Sexual anxiety can happen to anyone.
Whether you’re exploring sexual intimacy in a new relationship or you’ve been in the same relationship for years, sexual anxiety (yours or your partner’s) can greatly impact your relationship.
In this article, we’re going to dive into what sexual anxiety is, what can cause it, and how you can cope with sexual anxiety. So, if you or your partner feel anxious before and during sexual activities, keep reading to find out how you can start moving forward.
What Is Sexual Anxiety?
Sexual anxiety also referred to as sexual performance anxiety can be caused by many different factors. This type of anxiety causes people to feel nervousness or stress before and during sexual activities.
Like all forms of anxiety, the severity of sexual anxiety can vary greatly from person to person. For one person it could be simply a discomfort while for someone else it could be extreme anxiety that can even lead to avoidance of sexual activity altogether.
Common signs of sexual anxiety are:
- Extreme nerves before and during sex.
- Continued worry about reaching an orgasm.
- Concern about maintaining an erection or efficient lubrication.
- Inability to relax or be in the moment.
- Increased self-consciousness about your body or sexual performance.
What Might Cause It?
This anxiety surrounding acts of sexual intimacy can stem from many causes — from past sexual trauma to general anxiety, depression, or stress.
Oftentimes, the most common cause of sexual anxiety is performance pressure. This is when we have a certain standard or expectation that we think sex needs to be “good sex.” And while having an idea of what feels good to you and your partner is important to make sure both of you feel fulfilled sexually in the relationship, performance pressure is not a good thing.
This pressure makes us focus on the outcome of sex rather than the experience of it. When we do this we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve certain things — such as orgasms — and this can lead to feelings of doubt, shame, self-criticism, and anxiety.
There are a number of other issues that are commonly associated with sexual anxiety as well. These are:
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship issues
- Pain during sex
- Difficulty reaching an orgasm
- Sexual trauma
- Sexual dysfunctions (such as erectile dysfunction)
- General anxiety or depression
So, now that we have established some common causes and co-occurring issues associated with sexual anxiety, let’s get into how you can cope with these feelings.
How to Cope with Sexual Anxiety
Here, without further ado, are 7 tips to help you cope with sexual anxiety.
1. Communicate With Your Partner
If you’re feeling anxious about or during sex, let your partner know. They aren’t going to be able to know what you want unless you tell them. Maybe you simply need a little more foreplay before engaging in intercourse or maybe you’re not comfortable with a particular way they are touching you — whatever it is, tell them.
Sometimes we think that our partner automatically knows what we want — especially if we have been with a partner for a long time — but this isn’t the case. If you don’t tell your partner what you do and don’t like, they won’t know and you won’t be able to work towards a solution together.
2. Work on Other Forms of Intimacy
Maybe you have had a past trauma that has made you wary, maybe you are experiencing pain during sex, or maybe you are simply uncomfortable with sexual intercourse completely, whatever the reason, know that intercourse isn’t the only way for you to be sexually intimate with your partner.
Actions as simple as holding hands, hugging, cuddling, kissing, or even giving a gentle shoulder massage can be incredibly easy and much less intimidating ways of being intimate with your partner. Incorporating these other acts of intimacy can help you to be more comfortable with your partner’s touch (and have them be more comfortable with your touch).
Additionally, if you are wanting to engage in sexual intimacy but you are uncomfortable with intercourse, you can try engaging in outercourse instead. Outercourse (AKA non-penetrative sex) is essentially sexual activity that does not include penetration. This is a great option if you are uncomfortable with traditional sexual intercourse but still want to be more sexually intimate with your partner. It is also a great option to use as a way to help you become more comfortable with sexual intimacy with your partner if you are wanting to work up to sexual intercourse in a way that you are comfortable.
3. Prioritize the Connection
If you’re feeling anxious about having sex with your partner that is okay (just be sure to talk about it with them as we mentioned above). There is nothing wrong with taking the time to prioritize the emotional and romantic connection that is at the core of your relationship.
Prioritizing this connection can help to alleviate some of the stress that we have about what we need to do to “perform well” sexually for our partners and even help calm some of our anxieties about having sex. Essentially, it can show us that the connection overall is more important than sexual acts are and allows us to relax some of the mental barriers or expectations that we have about what sex needs to be for us (and our partners) to be happy.
4. Try Meditation
Meditation and deep breathing exercises can help to relieve feelings of nervousness or anxiety. So, if you are feeling anxious before engaging in sexual activity, you can try taking a small break and practicing a short meditation or a simple breathing exercise to help you alleviate some of your feelings of anxiety.
One short and easy breathing exercise to try is a short deep breathing practice.
- Start by laying down and closing your eyes.
- Inhale for the count of six.
- Hold the breath for a count of four.
- Exhale for the count of six.
Repeat this exercise a few times and then assess if you are still feeling uncomfortable about engaging in sexual activity with your partner.
5. Know What You Like
Many of us feel awkward or weird about the idea (or action) of exploring our own bodies. The truth is, many people feel uncomfortable when even talking about any form of sexual activity (either alone or with a partner). And when we’re raised in an environment that is uncomfortable with the mention of sex, it is no wonder that many of us may feel uncomfortable with the idea of exploring our own bodies.
But in reality, no one is ever going to know your body better than you do. If you don’t understand what feels good to you and what doesn’t, how can you expect your partner to? Focus on really becoming intimately familiar with your own body and then you can use those discoveries to communicate with your partner about how you can both have a better time together.
6. Focus on Exploring without Expectation
You do not have to have sex every single time you are kissing or touching your partner — even if you are doing so naked in bed. It is important to understand that your partner and yourself can simply enjoy exploring each other’s bodies without it needing to lead to intercourse of some kind.
When you dismiss these expectations of having sex, you and your partner can simply enjoy exploring each other intimately without feeling the need for things to go any further — without the pressure of turning it into a good sex session. This allows you to both live in (and thoroughly enjoy) the moment without any expectation for the future.
7. Talk to a Therapist
Whether you’ve already tried some (or all) of the tips above, or you simply want some additional guidance with overcoming sexual anxiety, talking to a sex therapist can be a great option. A sex therapist has experience with treating all kinds of sexual problems — sexual anxiety included.
So, if you think you could use some guidance to help you overcome sexual anxiety, please reach out to us at Love Heal Grow. You do not have to go through this process alone, we are here to help you in any way we can.