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Do You Have Performance Anxiety?
Men experiencing performance anxiety often concentrate specifically on the quality of their erection. They might rush through sex because they are afraid of going soft too soon and dread situations that could lead to sex. “If a man has issues around his erection, typically a man will avoid sexual contact, will find reasons not to be dating (if they’re not in a relationship), and will stay away from sexual activity rather than experience some kind of ‘failure,'” says Ducharme. Men with this issue may also experience sensations familiar to other forms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate and rapid breathing leading up to sexual encounters. Young men are especially prone to anxiety due to inexperience. Older men, who may have sexual function difficulties due to health factors, can also develop this heightened concern.
Don't Be Too Quick to Blame the Relationship
Ducharme says that relationships where men are very happy can actually make performance anxiety more likely. If a man is strongly invested in his partner as someone he wants to be with long-term, that can put a lot of pressure on him in all aspects of their relationship. Any added relationship pressure, even from positive situations, can result in more preoccupation with bedroom performance.
Not in the Mood? Take a Rain Check
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a man isn’t all that into having sex with his partner, that can also lead to sexual difficulties — which can then set him up for future anxiety, even at times when he would otherwise want sex. “If he’s really not in the mood for sex and his partner is, and he sort of feels obligated to satisfy his partner, that could be a time when he may experience problems,” says Ducharme. That manly stereotype is a big part of the problem here. Believing that men are always ready and excited for sex is not only inaccurate but potentially detrimental. Even in a great relationship where a man is attracted to his partner, he shouldn’t be expected to want to have sex all the time.
Leave the Past Behind
“There can be a lot of different factors that could contribute to a man having performance anxiety but I would say that the most common is if he has experienced difficulty in the past,” says Ducharme. Just one less-than-stellar performance can get into a guy’s head, setting off anxiety. This is true even if there was an obvious and temporary cause, such as alcohol consumption. Once functioning goes wrong the first time, a man can find himself in a loop of anxiety and performance issues, which feed off each other.
Switch the Location
The environment in which a couple gets busy can also produce anxiety. Trying to have sex somewhere unusual, complicated, or potentially embarrassing (like her parent’s house) can bring up all kinds of concerns. Interruptions can also break focus and make it difficult for a man to enjoy himself and his partner.
Confront Your Partner's Criticism
When sexual functioning doesn’t go as planned, how the partner reacts can make a huge difference. If they don’t make a big deal out of it and are able to reassure the man that it’s not a significant issue, this can keep it from becoming one in the future. On the other hand, a partner’s belief that something is wrong, even if it isn’t, can create functioning difficulties that weren’t present before. Real issues with functioning down there shouldn’t be ignored (and warrant a visit to the doctor) but being hypercritical can make mountains out of mole hills.
Try to Get Caught Up in the Moment
When a man experience performance anxiety, he is shifting his attention from the intimacy and excitement of the moment to everything he’s worried could go wrong. This way of thinking can result in a self-fulfilling, like stressing out before an interview and flubbing it because you can’t work through your nerves. Shifting attention to what is happening rather that what might happen is one of the best ways to combat performance anxiety. “He should be focused on that rather than in his own head, obsessing about how hard his penis is,” says Ducharme. This takes practice.
Talk About It
No one wants to discuss their performance anxiety and the specific functioning issues it may involve. But if you are in a serious relationship, or you simply value openness in your sexual encounters, talking about your anxiety can help you overcome it. Letting someone know you are stressed by sex and that things might not work as expected can take off a lot of pressure and refocus the encounter on more important parts, like pleasure for the both of you.
Stop Competing in the Bedroom
There are a lot of ways to have sex and be sexually satisfied. There is not one perfect method for sex and it is not a contest. “That whole competitive, macho thing — that this is something that you’re either going to succeed at or fail at — is really the wrong kind of attitude to bring into the bedroom,” says Ducharme. Have a good time and work with what you’ve got. And remember, intimate encounters do not need to involve intercourse.
When to Turn to Drugs
Men use erectile dysfunction pills, like Viagra, for a variety of reasons. These can also be an effective solution to performance anxiety because, for many men, one good sexual encounter goes a very long way toward restoring their confidence and quelling their trepidations. This isn’t a perfect treatment, however. “The problem is that men become somewhat dependent on them and they become fearful when they’re not available,” says Ducharme. If you are considering this method for addressing performance anxiety, it’s important to consider this risk as well.
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