Sexual Performance Anxiety and ED: Causes, Symptoms & More
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Shannon Ullman
Anxious about your sexual performance? Don’t worry — feeling this way isn’t uncommon, and you’re definitely not alone.
Anxiety around sex, especially for men, is actually “a thing.” If you feel nervous, anxious or uncomfortable before, during or after sex, you might have a condition known as sexual performance anxiety.
Sexual performance anxiety can affect men of all ages and backgrounds. This condition can be a drag on your emotions and contribute to common sexual dysfunction issues like erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation (PE).
Sexual dysfunction might affect you, but did you know it can negatively impact your partner, too? There’s actually research on this. It turns out that ejaculatory dysfunction could increase your and/or your partner’s risk of developing depression.
Sounds like a vicious cycle, if you ask us.
It’s not all bad, though. Sex anxiety and its surrounding health issues are fixable. There are medical treatments and sex therapists who can help, plus lifestyle habits you can adopt to improve your sexual performance in the bedroom.
Here’s a look into this sexual condition, including what causes it, how it may affect sexual activity and how to beat performance anxiety to revamp your sex life.
Causes of Sexual Performance Anxiety
As you’re probably well aware, a big part of having sex is getting an erection.
An erection occurs when sexual arousal from your partner, masturbation or a toy sends nerve impulses to your brain. Your sexual nerves alert the blood vessels in your penis to dilate, increasing blood flow to the penis.
Once this happens, a fibrous membrane tightens around your penis, causing it to harden or become erect until you ejaculate and enter the refractory period. The refractory period is the time after ejaculation, when you may be unable to have another erection.
In some cases, getting or keeping an erection long enough for sexual activity doesn’t happen easily — which is where sexual performance anxiety comes into play.
Worrying about your sexual performance, satisfying your partner or potential trouble ejaculating
Other health conditions that can impact sexual satisfaction, such as neurological diseases, metabolic syndromes or hormonal issues
Current or previous substance abuse
Relationship problems, like a lack of emotional connection, relationship anxiety or feeling dissatisfied in your relationship
Sources of stress, like issues with work, relationships, family or other non-sexual aspects of your life
Previous experiences or relationships that left a negative impact on how you approach sex
Overall nervousness about having sex
From the list above, relationship issues seem to have the most impact on sexual performance anxiety. Research has revealed that everyday internal stresses within your relationship impact sexual performance more than a job, finances or other external factors.
With stress and anxiety comes stress hormones like adrenaline, which causes your body to get out of whack, leaving little room for arousal.
For many men, this can lead to erectile dysfunction, making sex more difficult and less satisfying. ED occurs when you’re unable to get hard or stay erect long enough to have sex.
Another major factor that can cause men to have sexual performance anxiety and ED is depression. According to a meta-analysis of 48 different studies on a total of nearly 170,000 male participants, those with depression had a 39 percent higher chance of developing erectile dysfunction than those without the mental health condition.
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, ask your healthcare provider to do routine ED screenings. That way, you can get proper erectile dysfunction treatment if it’s impacting your sexual experience and self-confidence.
Sexual performance anxiety can also cause anorgasmia or delayed orgasm. Associated with a lack of sexual satisfaction, this condition can make it difficult to achieve an orgasm, even with sexual stimulation.
Symptoms of Sexual Performance Anxiety
Sexual performance anxiety can affect you mentally and physically. The symptoms range from mild to severe, with some requiring medical treatment.
Symptoms of sexual performance anxiety may include:
Inability to get an erection sometimes (but not always) when you want to have sex
Ability to get an erection but unable to maintain it
Inability to ever get an erection
Difficulty orgasming during sex
Negative thoughts before and during sex
Fear when thinking about sex
Fear before or during sex
Less interest in sex
Increased heart rate
Keep reading for tips on how to get past sexual performance anxiety, improve your sex life and boost your overall well-being.
How to Overcome Sexual Performance Anxiety
How can you get over sex anxiety? Different things can cause sexual performance anxiety, so your treatment will depend on what’s causing yours.
