It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time having sex or your thousandth; Sexual performance anxiety can happen to anybody. It can occur during a casual fling, or with a committed partner, and can ruin the experience for everyone if not dealt with. Let’s talk about how to overcome sexual performance anxiety.
- Educate Yourself about Sexual Performance Anxiety
- Recognize How Common Sexual Performance Anxiety is
- Communicate with Your Partner Effectively
- Take Care of Your Partner in Other Ways
- Have an Excuse Handy
- Loosen up with an Anxiety Supplement
- Consider Using a Male Enhancement Supplement
- Wait Until the Morning
- Adjust the Lighting in the Room
- Bring the Action Outside the Bedroom
- Stop Watching Porn
- Control Your Breathing
- Use Mindfulness Meditation Training
- Receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Fix Your Mindset (Myth Busting)
For those of us already prone to anxiety, these steps are especially important for overcoming sexual performance anxiety.
Keep reading to the end to learn how to implement each of these steps in detail. I’ll be sure to discuss how each of these points has improved my own sex life and eliminated my performance anxiety.
*Important Note – I apologize in advance to my female readers… Much of this article focuses on overcoming male sexual performance anxiety. While sexual performance anxiety is much more commonly reported by men, it certainly can happen to women. My own anatomy limits my experience regarding female sexual performance anxiety. Nevertheless, I suspect there to be some overlap and I hope you can still find some use in this guide.
**Another Important Note – I am not a doctor and nothing on this website is intended as medical advice. If you are having issues in bed such as erectile dysfunction, you should speak with your doctor to rule out a more serious underlying health condition before utilizing this guide.
How to Overcome Sexual Performance Anxiety (The Complete Guide)
Educate Yourself about Sexual Performance Anxiety
Just like any other form of anxiety, it’s important to understand anxiety at its core. I’ll assume you’ve already explored this site a bit and understand the general basics of anxiety. For now, let’s focus on sexual performance anxiety specifically.
The reason most people experience sexual performance anxiety is simple. We let our egos get in our way and start to think of sex as a “performance.” In a society driven by sex and money, it’s not surprising that many of us tie our sense of self-worth to our ability to “perform sexually.” This puts tremendous pressure on both men and women in the bedroom.
Everyone wants to be seen as sexy by their partner. We all wish to prove how phenomenal a lover we can be. Unfortunately, overthinking in this way is going to pull us totally out of the moment. Much like having a panic attack at open mic night, it’s impossible to perform well when your head is totally elsewhere.
The parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) is responsible for arousal, while the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is associated with anxiousness. Because these systems represent competing mental states, it’s pretty difficult to be both aroused and anxious and the same time. How can blood flow to your genitals when the fight-or-flight response is pumping that same blood away from your vital organs?
Fortunately, there are many methods we can implement to help us calm down. These methods will help us to relax and enjoy sex as it should be.
Recognize How Common Sexual Performance Anxiety is
Sometimes it helps to know we’re not alone.
Sex is one of those taboo topics people tend to shy away from. We’re often too ashamed to discuss personal issues like sexual performance anxiety with our friends. When we don’t talk about it, we don’t hear about it. This makes us think we’re the only person in the world going through it.
As a shamelessly open person, I don’t consider any topic too taboo for conversation with my friends. Being this way, I’ve found that when you open up to people about such embarrassing topics, they open up about them as well. If you open up to some friends about this temporary issue, I guarantee you’ll be surprised to learn just how common it is.
Don’t believe me? Check out the statistics:
An estimated 9-25% of men, and 6-16% of women, experience some degree of sexual performance anxiety. That’s nearly a quarter of the population! (Source)
In men, sexual performance anxiety may lead to premature ejaculation or psychogenic erectile dysfunction (ED). Women with sexual performance anxiety may experience severe sexual inhibition.
As you can see, while not the most popular dinner party topic, sexual performance anxiety is very common.
You are not alone.
Communicate with Your Partner Effectively
Alright, you’ve got the basics under your belt (no pun intended). Now, let’s talk about how to overcome sexual performance anxiety.
If I could only give you one tip to improve your sex life, it would be this:
Learn to communicate effectively.
