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Sexual Performance Anxiety

By Matty Silver, Sex Therapist on October 22, 2014 in Other

Photo: Stiffy Macpherson

Photo: Stiffy Macpherson

Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but it is very difficult to feel sexy or intimate with your partner – and especially with a new partner – when a man suffers from sexual performance anxiety.

We are constantly bombarded with society’s ideals of male sexuality in the media; just think of the ‘Want Longer Lasting Sex?’ ads, which create unrealistic expectations of what a man should look like and how he should perform in the bedroom. These ads prey on the insecurities of men, who may have no sexual dysfunction at all, especially inexperienced young men. It’s no surprise that these expectations can affect their confidence.

High levels of stress and anxiety, which inhibit the blood flow to the penis, can result in erection difficulties, premature ejaculation or the inability to ejaculate. Performance anxiety can start suddenly, even in stable, healthy relationships.

Sometimes, even a single occasion when a man loses his erection or ejaculates too quickly can be enough to raise doubt in his mind and can cause anxiety the next time around. When he anticipates problems about his performance, it then becomes a self-fulfilling fear. I have spoken to young healthy men who avoid having sex for years after some bad experiences.

One of my clients was a happily married man who had never experienced a loss of his erection, but one day it happened and he was really surprised. Unfortunately his wife made a snide comment and he was so embarrassed and disappointed that he started having erection problems regularly after that one incident.

In our counselling session, his wife confided she had no idea that her comment had started such a downward spiral in the bedroom. It’s important when an issue like this happens that a partner shows empathy, and both men and women should realise it is normal for most men to experience erectile problems at some time in their lives. It’s easy for women; they don’t need to perform!

So what can be done to overcome sexual performance anxiety? If there are no medical or physical causes, try being open with your partner. Talking about anxiety can ease worries, and trying to reach a solution together can bring you closer as a couple and may improve your relationship.

You could also make an appointment with a sex therapist or counsellor. Some therapy sessions may help you understand the issues that are causing the anxiety. A healthy man should not need medication such as Viagra or Cialis to get erections. There are many other ways to reduce or eliminate your anxieties.

The most common sexual performance complaint by men is premature ejaculation (PE), which about 30 per cent of the male population can sometimes suffer from. It happens often to young men who are inexperienced and when it occurs it causes shame and embarrassment.
Sometimes doctors prescribe sufferers of PE anti-depressants. If these doctors took more time to understand the sufferer’s sexual history, they may discover that the main issue is performance anxiety. In this situation, counselling and psycho-sexual education are far more helpful than drugs.

However, there is a new drug on the market called Priligy, which has been specifically developed to treat premature ejaculation. It doesn’t need to be taken daily and works well for some men. It can be helpful for the sufferer to take it for a period of time to help them get over their anxiety and to feel more confident.

To find out more about medication that may improve sexual functioning, see your GP to get a prescription and have a check-up at the same time.