Sexual performance anxiety

Q. I have been having trouble lasting during sex. Most times I can barely get it up - and when I can, I don’t last very long. My girlfriend has been real cool about it, but she loves sex and I want to perform better for her. Can you help me out?

A. Sexual performance anxiety is a well-known phenomenon, especially for men concerned with the quantity and quality of their erections. It would be most helpful to you if you are able to put your finger on what it is that is causing you the anxiety; once you have identified the cause it will be easier to find a solution. Concerns can be varied … perhaps poor body image, worry that you won’t be able to satisfy your partner sexually, concern about premature ejaculation, or perhaps difficulties at home or work. Whatever the cause, it needs to be eliminated or at least put under control so that it is not blocking the spontaneous flow of sexual feelings. Since the brain controls the body, once any worry is put aside, your brain can focus on allowing your body to flow with the sexual energy of the moment.

Stress, whether it is direct (to do with the sexual encounter itself) or indirect (perhaps to do with work, family, school or otherwise) can cause our bodies to release hormones that cause us to react negatively to an otherwise normal event. In men, stress hormones constrict blood vessels, limiting the amount of blood flow to the penis and thereby making it more difficult to have, or keep, an erection. If you are distracted by how you are (or are not) performing, you will not be able to focus on the pleasure present in the moment. Unfortunately sexual performance anxiety is a vicious cycle – the more anxiety you have, the worse your performance … and the worse your performance, the more anxiety you will have!

Try talking to your partner about how you feel in order to ease your anxiety; hopefully you can come up with a solution together. Try distracting yourself by thinking about something that turns you on, letting your erotic thoughts, fantasies and feelings run loose. Put on a sexy movie, dim the lights, and turn up the music. Exercise … the hormones released during cardiovascular exercise will make you feel good inside, and the workout will keep you looking good on the outside. Therapists and medical doctors can be a great resource if the basic things aren't quite cutting it; talk to your doctor to make sure medications or health problems aren't the cause of the problem. Finally, if things don't run smoothly every time, try to laugh it off – find humor and the light side of things in your sexual relationship and you may very well find yourself having a whole lot less stress and a whole lot more fun!

For more information, also check out our article on Erectile Dysfunction.