I truly can’t emphasize this enough. Performance anxiety or not, communicating with your partner (even for a fling) is the difference between great sex and disappointing sex. I’ll get into this a bit more in the next step, though.
For now, it’s important to learn how to communicate with your partner about your sexual performance anxiety.
The biggest problem with sexual performance anxiety is that both parties involved tend to silently blame themselves. If a man suffers from premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, he may feel a sense of inadequacy and shame. He may feel embarrassed and wonder what his partner is thinking of him. Meanwhile, his partner may feel as though the issue lies with her. She may be left wondering if she is simply not attractive enough or able to excite him.
It’s instinctive for us to want to silently brush past the issue. Anxiety has this nagging ability to make us believe we need to keep it a secret. You don’t.
Whether with a one-night stand or a long-term committed partner, don’t be afraid to discuss your sexual performance anxiety. Believe it or not, this will take a tremendous amount of pressure off of both parties.
You will no longer have this nagging, humiliating secret to hide.
Your partner will be relieved to know that the problem is not a lack of attraction to them.
It helps if you’re able to separate yourself a bit from the issue: You are not your sexual performance anxiety, it’s just something you’re experiencing at the moment. Try and find humor in the situation, laugh it off with your partner, and get to work on correcting it together.
Any good partner will be more than happy to help you get past any sexual problems. Remember, they are your partner. This is something you should work through together.
Be kind and patient with each other as you explore creative and exciting ways to work past this temporary setback.
Take Care of Your Partner in Other Ways
Standard, penetrative, vaginal sex is overrated.
It’s the vanilla flavor in a bowl full of Neapolitan ice cream. Sure, vanilla’s great, but is it really your favorite? Don’t forget to give chocolate and strawberry a try.
What feels good to one partner may not feel good to the next. Don’t guess. Ask.
Tell your partner what you like, and ask them what they like. Don’t be afraid to verbalize your desires; not doing so is how people wind up feeling unsatisfied and resenting their partner. Emphasize to your partner that you don’t want them to have to “fake” excitement. Ask them to guide you, if necessary, to better explore and understand their body.
According to this study, 90% of men and only about 50% of women are able to orgasm from sexual intercourse. For those with performance anxiety, this should be encouraging; it means that sexual intercourse is far from the most effective way to satisfy a female partner.
Based on my own experience and conversations with women, I’ve found that there are far better ways to please a woman. Way more women are able to reach orgasm through masturbation, oral stimulation, or fingering. Find out what your partner enjoys most and master these skills.
If you really want to please a woman in bed, penetration should always come last. When I’m with a woman, I always want to make sure she is sexually satisfied before the intercourse even begins. This decreases stress and performance anxiety in a major way; even if you can’t get an erection, she still had fun and isn’t going to leave you a 1-star review.
I guess the key here is not to be selfish. Just because you’re feeling anxious and can’t perform doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of your partner. And by doing so, you buy yourself some time to forget your worries and become organically aroused as you please your partner. Best of all, you’ll build a ton of sexual tension in the process, making the sex way better.
Have an Excuse Handy
Alright, here’s where I kind of contradict myself on a previous step.
Effective communication really is vital to great sex. With that said, I understand that not everyone is going to feel ready to discuss their sexual performance anxiety with a partner. If you’re having performance anxiety with a new partner, or a casual hookup, you may prefer more discretion.
To clarify, I don’t think this step is the best way to go about overcoming sexual performance anxiety. Yet it’s something I’ve absolutely done in the past and may help some young guys save face.
The tip here is to always have an excuse handy for why you’re not able to perform.
To demonstrate what I mean, here are some examples:
- Having “whisky dick” from drinking too much alcohol
- Experiencing sexual side effects from a medication
- Recently had a surgery and still not feeling 100%
- Been extremely stressed out recently and can’t get out of your head
- Extremely tired from a long day or work/exercise
- Just got out of a long-term relationship and not used to a new partner yet
These are some silly examples I just made up on the spot.
I am by no means suggesting that making excuses or lying about the cause of your sexual performance issues is a good idea.
