The truth about sexual performance anxiety and ED

Having problems in the bedroom isn’t exactly a topic you’d bring up at a dinner party. In fact, it’s not even a subject you’re likely to broach with your best friend. We get it – your sex life is personal, and when you’re having a hard time getting, well, hard, it’s even more common to keep quiet about what goes on under the sheets.

But what you might not know is that it’s also pretty common for guys to have ED. And more often than not, it’s not that there’s a biological problem with your penis. Rather, you’re experiencing a stress-induced physical reaction to everything going on in your head. It’s called sexual performance anxiety and it’s not something to be ignored. Affecting your sex life, relationships and mental health, it’s something worth fixing – and yes, we’re going to tell you how.

What is sexual performance anxiety?

Sexual performance anxiety is a label given to a wide range of negative feelings, thoughts and emotions that guys have when it comes to having sex – or doing anything sex-related for that matter.

While feeling nervous about sex is normal, it’s when these uncomfortable feelings become dominant that the real problem starts. Sex suddenly becomes something daunting rather than exciting, and that’s when man’s age-old enemy erectile dysfunction kicks in. That’s right, we spelt out ED. No shame here.

Whether you can’t get it up in the first place, you’re not lasting as long as you’d hoped, you’re lasting way too long, or you lose your hard-on halfway through, it’s quite possible that what you’re experiencing is sexual performance anxiety.

What causes sexual performance anxiety?

There is a whole list of reasons that men experience   performance anxiety. It can be anything from being overly nervous about your first time to being insecure about your body in a long-term relationship. Here’s a more comprehensive list of reasons to give you an idea of the full scope of causes:

  • Nervous about first time having sex, or first time with a new partner
  • Embarrassed about penis size or shape
  • Insecure about body, including weight and height
  • Insecure about lack of sexual experience and knowledge
  • Unconfident in ability to measure up to previous sexual partners
  • Concern about technique and stamina
  • Concern about not being able to get/keep an erection
  • Worried about ejaculating too early or too late
  • Worried about not be able to make partner orgasm
  • Dissatisfaction with relationship or partner
  • Non-sexual stresses including work, family or financial issues

You may have noticed there’s a common theme here. Most of the time, it all boils down to a worry that you won’t be able to satisfy, please or impress your sexual partner. But each one of these fears is tackle-able.

Who does it affect?

Young and old, hairy and bald. Thin, fat, toned and chubby, a one night stand and a long-term hubby. Basically, it can happen to anyone. No one, not even the seemingly god-like and annoyingly macho alpha male in your social group, is safe from sexual performance anxiety.

So, if half the people on the planet are men, and many of them experience this problem at some point in their lives, then why the dinner party taboo and general social stigma? Well, they’re called private parts for a reason, and it’s understandable that most guys want to keep their sex-related anxieties to themselves, especially if they’re leading to ED.

How are sexual anxiety performance and ED linked?

Now that we’ve understood what sexual anxiety performance is all about, why it happens, and who it happens to, it’s time to focus on the unfortunate consequence – erectile dysfunction.

While studies on the link between the cause and effect are ongoing, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how it works. When you experience anxiety, your body releases more stress hormones (including adrenaline) than usual. This makes it hard to relax, feel comfortable and enjoy a sexual experience. Instead, you feel flustered, panicked and distracted – not exactly a recipe for good sex.

For many men, these negative feelings are so overwhelming that getting an erection simply isn’t possible, taking the issue from psychological distress to physical failure. And in the worst case, it can lead to a self-perpetuating spiral, where one bad experience actually causes more sexual performance anxiety and, in turn, more ED.

Can sexual performance anxiety be treated?


In case you haven’t noticed, the world is going through a bit of a social and cultural revolution at the moment. One in which we are encouraged to recognise our mental and physical challenges, speak out about them, and try to fix them. Sexual performance anxiety and ED are no exceptions. So, how to go about solving the problem?

Well, the fact that you are here, reading this, and we are here, writing this, is a great start. The dialogue has already begun and that’s a huge step. Now for the remedy. But before you jump straight to the hard stuff, you might want to consider a softer approach to your soft penis. After all, if you can fix it without medication, why wouldn’t you?

How to treat sexual performance anxiety and ED

A drug-free treatment starts with identifying the factors that are causing anxiety to begin with and working through them directly, with a good dose of optimism and patience.

Different methods of tackling the problem will work for different people, but here are some good places to start:

  • Get closer to your partner. Much anxiety comes with being with a new partner or a partner who you feel you can’t talk openly with. Whether it’s becoming more familiar with your partner physically, or becoming more comfortable with discussing sex together, getting closer is a great way to overcome the problem.
  • Love your body. We know what you’re thinking – that kind of talk is for the ladies. But that’s where you’re wrong. Self-love is something men need to practice, too. So start truly appreciating your unique body for all its bumps and lumps and eccentricities, and you might discover a newfound sense of confidence.
  • Source the stress. Your anxiety might have nothing to do with how big you think your penis is or how good you think you are in bed. It might be your mortgage payments sending you into a negative headspace. Or it could be the long hours at the office getting you down. Figure out what is causing anxiety in your life and then focus on fixing it – and your penis might just fix itself. 
  • Change your lifestyle. A balanced diet, regular exercise and a good amount of sleep – the key to a healthy lifestyle is something we’re all familiar with. And yet, many of us let our greed, indulgence and laziness get the better of us. A healthy sex life starts with a healthy lifestyle, so beat those bad habits and channel new positivity through diet, fitness and self-care.
  • Sex therapy. If you’re struggling to overcome your barriers alone, you could consider seeking professional help. If you’re not ready for medication yet, sex therapists can help you work through intimacy and sexual performance issues using proven techniques including guided imagery.
  • ED drugs. If you’ve exhausted all other options and nothing seems to be working, ED medication (Sildenafil) could be the treatment you need to get your sex life back to where you want it.
Back to happy and healthy

Whether the answer to a reinvigorated sex life lies in patiently working through your stresses and insecurities or through discovering medication that works for you, it’ll all be worth it in the end. After all, sex is supposed to be one of life’s greatest pleasures, not one of its greatest worries.

And while you’re on the journey to overcoming your bedroom anxieties and taking back control of your physical and mental well being, just remember that it’s more common than you think.

We might not like to talk about sexual performance anxiety in public, or even read about it online without being in incognito mode. In fact, it might seem like you’re the only person who struggles with sexual performance anxiety and ED.

But the truth is, many of us do.

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