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How to cope with sexual performance anxiety

How to cope with sexual performance anxiety

From premature ejaculation (PE) to performance, the pressure on guys in the bedroom can be underestimated. But it is not just men who suffer from sexual performance anxiety, women experience it too, making it difficult for them to enjoy sex. 

Take some comfort in knowing that not only are these common concerns, they’re also very treatable problems. If your anxiety levels are overshadowing your amorous night in, take a deep breath and read on.

Premature ejaculation playing on your mind? Don’t panic

For many men, this pressure can quickly have a psychological effect and lead to performance anxiety. Over time, this stress and anxiety can lead to difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection. While this can leave you feeling self-conscious, it is worth noting that most men will experience an erection problem at least once during their lifetime.

So what is PE and what defines it as an issue? Occasional episodes of PE, uncontrolled ejaculating either before or shortly after sexual penetration are common, are nothing to worry about. These can often be explained by circumstance; for example, if you have a new partner or haven’t had sex for a while.

However, if you keep worrying that you can’t last as long as you should in the bedroom as most men have done at some stage. Start by asking yourself whether you are simply comparing yourself to unrealistic expectations. Any time after 60 seconds is considered normal for ejaculation, and a study of 500 men found that the average time they lasted was 5 and a half minutes – perhaps shorter than you might expect.

If both partners are happy, there’s no set time for how long sex should last. 

What is an anti-climax?

Women can feel just as anxious about sexual performance as men. This can be caused by any number of issues; from a lack of body confidence, to concerns about climaxing and performance.

Causes of sexual performance anxiety for men

For men, sexual performance anxiety can come from a number of avenues. It could be something as small as reading an article about modern day sexual practices and thinking you’re not doing it right, to changes in your body as you grow older.

Other causes of sexual performance anxiety for men include:

  • Alcohol, smoking, illegal drugs and some prescription medicines
  • Recovery from illness or surgery
  • Ageing
  • Stress and anxiety

So it’s worth bearing in mind if you know any of these might be an issue. In some circumstances, erectile problems can be the first symptom of other medical conditions, so it’s best to get checked out by your GP to establish whether there is an underlying cause.

Causes of sexual performance anxiety for men

For a woman, anxiety can cause tension and a reduction in lubrication, which, by nature makes it more physically difficult to have sex. Anxiety may also affect a woman’s desire to make love and make it more difficult to achieve an orgasm. Lubricants are a great option if dryness is an issue, and for some people can actually heighten the sexual experience.

Society’s view of what constitutes a good body changes from year to year, and as you get older you might start to worry that your body isn’t as great as it once was. People can worry about everything from their beer belly to whether their penis is big enough.

There are also issues that can arise from problems in your relationship. Whether you’ve been with the same partner for years and are worried things are getting a bit stale, to someone starting out in a new relationship becoming stressed over whether they can please their new partner – relationships can be the cause, as well as the solution, to performance anxiety.

Exercises to improve sexual performance anxiety

Often, sexual performance anxiety stems from worries not about being able to do it, but about how you look while you’re doing it. As people get older they can get out of shape. The same applies for people who have had major surgery. However, when you’re fit enough to do so you should consider starting an exercise routine. 

Improving your body can boost your confidence as you’ll be in a better physical shape. This matters because exercise pumps blood around the body, not only releasing endorphins, which improve your mood and reduce stress, but also making all your muscles perform better.

If you haven’t done much exercise in a while, you should take it slowly at first, and speak to your doctor before embarking on an exercise regime.

What treatments are available for sexual performance anxiety?

If you’re having problems getting an erection, medication for ED can be extremely effective from a physical perspective, but it can also help reduce the mental stress of performance anxiety. Some men find that simply having the option of “the little blue pill” in a drawer nearby is enough to help reduce their anxiety and enjoy a healthy sex life. If you think medication might be right for you, you can safely order treatments such as Viagra, CialisLevitra and Sildenafil through our Online Doctor consultation.

The same applies to PE, where medication (in the form of prescription tablets or an anaesthetic cream), can help you delay your climax, overcome sexual performance anxiety, and gain more control over your sex life. If you’re looking for something that you can use in the moment, there are condoms and creams that contain numbing agents that help to desensitise the penis

Alternatively, you could try a tablet prescription medication called Priligy. This is a selective ‘serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)’ which has been specifically developed for the treatment of premature ejaculation. Priligy has been proven to be very effective in delaying ejaculation. 

How else can I overcome performance anxiety?

There are a number of ways you could go about tackling sexual performance anxiety. We’ll take a look at a few here:


Like therapy, talking your problems through with your partner often means that you take a big weight off your mind. A lot of your anxieties could well be unfounded when you start to talk them through. You may find that your partner is very understanding. It may be that you’re worrying about nothing at all and you’ll look back in a month or so and wonder what the problem was in the first place.

You might be able to come up with solutions together. If you’re out of shape and worried about that, you could come up with a sexual routine that is less physically intensive, like side-by-side or extended foreplay. Or, if you’re worried you’re not pleasing her, you could find out ways to do exactly that.

Try something new

If you’re worried that your sex life has become stale, trying something new in the bedroom is a great place to start. You don’t even need to have penetrative sex. Try extended foreplay, massages or a bit of role play. Take a risk. If you’re experiencing PE, maybe take things slow and avoid contact with your penis – focus on her for longer.


Some people may also like to talk to a professional and have some sexual performance anxiety therapy. Whether it’s by yourself or as a couple, therapy can help you overcome your concerns and anxiety about your performance. Not only will a therapist help you relieve some of the burden by talking it through, they can also teach you techniques that can help with your performance. therapy for erectile problems is something that can be accessed through some GPs or privately. 

Realistic expectations

With sexual advertising, sex scenes in mainstream TV and internet porn at your fingertips, you might start to develop an unrealistic view of what sex is, or should be. In reality, it’s nothing like any of these. While it’s difficult to avoid the in-your-face advertising, as it might unexpectedly appear in a TV show, you can avoid porn. Even if you only use it occasionally, you’re still filling your mind not only with positions and scenarios that are unrealistic but with bodies of both men and women that are not normal.

Where can I get treatment for sexual performance anxiety?

There are plenty of treatments available to request from us. These include short-term solutions that take effect in just 15 minutes, and long-term solutions that work over an extended period of time. We also have options for people who suffer from long-term health conditions such as diabetes.

Concentrate on you

In an internet age, there’s more and more pressure put on us all to look a certain way. It’s easy to look at an image in the media and feel inadequate, but it’s important to remember that these images are not ‘real’ and are very likely to have been photo-shopped. In reality, we all come in different shapes and sizes, and find different things attractive in a partner. Try to let go of your preconceived ideas and embrace your unique beauty. Talk to your partner about your insecurities – if they are someone you love and trust then they are likely to be understanding. You may even discover they like the bits you were worried about.

A happy and healthy sex life is something to be enjoyed by everyone, right through into your twilight years. 

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Authors and editors

Reviewed and updated by: Our clinical team Date reviewed: 12-10-2023