Rather, I simply acknowledge that (particularly for young guys) this may be a useful tactic for some. By having such an excuse handy, you’ll be able to take some pressure off yourself. Your partner will know that she is not to blame, and you will not be expected to perform sexually.
With some of the pressure removed, you may find it easier to actually relax and enjoy sex.
Loosen up with an Anxiety Supplement
Sexual performance anxiety is, at its core, a psychological issue rather than a physiological one. For this reason, you may find it helpful to loosen up with an anxiety supplement before sex.
The obvious one here is alcohol. Alcohol can decrease social anxiety and help us to feel more confident, especially in bed. It’s certainly not a bad option, but too much of it will do us more harm than good.
So, is there a better option?
While there are many anxiety supplements that can work on sexual performance anxiety, my personal recommendation would be phenibut.
For many years, phenibut has been my go-to supplement for reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress. Phenibut is great for sex, as it makes you feel significantly more confident and euphoric. Best of all, phenibut doesn’t seem to come with the same sexual side effects as alcohol.
Here is my favorite source for phenibut. It’s pretty strong stuff, so just be sure to use it as instructed and don’t overdo it.
Consider Using a Male Enhancement Supplement
Taking medication for sexual performance anxiety can be a fairly intuitive solution. This is something you'd need to talk to a medical professional about.
For many people, just having that "little blue pill" in their back pocket may be enough to take some of the pressure off sexual performance; you know you’re never far from a surefire erection if the girl of your dreams comes along. There are a number of providers for such medications, but l recommend Hims.
Hims is a one-stop telehealth service for men's wellness and care; they provide treatment options for ED, hair loss, and more. They connect you to medical providers online who can evaluate you and, when appropriate, prescribe and ship you discreetly packaged medication.
I personally suggest using any ED medication sparingly to avoid psychological dependence. Still, it's nice to keep them around for peace of mind if nothing else.
Wait Until the Morning
Sex tends to occur more in the evening, especially with flings and one-night stands. However, it’s important to remember that, if all else fails, you can always try again in the morning.
Interestingly, men’s testosterone levels actually peak in the morning and steadily decline throughout the day. This means that you’ll likely be more aroused and eager to perform in the morning than at night.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll also feel more relaxed when you first wake up. Your body has time to repair itself and relieve any of the stress you’ve built up throughout the day. And any alcohol affecting your performance from the night before will likely have worn off by now.
Never put pressure on yourself by believing you only have one opportunity to perform sexually.
Sleep it off and try again in the morning under better conditions.
Adjust the Lighting in the Room
Something that can be easily overlooked during sex is the lighting in the room.
I’ve learned over the years that, sexually, I am a very visually-dependent person. Fumbling around with another body in the dark just doesn’t do it for me. I like to see everything, and that is what turns me on.
Some people are just the opposite, however. Some may feel a bit shier or more reserved about their own naked bodies. These people will probably prefer a darker environment for sex, and could experience performance anxiety in a bright room.
I can’t tell you what level of lighting will work best for you; you’ll need to experiment a bit. Dim lighting is the sweet spot I’ve found with most of my sexual partners. A dimly lit room allows you to fully appreciate your partner’s body without anyone feeling like they’re naked under a spotlight.
In college, I actually purchased a lava lamp (ballin’ on a budget) and found the lighting from it to be perfect. If you’ve got the financial ability, however, LED mood lighting is incredible and the best way to go.
Bring the Action Outside the Bedroom
Elsewhere on this site we discuss many different ways to stop a panic attack. Something I recommend frequently for this is to change your immediate physical environment.
If you’re feeling anxious in the bedroom, don’t be afraid to take the action outside of the bedroom. Oftentimes just the physical act of relocating can be enough to pull you out of your head and ground you in reality.
Additionally, getting freaky in the kitchen, bathroom, or shower, can feel kinky and exciting.
Speaking of kinky, don’t be afraid to embrace any fetish you may be shy about. Communicate your kinks and fetishes to your partner, no matter how weird or embarrassing they may seem. In my experience, most people are eager to fulfill these “freaky” desires and to try new things.
Stop Watching Porn
Trust me, I have absolutely no moral objection to pornography in general.
