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Performance Anxiety

Many people experience performance anxiety, and it can lie at the root of a number of sexual problems including erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, difficulty reaching orgasm in women and general lack of arousal.

Performance anxiety means, simply, that you’re worried about your ability to perform an important task. Sexually this may mean that a man may be afraid that he won’t get an erection, or that he may lose his erection; or a woman may fear that she won’t become aroused or have an orgasm.

Paradoxically, the performance anxiety can increase the likelihood of the feared outcome. When you are thinking or, worse, worrying about what you are doing – whatever it is – your performance is degraded. Optimal performance occurs when we are in a state of “flow”, when there’s no separation between the doer and the doing. A person in the state of flow is relaxed, not tense; acting and experiencing, not thinking; focused and not distracted. Performance anxiety often leads to what is called “spectatoring” –looking over your own shoulder and providing ongoing commentary like a sports announcer.

Anxiety tends to be self-perpetuating. It’s even possible to worry about worrying too much. The answer to sexual performance anxiety is to shift gears, get out of your head, relax, and focus on the pleasurable sensations your body is experiencing. Deep, slow breathing is an excellent way to relax your body and your mind and to help you notice what you are smelling, tasting, hearing, seeing and touching. Stop worrying about living up to some imagined standard and enjoy the experience of just loving your partner.

It’s often helpful to discuss any performance anxieties and fears you have with your partner. If you are in a loving relationship, it is very likely that your partner will want to be understanding and supportive. You may be surprised to find that the expectations you have about your performance may be significantly different than what your partner desires. Men, for example, often assume that they must live up to some kind of porn star image, with a never-failing erection. They are surprised to learn that their partners are much more interested in talking about feelings and experiences, tenderness, and just being close.

Porn and romance novels, Hollywood movies and popular songs, and TV shows have all played a role in creating idealized expectations of what we should do or be in an intimate relationship. These fictional representations substitute, in large part, from real-world input to help us orient ourselves as to how to be intimate. Perhaps the best thing you can do with the person you love is to talk, really talk, to your him or her about what you feel and what you want. It’s easy to overlook this vital, yet ordinary process of communicating about the things we yearn for.

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