The Link Between Performance Anxiety and Erectile Dysfunction (and How to Break It)

performance anxiety and ED

“Performance anxiety” is a term that a lot of web journals use to tell men that their erectile dysfunction is mental rather than physical. The idea of it being “all in your head” doesn’t really help though, since mental issues are often just as hard to treat as physical ones (or harder). By obsessing over it being your fault, your brain’s failure, or your inability to accept your “sexual duty” as a man, your erectile function will not get better. Worry will make it worse.

This is why you need a clean slate. No more “all in your head.” No more “just relax.” By explaining the exact link between what we call anxiety, where that anxiety comes from, and the difficulties men have with erectile dysfunction, we want to help you break the cycle of stress that’s causing the mental (and physical) reactions that are preventing you from having the best sex you can.

Why is Sex a “Performance?”

Performing is stressful. If you’ve ever been through a recital, band audition, a big game, a speech, etc., you know that. You know that your tailbone tucks, your fingers sweat, your heart beats faster, or you just feel agitated and nervous. It’s all perfectly normal. When we care about something, like our music or sport, we get anxiety when it’s time to put that care to the test.

While both men and women can experience feelings of performance during sex, men shoulder the burden of the anxiety differently. And this anxiety leads to erectile dysfunction.

Sexual dysfunction can happen to anyone, but it’s more likely to occur due to “a man’s attitude towards sex, conflict in [his] relationship, and performance anxiety,” according to a study conducted for the International Journal of Stress Management. This means not only that there’s a clear link between performance anxiety and ED, but also that how men think about sex and their relationship is the key to dysfunction caused by anxiety.

When considering how men, even young men, can become anxious before or during sex, look at how our culture shapes their attitude towards it. Think of all the movies where a woman jokes about sex not being long enough, or that the man sleeps afterward, that she didn’t get enough orgasms, or that it wasn’t satisfying. This reduced, Hollywoodized version of relationships shows a very small aspect of the real experience of people who love each other, who can often satisfy each other without needing a “better performance.”

Yet, the media portrayal of how the man needs to “perform” ironically may be partly causing the attitude shift that makes him least likely to be able to do so. By making men feel like something is expected of them, their nerves make it more difficult to get (and give) the pleasure they should.

It’s well-known in the 21st century that advertising unattainable standards of beauty in movies, TV, and magazines can make women feel insecure about their looks. The media surrounding male sexual performance, its own kind of “unattainable standard,” may have a comparable effect on men’s insecurities when it’s time to “perform” in bed.

Since we know that how men view themselves and their relationship is the lynchpin of performance anxiety, it’s important to ask why sex is even considered a “performance” in the first place.

The Effects of Performance Anxiety

Whether influenced by cultural standards, our upbringing, or the challenges in our current relationships, performance anxiety comes with a host of nasty effects related to erectile dysfunction. Men can lose the ability to orgasm, their libido can tank in response to not enjoying sex, and they can even develop premature ejaculation due to their anxiety.

These effects come in cycles and it’s important to realize that if you’ve been evaluated for physical issues, or you have no reason to believe there’s anything else wrong, then the effects of anxiety are not permanent. There’s nothing wrong with you, your penis, or your manliness.

This article won’t obsess over the symptoms because you shouldn’t either. If you’re having trouble with erections, you know it, and obsessing over symptoms by using Dr. Google as a replacement for real help is part of the problem.

What you need is a step-by-step plan of how to break this cycle. Now that you know that it’s not your fault and that you can get your mojo back, follow these tips to overcome your anxiety and bring your erections back (with a vengeance).

Breaking the Cycle of Anxiety: A Three-Step Guide

Performance Anxiety Sex

Before we get into the steps, understand that you can’t fix hard-wired anxiety instantly. If you’ve been having this trouble for years, it may take a lot of work to get back in the saddle, so to speak. And if it’s only happened once and you’re worried that it could become a pattern, you can still use this advice. Just realize that everyone has bad sexual experiences sometimes. Both men and women experience anxiety, lose the mood, can’t orgasm, or can’t satisfy their partner all the time.

In either case, the culprit is likely our obsession with self-monitoring our performance and being critical of ourselves. This leads to anxiety, which leads to ED. Instead of monitoring yourself, you should be focused on the moment. Instead of being locked in the thoughts in your head, you should be feeling the sensations of your body. This is what you have to do to break the cycle.

Step 1: Change your attitude

It’s hard to break a mental cycle without realizing that you need to shift the way you think about the problem first. Cognitive-behavioral therapy offers pretty good advice on how to do this. Here’s a simplified version of it.

First, tell yourself the belief that is causing your problem. Maybe it’s something like, “I’m worried that she’ll leave me if I can’t have better sex.” Or, “I’m worried I’ll ejaculate too soon and we won’t enjoy sex.” Then, write down an alternative that’s way better. It could be something like, “We can enjoy being sexual together no matter what happens with my penis.” Or, “I know she loves me, no matter what happens in bed.”

Do this often: identify your anxiety and write down alternatives. What you’re doing is reinforcing the alternative and making the anxiety seem less inevitable. This will give you more mental room to accept the possibility that everything’s okay.

Step 2: Masturbate better

For many men that experience performance anxiety, masturbation is the only time they enjoy their erections and have orgasms. Masturbating better can actually help you defeat the anxiety.

First, you need to be mindful. This means that you should focus on the sensations of your body, the relaxation and movement of muscles, and imagine being sexual with a partner without obsessing over any other thoughts. Spend a lot of time pleasuring yourself without rushing or thinking that you “have” to climax. Enjoy the affection you can have for yourself when you don’t care what happens.

If you do this regularly, you can improve your performance anxiety. You can demystify your pleasure, making it easier to attain, and easier to give.

Step 3: Involve your partner

Many men feel that performance anxiety is a solo problem. However, if you have a partner, the chances are that they want to help you and to know what’s going on in your head. Voicing your concerns can help you dispel them. More than that, if they know what’s going on, they’ll know to support you, be uncritical, and help you focus on your pleasure.

Most people want their partners to be happy. Communication can help you recruit the person you love most to your team. Anxiety is way easier to fight together.

The Takeaway for Men

Performance anxiety can feel like a male-only problem and it can also feel very lonely. Neither of these things is true. However, the way our media treats men, often portraying them as responsible for the quality of sex while women stoically judge the results, encourages the culture of performance that leads a lot of men down the cycle of anxiety that, eventually, can cause ED.

The good news is that by acknowledging where anxiety comes from, it becomes way easier to dispel. Being mindful of your pleasure, masturbating with plenty of time and self-attention, and communicating with your partner all make the problem much easier to solve. Performance anxiety is not unsolvable. Like any cycle, it just has to be broken.

For more on how to overcome sexual performance anxiety and achieve harder erections on command, see here: Guide to Overcoming Psychological ED

Have a good one!

-David Carreras aka Mr. Manpower
Mr. Manpower’s Guide to
Overall Manhood Enhancement

the ultimate sex guide for men… “male potency without drugs”

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