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Performance anxiety Rising to the occasion



There is nothing more daunting than performance anxiety when your body does not want to play when arousal is at bay.

There is nothing more daunting for a man than not rising to the occasion or for women who do not get the bodily response to arousal that they expect. Performance anxiety is a complex challenge that most men and many women must deal with at some point in their lives.

Sex educator and relationship coach Lisa Welsh says performance anxiety is not talked about often enough.

“It is shrouded in mystery, silence and misunderstanding,” adding that it has profound effects on individual’s mental wellness and emotional wellbeing.

Sexual performance anxiety explained

Sexual performance anxiety, says Welsh, is a pervasive sense of worry and fear related to sexual activity, which can significantly hinder both physical arousal and overall sexual satisfaction.

“It’s like your mind and body are suddenly not on the same page. And it’s not just a ‘male’ issue. It impacts everyone, regardless of gender,” Welsh points out, challenging common perceptions that this anxiety solely affects men.

When it comes to men, the root of this anxiety, according to Welsh, often lies in societal pressures and deeply ingrained beliefs about masculinity and sexual performance.

“We live in a culture where being sexually proficient is often unfairly equated with being more of a man,” she said.

“This creates unrealistic expectations and immense pressure,” Welsh noted. She stressed the importance of recognising sex not as a performance but as a shared, intimate experience.

“We mistakenly talk about ‘performing’ and ‘lasting’ as if sex were a competitive sport rather than a mutual exchange of pleasure,” she added.

This performance-oriented mindset can lead to a host of issues, including erectile dysfunction, premature or delayed ejaculation, and a general difficulty in achieving orgasm, the latter relevant to both sexes.

ALSO READ: Sex education for adults: Why old dogs need new tricks

Why this happens

There are several reasons why, particularly men, are impacted by performance anxiety. Welsh says many men dread rejection, fearing it reflects on their desirability or worth.

“Rejection is part of life, not a measure of your value. It’s crucial to approach sexual advances with empathy and open communication, both in expressing desires and in navigating refusals.”

Concerns about body image, penis size, and sexual stamina frequently plague men’s minds.

“The obsession with physical attributes and performance metrics misses the essence of sexual intimacy, which is about connection and mutual enjoyment,” Welsh says adding that, compounded with the fear of unsatisfactory performance, the anxiety over not being able to satisfy a partner sexually is pervasive.

“It’s vital to understand that sexual satisfaction is subjective and multifaceted, not a checkbox of technical prowess,” Welsh shared.

Welsh’s approach to tackling sexual performance anxiety encompasses various personal interventions:

  1. Open and honest communication: Welsh championed the power of dialogue to mitigate fears and build trust. “Discussing your anxieties openly with your partner can alleviate the pressure and foster a supportive atmosphere where intimacy thrives,” she suggests.
  2. Shifting focus: Instead of obsessing over performance, Welsh recommends focusing on the present moment and the sensations it brings. “Engage fully with the experience. Let go of the need to perform and instead explore the joy of being together,” she suggests.
  3. Self-reflection: Welsh encouraged individuals to introspect about their sexual desires and any underlying issues that may affect their sexual experiences.
  4. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practicing mindfulness can help redirect attention from anxiety-producing thoughts to the physical sensations of intimacy. “Breathing exercises, meditation, and other relaxation techniques can be incredibly effective in calming the mind and enhancing sexual enjoyment.”
  5. Lifestyle adjustments: Welsh points out the impact of overall health on sexual performance. “Healthy habits, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and balanced nutrition, play a critical role in improving sexual health,” she noted.
  6. Professional guidance: For those who find personal strategies insufficient, Welsh recommends seeking help from a sex therapist or counsellor. “Professional support can offer personalised strategies and insights to navigate and overcome deep-seated anxieties.”

If you are in the moment, before mastering the longer-term tips, Welsh suggested a few, possible quick fixes to get the sexy going.

  1. Breathe deeply: Taking slow, deep breaths can help reduce immediate anxiety and refocus attention on the present.
  2. Redirect nervous energy: Welsh suggests viewing nervousness as a form of excitement, redirecting it towards enhancing the sexual experience.
  3. Concentrate on sensations: Focusing on physical sensations rather than performance can help dissolve anxiety. “Pay attention to your partner’s responses, the touch, the sounds, and the emotional connection,” Welsh suggests.

“Remember, overcoming sexual performance anxiety is a journey, not a destination,” says Welsh. “It’s about cultivating patience, understanding, and compassion for yourself and your partner.”

NOW READ: Here’s how you can use sex to heal

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