However, I do believe that over-reliance on porn and masturbation can lead to issues in the bedroom. Over time, our brain learns to associate images on a computer screen with sexual gratification rather than… you know, actual sex.
If you’re just starting to experience sexual performance anxiety for the first time, investigate your porn habits.
Are you masturbating to porn every day? Stop for a week and see just how badly your body starts to crave sexual stimulation. Cut it out entirely and you’ll likely see a massive boost to your libido and decrease in sexual performance anxiety.
Remember, Internet porn has only been available to us for a relatively short period of time thus far. I have no doubt that, as time goes on, we will learn more and more about the negative psychological and sexual impact of porn and over-masturbation.
There is actually a whole movement built around breaking masturbation addiction. It’s a fascinating website and helpful community called NoFap. It’s certainly worth checking out if you need help kicking the habit.
Control Your Breathing
When we’re anxious, we have a tendency to breathe unnaturally. Sometimes we inadvertently hold our breath; other times we over-breathe, or hyperventilate.
Either way, this is a bad thing. Irregular breathing patterns can exacerbate our anxiety symptoms and worsen our sexual performance anxiety.
If you’re feeling anxious during sex, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Are you breathing too fast or too slow? Get that under control. I tend to recommend 4-7-8 breathing which entails:
- Breathe in slowly for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale slowly for 8 seconds.
This can be a helpful way to stop hyperventilation and or panic attacks. It should similarly help you to feel more relaxed and better able to perform sexually.
Use Mindfulness Meditation Training
Right up there with breath work is meditation.
Mindfulness meditations are extremely effective at decreasing anxiety. There are many ways to go about this; you may wish to check out our article on meditating for anxiety.
Basically, mindfulness meditations involve the act of consciously acknowledging your thoughts (e.g., anxiety) and letting them pass without judgement.
With regard to sexual performance anxiety, meditation can be an awesome tool to have. However, it is a skill that takes some practice and getting used to.
Body scanning techniques can also be useful here. This involves directing your attention toward the physical sensations occurring to one part of the body. For reasons that should be obvious, this can be particularly useful in the bedroom.
Receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Talking to a therapist can always be helpful with regard to issues of intimacy or anxiety.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional about overcoming sexual performance anxiety. An expert in the field should definitely be able to help talk you through the problem and offer solutions.
If you’re a bit shy to go in and talk to someone in person, online therapy is a great way to go.
I recommend getting started with online therapy here.
Fix Your Mindset (Myth Busting)
Unfortunately, the popularity and accessibility of social media and Internet porn bring with them some serious consequences. Both men and women alike suffer from a warped sense of how they compare to their peers, as well as a distorted impression of what is sexually normal.
To try and decrease some of your sex-related stress, let’s discuss some facts.
- Most women are not able to reach orgasm through sexual intercourse. Knowing this should take some pressure off your ability to maintain an erection and perform. Most women are better able to reach orgasm through other methods such as fingering or cunnilingus. Some women may not be able to reach orgasm at all, even when masturbating alone. Ask your partner what she needs from you, and do it.
- A large penis is not required to satisfy most women. While women’s preferences certainly vary, you’re far more likely to satisfy a woman with your mouth or hands, anyway. Furthermore, watching pornography dramatically skews our perception of what is “normal” with regard to penis size. Chances are your size is just fine.
- Women don’t want a man who can go “all night.” Anything over 20 minutes becomes gratuitous for most women. Too much of anything (yes, even sex) gets old.
No amount of sexual experience can make you immune to sexual performance anxiety. While experience can boost your sexual confidence, anyone can experience anxiety even after having sex hundreds of times. I have had many sexual partners (college was a great investment for me) and have still been faced with sexual performance anxiety a handful of times in my life.
The best sex position to reduce stress is whichever position you are most comfortable in. Change things up and try different positions to determine which your favorite is. It’s entirely possible that certain positions could make someone feel a bit more insecure or anxious. If there's a position you don't like, feel free to avoid it in favor of one you do.
Sex with a new partner can be rough, since you may feel less comfortable than you would with a long-term partner. My advice with new partners is the same as with existing partners: Communication is key. Take some pressure off yourself by asking your new partner outright what they enjoy in bed.