What to do when it just doesn’t work like it should
While women offer each other support on everything under the sun – sorry, none of your friends really give a shit about your shoes, Taylor, and no, your bangs do not look A-MAZ-ING, Britney – guys on the other hand rag on each other mercilessly about everything.
And when it comes to joking about not being able to get it up? Sure. That’s fair game.
But if you were to suggest having a serious discussion about performance anxiety and frankly admitting to one of your mates that you’ve experienced the occasional bout of sexual anxiety resulting in erectile dysfunction, even the kind that doesn’t involve being drunk?
I’m betting most guys would say not a chance in hell are we going down that road.
Male performance anxiety is very common
The truth is, however, sexual performance anxiety is something almost literally every guy goes through at one time or another. And sex anxiety often results in the devastating, sinking feeling of not being able to get or maintain an erection.
According to one U.S. study, erectile dysfunction affects some 30 million men over the age of 20 in the U.S. alone. Another study from 2019 showed that the global percentage of men who suffered from ED might be as high as 76 percent.
And that’s just the guys who report it, and who admit to it being an ongoing issue. The actual number of men who have experienced the odd bout of timid trouser snake in the bedroom could be even higher.
Sex anxiety is anxiety, and anxiety is the new normal
So if it happens to you, the first thing to do is to not panic. Sexual anxiety is very common.
Why? Well, first of all, we need to look at the less interesting word in the phrase ‘sex anxiety.’ In the U.K. some 8.5 million people have been diagnosed with anxiety-related disorders. In the U.S. that number is closer to 40 million.
Given the sorry state of healthcare and especially mental health care in these two countries, we can assume that number is actually higher simply due to people not seeking help, or not being able to get help for their ordinary, garden-variety anxiety.
We live in anxious times. And what with so many people living their lives under a cloud of anxiety about everything, naturally it follows that something as complicated as sex, something that’s so fraught with emotion and pressure and societal expectations and personal memories and all kinds of other baggage would be prime fodder for sex anxiety.
How the hell could it not be?
And here’s the thing about anxiety, sexual anxiety or any other kind: when we experience anxiety, our brains and bodies are flooded with chemicals setting off our ‘fight or flight’ reaction, harking back to our most ancient lizard-brain instincts for survival.
And those chemicals do not help with the sexy time mood.
It’s just a shame that sometimes we get mentally stuck in the mode of fending off a saber-toothed tiger when we’re actually about to launch a missile attack on the pink fortress.
Male performance anxiety and why it sucks to be a dude sometimes
And given the complex series of chemical and physical reactions that are required to take place in the male body in order to plump your sausage – coupled with general modern anxiety – it shouldn’t be at all surprising that occasionally it all goes haywire somewhere between the brain, the body and the boner.
But sex anxiety and not being able to get it up is not only due to chemistry, of course. The contents of your big head and the behavior of your little head are quite closely linked, however much we’d like to pretend that they’re separate entities.
Not only do the chemicals released in your body and brain sometimes serve to impede normal sexual function – your thoughts do too. At the very least, if you’re thinking about the things that make you anxious, you’re not thinking about what you’re actually doing – or trying to do.
So while you might be horny, and in the mood to bury the weasel, your anxious brain wanders off and adds to the negative feedback loop that stifles your stiffie.
But don’t panic: there are ways of overcoming sexual performance anxiety, even those that involve your little soldier refusing to salute when he’s ordered to.
What is sex anxiety-related ED, and what it isn’t
The first thing to do when it comes to dealing with male performance anxiety is to figure out if that’s what’s actually causing the shyness of your schlong.
Again, for such an idiot creature, an erection is a surprisingly complicated thing.
Getting hard is a physical and mental feat requiring a synthesis of a number of bodily and mental systems to work together, and the inability to get and maintain a throat-bruising third leg can be due to a number of physical and environmental factors.
You’ll want to eliminate possible impediments like medications, excessive alcohol and/or drugs, high blood pressure, obesity and numerous other potential causes first.
But once you can put most or all of these aside you can start looking at psychological reasons, including anxiety and stress, and learn how to get over sex anxiety.
Sexual performance anxiety: Who the hell ISN’T anxious these days?
So let’s say you’ve safely eliminated most or all of the physical and environmental potential causes listed in the link above.
Or perhaps you just know yourself well enough, and you can tell that there actually is something to this notion that you’re feeling anxious when you’re trying to get some stinkie on your Twinkie.
Here are a few steps you can take to try to combat sexual anxiety:
Talk to your partner
Studies show that while most guys rank their 2nd, 3rd and 4th-place sex-related concerns as contracting an STI, unintended pregnancy, and premature ejaculation, far and away the top fear of men regarding sex is leaving their partner unsatisfied.
If all you’re thinking about is failing to give her a toe-curling clit-spanking that’ll make her call you by her uncle’s name, it could well distract your dick from the task at hand.
Yes, ‘just talk to her’ is a tried and true advice tip for all manner of sex-related issues. But the fact of the matter is, when you’re anxious, your mind is going over all kinds of worries and stresses that may or may not have anything to do with reality.
If you talk to her about what she wants, what she likes, and what’s stressing you out, and you’ll often find that you’re worried over nothing.
Try different types of intimacy
Sex therapists often employ something called ‘sensate focus’ exercises for their clients who are experiencing sex anxiety issues and performance anxiety in bed, and you can adopt some of their methods.
The idea is that you’re in the sack together, but you designate penetration as out of bounds. Since most feelings of male sexual performance anxiety have to do with something going awry at the moment of penetration, simply setting up a sex session where penetration won’t be permitted can take the pressure off and allow you to relax.
Some techniques include trading off between being the ‘toucher’ and the ‘touchee,’ where you each just explore the other’s body apart from the genitals, but with no expectation of penetration. Others recommend watching each other masturbate, or eventually getting around to oral.
In a weird way it’s incredibly liberating to temporarily outlaw penetration, as it opens up everything else to be much more fully explored!
Here’s one of those annoying hippie-dippie catchphrases that needs to die, but in the case of sexual anxiety, ‘mindfulness’ kind of fits.
Actors have a thing they call ‘being in the moment,’ which is training yourself not to think ahead to the next thing or let your mind wander. You just sit with what is happening around you right now at this second.
So when you’re obsessing on giving her one of those orgasms that makes her shudder and squeak, are you asking yourself questions like – ‘is she enjoying it?’ ‘is she getting close?’ ‘is she faking?’ ‘what’s her name again?’ – and so on?
If that’s the case, you’re really not at all focused on what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place, are you?
Instead, therapists often tell their clients they’re helping with overcoming sexual performance anxiety that they should try to focus on really feeling the sensations at hand. Let go of control and lose yourself in the experience and let things take care of themselves and it will likely go smoother – and more successfully.
Bottom line: talk about stuff and focus on having fun rather then impressing her, and you’re all the more likely to perform better anyway!