What Is Sexual Performance Anxiety?

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  • Written By: Alan Rankin
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2018
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Sexual performance anxiety is a mild and fairly common form of sexual dysfunction. This type of dysfunction is any factor, physical or otherwise, that impedes the healthy expression of sexuality. Although some forms of sexual dysfunction require medical attention, performance anxiety is a mental or emotional complication that can be overcome without the intervention of a professional. It is often very similar to the phobia known as “stage fright.” Although it is most common in men, it can affect women as well.

Modern culture, especially in certain countries, places a strong emphasis on sexuality. At the same time, factual information on sexual health is sometimes hard to come by. As a result, many people feel pressure to engage in sexual relationships while lacking essential information about the details of such relationships. This is especially true of young people, who can feel societal pressures toward sex increased by their own hormonal drives. One possible result is sexual performance anxiety.

For men in particular, attitude is a large part of successful sexual expression. If a man feels nervous or self-conscious, this can have a negative effect on his sexual response. This is particularly true if he is with a new sexual partner or one he is otherwise keen to impress. Just as a person who has stage fright can “freeze up” when confronted with an audience, a man might find himself unable to perform sexually at a key moment. This might give his partner the impression that he is not sexually interested, when in fact the exact opposite is often the case.

Women can also experience sexual performance anxiety, and for the same reasons. Sex counselors recommend that couples experiencing sexual performance anxiety should consider shifting their emphasis away from intercourse and orgasm. There are many ways to express romantic bonding and sexual feelings that do not directly involve intercourse. Couples might find that they can reduce sexual performance anxiety by shifting their focus to other aspects of the relationship. This can include emotional exploration, gentle reassurance and the pleasure of simple physical touch.

One method recommended by many sex counselors is called sensate focus. This is a form of massage that is sensual but not sexually focused, allowing couples to focus on each other’s entire bodies, not just their sexual organs. It can be used at any time, not just to overcome dysfunction. It also can be used as a form of foreplay. After both partners feel relaxed and comfortable with each other’s bodies, they can engage in further activity at their own pace, and performance anxiety might no longer be a problem.

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