The problem of ability to have a regular and satisfying sexual life has been found to be decreasing world over, not only in India. Multiple studies have found that there are increasing levels of impotence and stress amongst men, across ages. Much of this problem can be attributed to increased stress and unhealthy lifestyles and is thankfully reversible. Stress and performance anxiety forms a significant part of the problem of inability to perform and both can lead to inadequate erections and premature ejaculation.
People often use the terms stress and anxiety interchangeably even though these two are completely different terms.Anxiety is our body’s response to stressful situations or thoughts and can be characterized by increased heart rate, sweaty palms, rapid breathing, or a feeling of dizziness. Stress on the other hand refers to emotional and physical tension that is associated with the event or thoughts.
When a person becomes anxious, the level of cortisol that is the stress hormone rises. This increase directly affects the production of the sex hormone testosterone by reducing it, more so I the long run. When a person becomes anxious, it directly affects their ability to have sex or indulge in any form of intimacy. Anxiety tends to affect sexual performance in men more than it does in women. While men might not be able to get or maintain an erection, women might not feel aroused, or there may not be lubrication to make the act pleasurable.
Generally, when stressful and anxious thoughts occupy a person’s mind or other situations bother them, intimacy is not the first thing on their mind, and they might, in fact, feel repulsed by it.
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What is Sexual Performance Anxiety?
While anxiety comes from an unrelated situation, sexual performance anxiety is the result of one’s fear of being unable to perform well in bed or satisfy the partner.
It may stem from various reasons like lack of self-confidence, poor body image, genuine / medical issue making you unable to perform, fear of not being as good as your partner’s previous partners, measuring oneself according to standards set by society, and many other reasons.
When this happens, your mind is too busy worrying instead of focusing on the pleasurable act that you are indulging in at the moment. It becomes difficult for your mind and body to sync together and enjoy the act.
Another effect of stress on our body is that it narrows the blood vessels in your body. It restricts the flow of blood to your reproductive organs. When blood does not flow to the organ, even an otherwise healthy person might face erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes, performance anxiety may result in anti-climax too, which might bring an abrupt end to a pleasurable activity.
What is anti-climax?
Anti-climax is also referred to as premature ejaculation and ejaculation occurs veryquickly after penetration during intercourse. It could be due to having sex after a long time, being over-excited or due to sexual performance anxiety.
While erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are often symptoms of underlying heart diseases, obesity, diabetes and many other underlying health conditions, an otherwise healthy person might occasionally face these due to performance anxiety.
Even though sexual performance anxiety is common with a new partner, it may not always be the case.
With a new partner, the pressure to “impress” or be as good as previous partners may be high.
But when the root cause of sexual performance anxiety is negative thoughts, body image issues, and lack of self-confidence, it does not matter if the partner is someone you’ve been with for a long time or for the first time.
What are the causes of performance anxiety in men?
The primary reason why men or women face sexual performance anxiety is due to negative thoughts. These negative thoughts can have different causes.
- Body image and self-confidence:
Society has set some images about the “ideal” male body. It often causes men on either side of the weighing scale to feel self-conscious about their bodies without clothes on. Such men might be constantly worried about what their partner may think of the way their body looks even while indulging in intimacy.
- Stress at work:
It is quite common that people find it difficult to draw a line between personal and professional spaces. When one works in a stressful work environment, their cortisol levels run high, and their testosterone runs low. It, in turn, affects their libido and affects their performance.
- Size and girth:
When men feel under confident about the size of their organ or girth, they often face sexual performance anxiety especially, if they have an abnormally sized penis due to genetics or hormonal imbalances.
- Relationship issues:
Sex is an expression of intimacy between two people and when the relationship goes through a rocky patch, often sexual performance anxiety may creep in.
- Worrying about sexual performance anxiety:
This may sound ironic but worrying about performance anxiety can give a person sexual performance anxiety.
How can you overcome sexual performance anxiety?
There are several ways that one can deal with performance anxiety. The first step would be to identify what has been causing you to be anxious. Once you know the cause, it becomes easier to remedy it.
- Talk to trusted people / Talk Therapy:
If the root of your sexual performance anxiety is negative body image, the first step would be to accept yourself the way you are and take the help of a professional therapist. Talk therapy often helps people regain their confidence and look at themselves in a healthier light.
- Lifestyle changes:
If you feel you could make some changes to your body, like gain or lose some weight, take necessary steps in that direction. Eat healthy and get your daily dose of activity so that you can achieve your dream body.
Research has shown that men who have a healthy diet and have an active lifestyle are more likely to perform better in bed and have good sexual health.
When your sexual performance anxiety stems from unresolved issues in your relationship or other worries, communicating openly with your partner can help rekindle the intimacy and spark up the romance in your relationship.
- Getting rid of stress:
If you have identified that your performance anxiety stems from stress related to reasons that have nothing to do with your sex life, like finances, responsibilities, an upcoming project, you must develop ways to deal with them. You cannotavoid stressful situations, but you can change the way that you react to them.
Stress is inevitable in these times, and all one can do is minimize stress-causing factors and learn how to cope in stressful situations.
Once you have addressed the roots of the problem causing your sexual performance anxiety, some exercises can improve sexual stamina and performance.
- Kegel exercises
- Pelvic lifts
- Yoga poses like the frog pose
- Variations of planks
- Complete body stretching
These exercises target various areas in your body, improve blood circulation, improve pelvic strength and promote overall wellbeing. Practicing yoga, meditation, and taking anti stress relief tablets might also help reducing anxiety and stress, that in turn helps you to perform better.
Your doctor will usually do a few tests and talk about your sexual history to understand the cause better before they can prescribe any medication.
The bottom line is that prolonged stress can never be good for the human body as it leads to anxiety, performance disorders, and affects the overall quality of life. Identify what causes stress in your life, eliminate those factors, develop coping mechanisms and reach out for professional help whenever required.
Often accepting oneself and learning to appreciate a relationship might help both the partners have a wholesome relationship rather than fixating on superficial factors that instead take away the joy from it.