time together and all these things piling up on me make it even harder to try to have sex with him. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so fkn unhappy but I also love him, but he’s also a disappointing partner with how non romantic and non attentive he is. I dont know what to do anymore. Any real advice is appreciated
Sorry to hear about this dificult situation.
First of all, what pills were they? With viagra, you can just pop one 30 mins before sex. You don’t need to take them every day just in case.
Secondly, I wonder if the breakup is affecting him still in ways he or both of you haven’t resolved. Maybe this is an avenue to explore – perhaps with some outside help?
I’m a male in his 20’s and I have to say this article helped me so much. I recently was in a one night stand with someone who was very attractive and was unable to become erect due to anxiety from a previous time. Knowing that the partner in question wasn’t to blame I felt terrible, having thoughts like “why me” and “why now”. I have never had a long term relationship, so I feel as though this is a factor as I do not have a deep connection/understanding of the person I am with (even after communicating). Going forward I will try to have greater communication with the partner in question, and give more time for us to fully understand each other.
Thank you for this article!
You’re welcome Ben! I hope that some more focus on communication helps you. Keeping relaxed mentally during sexual experiences that you know can be challenging because of erection problems you’ve had in the past can be difficult. But I think it’s important to not get caught up in cycles of worry based on previous encounters. And having a good, honest, relaxed and fun communication can help with that.
I haven’t been with a girl before. But a few times, when I fail in getting an erection or have early ejaculation during masturbation, it creates a negative thought of “how am I going to be in front of a girl?”, “will I get hard?”. These questions make me think that I am having PE or ED etc. Now almost every day I feel down and dull. How to tackle this? Am I in a vicious circle? Will this anxiety will be there till the end? It’s been 4 months I have this feeling. I have been to Doc. and Psychiatrist – they ask me take medication straight away like viagra or antidepressants. I told them I am not interested in those. So they have asked me to relax, but it doesn’t help my worries.
The truth is, it’s impossible to say how things will go when you do get together with a woman. It’s possible that you’ll be so excited, you won’t have any problems at all with erections. The good thing about ED is that there are lots of different ways to treat it.
And in terms of early ejaculation, well you have time now to really work on that. If you do some research into techniques like the stop and start method, you can practice that when alone to get used to the pleasure for longer.
I get nervous before sex. And when it comes to time in bed I only get half hard. Also if there is a big build up, the blood flow doesn’t get there. I have met girls on the night and can’t perform on the spot. if I get a massage and relax I get very hard.
It sounds like you have a problem very similar to mine, and many others. I don’t know if you’ve already seen it, but if not, I recommend having a read of a specific article I wrote about erection issues with a new partner.
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?
Thanks for your comment. I imagine there could be some anxiety/stress in there, but there could be another cause. Has he spoken to a doctor to see what they can suggest?
In terms of relaxation, setting the scene, massage, music, candles etc can work for some people. But others might have other ideas of what helps with relaxation. Maybe it’s something to discuss together.
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.
Thanks for your comment. I think that’s an excellent point! You’re right in that stress and anxiety can cause many men to have erection problems. I guess the thing is to work out how to avoid that happening in the first place.
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
It may be aquired premature ejaculation – some men do develop it later in life. Or it could just be a patch he’s going through. Maybe he’s developed the art of maximizing pleasure in minimum time – something many people eventually do. It might help to 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.
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 starts giving me oral I get major anxiety and eventually I lose it, to a point where I lose all of my confidence and give up and then start giving her pleasure and the sex never happens. I’ve always been a ticklish nervous guy so I was wondering if you have any pointers to my issues.
Don’t give up! This is something you can work on – try the techniques in the article, and perhaps seek professional help if it’s an ongoing issue.
Hi, for a few months I’m having problems with my penis. It’s hard always – I had a blood test done and everything is fine. But when I put a condom on, it goes soft. Any advice plz? Thanks
Thanks for your comment. Many men 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.
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.
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.
You’re very welcome. I hope you found some useful tips relevant to your situation, and that things get better soon.
All the best
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.
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