Nervous? Worried? Stressed? Anxiety and your Sex life

More than 40 million adults in the US deal with anxiety. To put that into perspective, that’s about 18% of the population each year. I share this because I want you to know that if you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone.

For me, there is one moment that I remember very well where my anxiety gleamed through. I was presenting my graduate thesis, which was nerve-racking in itself. I came prepared, although my body felt otherwise. As soon as I started to introduce myself, my hands started shaking. My voice started cutting in and out, and I was very overheated! Not such a great feeling when you are trying to be professional.

It’s important to know that anxiety looks and feels different for everyone. Thus, it affects everyone in different ways. It may not only bother you when you are giving a presentation like myself, but it can also have an impact on your sex life. The good news is even with my anxiety I was able to graduate and ended up here! As a sex therapist, I want you to know that there are ways to cope with your anxiety and how it may be impacting your sex life.

Anxiety and Sexual Dysfunction

Like I mentioned before in the blog related to depression, our minds and bodies work as one during sex. For people who experience anxiety, it may be very challenging to focus on the moment. Your mind is always elsewhere. Anxiety activates stress chemicals that can influence the sexual function of men and women. For men, the hormones released from anxiety may narrow blood vessels that impact your ability to keep or get an erection. For women, you may experience lessened natural lubrication and challenges in achieving orgasms. Not only do our bodies react anxiety has a powerful pull on our thoughts.

Check out this blog on stress for more tips!

  • Some thoughts you may relate to:
  • Am I satisfying my partner enough?
  • I can’t focus on having sex right now my because thoughts are racing.
  • Will my erection last long enough?
  • I’m not sexy enough.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Wow yes, I have experienced all those thoughts or thoughts like them.” Check out the tips below to help in coping with what your mind and body are experiencing.

Check the Facts From A Sex Therapist

It can be so overwhelming and frustrating when you are having the thoughts that were mentioned above. Having those thoughts can be a result of anxiety that has led to premature ejaculation or inability to achieve orgasm. Checking the facts is a great skill that is part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that can help in managing the thoughts in relation to what you are experiencing in your sex life. Our emotions influence our thoughts about events. So, let’s say you are feeling worried that you aren’t satisfying your partner while you are having sex.

Step 1: Identify the emotion you want to change, in this case it’s worry.

Step 2: Ask yourself what is stimulating the worry. An important part of this step is describing the facts of the event. Then, challenging any judgments that you may have. For example, in this scenario, you might be less lubricated than you would like to be. In this event, a judgment to challenge is that your partner isn’t enjoying the sex because of this.

Step 3: Ask yourself what your assumptions are about the situation and think of other possibilities.

Step 4: Ask yourself if and what the threat is in your experience. In this case, you might feel that you’re your lowered lubrication is a threat to your sexual experience. When you have that automatic thought, challenge yourself to think of other outcomes.

Step 5: Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen and how you would cope with it. In this instance, the worst thing could be your partner telling you they aren’t satisfied. That’s when step six comes into play!

Step 6: Ask yourself does the worst thing that could happen fit the facts of the situation?

I hope that after you go through the steps above that when you get to step six your answer is no! This is a great skill to use at any point. It’s something that you and your partner can use and talk through together, or with a sex therapist.

Coping Ahead

Another great skill developed from DBT is coping ahead. Again, this is something to discuss with your partner or you can use it on your own. The first step is describing a situation where you know you may experience a lot of anxiety. For me, it’s public speaking! For you, it might be anxiety related to whether you will be able to maintain an erection. Make sure to check the facts about the situation. Name the emotions or thoughts you may be experiencing.

Next, what can you use to lessen the severity of the anxiety? It might be having an open conversation with your partner beforehand. Then imagine that situation in your mind almost like you are in the situation right now. When you are in the moment and have trouble managing an erection, remember the conversation you had with your partner. Give yourself validation for taking the steps to cope ahead with your experience.

Take a Step Back

Whatever way anxiety impacts you, taking a step back can always be helpful. If you’re worried about your performance or your body image, take a second and do not react. Taking this step back will help you in not automatically reacting to your thought. This gives you time to notice what is going on in your mind and body. After you’ve taken a step back and checked the facts, recognize that by doing this you are being mindful! Then, the rest of your experience might be will be more enjoyable!

Self-Validation & Moving Forward: Where to go from here

I’m a proud member of the Swifties fan club. In the famous words of Taylor Swift herself “I’ve been thinking about people who, if they’re suffering through mental illness or they’re suffering through addiction, they have an everyday struggle. No one pats them on the back every day, but every day they are actively fighting something.” I share this with you because I want you to know that you deserve a pat on the back. You also deserve all the resources to help you with your anxiety. And, any sexual challenges you may face with it. A sex therapist can provide the support you deserve!