You might need treatment for an underlying medical condition or a stressor that caused the anxiety in the first place.
In some cases, sexual performance anxiety may resolve on its own as you become more comfortable with yourself and your sexual partner. Anxiety over sexual encounters could also disappear once you begin to identify and handle the stressors in your life.
If you aren’t able to overcome sexual performance anxiety by yourself, there are plenty of male performance anxiety solutions you could try.
A mental health professional can help you work on your intimacy and sexual performance issues while addressing any underlying conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
Through therapy, you can learn how to implement lifestyle changes, such as practicing mindfulness, to reduce stress and negative thinking. You can also get your partner involved to address relationship problems that could be contributing to your sexual performance anxiety.
Sexual dysfunction can also affect your partner, potentially causing marital issues, a lack of emotional bonding and a lower quality of life.
Behavioral marital therapy and cognitive behavioral couples therapy can help you explore what’s influencing performance anxiety sex in your relationship.
If you’re considering the therapy route, we offer online therapy with licensed sex therapists and mental health professionals who can assist you with sexual performance anxiety.
ED treatments, delivered
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere.
PDE5 inhibitors work by inhibiting the PDE5 enzyme, causing blood vessels near the penis to relax and expand, increasing blood flow to the penis. Taking PDE5 medications can help you keep and maintain a hard-on.
We also want to mention that PDE5 inhibitors may help treat premature ejaculation, too.
If you’re interested in taking ED drugs for sexual performance anxiety, speak with your healthcare provider or set up an online consultation with Hims.
Erectile dysfunction medications can help with performance anxiety ED by opening your blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the penis before sexual intercourse.
Other ED treatments include:
ED drugs are especially effective for treating sexual performance anxiety if your anxiety disorder is caused by feeling self-conscious about ED. In this case, performance anxiety is a side effect of erectile dysfunction, and medication can help solve that physical problem.
It’s important to note that ED is often underreported to healthcare providers because of the taboos and fear surrounding it. Remember, ED is a common sexual problem many men go through, so don’t feel ashamed to discuss it with your provider.
If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, talk to a provider on our telehealth platform about erectile dysfunction medication today.
Coping Skills for Performance Anxiety
A healthy lifestyle offers tons of overall health benefits, including sexual health.
Adopting and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Research has shown that a diet filled with vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and fish can lower the chances of ED symptoms.
Using stress management techniques. Stress management techniques, like breathing exercises, in combination with ED medication, have been shown to reduce stress levels among men with ED.
Breaking the cycle of performance anxiety can help you cope with sexual anxiety and improve sexual performance.
Performance Anxiety: The Bigger Picture
Don’t feel like you’re alone — sexual performance anxiety is a common issue among men and women.
For guys, it can be a stressful experience — after all, no one wants to let their sexual partner down or miss out on the joys of sex because they feel anxious and uncomfortable.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
Sex anxiety can lead to sexual dysfunction. Sexual performance anxiety can increase your chances of developing erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, anorgasmia and other sexual dysfunction disorders.
Sexual performance anxiety issues. This condition can cause several issues in the bedroom, like the inability to get and stay erect, worry and fear about being unable to perform, relationship problems and much more.
Symptoms of sexual performance of anxiety. Men with performance anxiety can experience ED, premature ejaculation and other erection or ejaculation issues.
There are multiple ways to overcome sexual anxiety symptoms. From being open with your partner and going to therapy to seeking erectile dysfunction treatments, you have options for addressing performance anxiety sex and leading a healthier sex life.
Change your lifestyle habits. Avoiding drugs and alcohol, exercising, eating healthy and using stress management techniques can help with sexual performance anxiety.
Interested in learning more about the psychological side of sexual performance? Our guides to porn-induced erectile dysfunction and average penis and erection size go into detail about two of the most common causes of sexual performance anxiety.
Looking for a way to reduce feelings of anxiety? Our guide to meditation for anxiety explains how meditation can help you overcome stress, anxiety and negative thought patterns.