Sexual Performance Anxiety and Erectile Dysfunction: How Are They Linked?
Do you suffer from performance issues?
Research shows that mild to moderate erectile dysfunction (ED) affects around 10% of men per decade of life. This means roughly 50% of men in their 50s experience the condition, while 60% of men in their 60s suffer from it, and so on.
While it’s more common than you might think, ED can feel like the most isolating situation in the world. What’s worse, it often occurs alongside other, related issues such as sexual performance anxiety.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at the link between the physical issue of ED and the more mental and emotional symptoms that accompany sexual performance anxiety. How are the two related and how can you find relief? Read on to learn the details you need to know.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Put simply, erectile dysfunction, or ED, is an inability to maintain an erection long enough for sex. If this issue occurs only on occasion, it’s usually not cause for great concern. There are myriad factors that can temporarily impede your ability to keep an erection firm, such as the presence of alcohol or tobacco in your system.
However, there are some men who suffer from a more severe form of this condition. Not only do they persistently have trouble getting an erection, but they also find it difficult to keep an erection. As a result, many have a reduced level of sexual desire.
There are several underlying health conditions that can cause an onset of ED, including:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Clogged blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
While the existence of any of these issues isn’t necessarily a given catalyst for ED, they can create physical symptoms in sufferers that can put them at a greater risk of developing ED than others.
At the same time, this condition can also occur if a male is taking certain prescription medications. Some of the most common culprits include:
- Blood pressure medication
- Muscle relaxers
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Hormone treatments
If you are taking any of these medications, speak to your physician before going off of them. Again, it’s important to get the approval of your medical team before undergoing any major changes that could affect your long-term health.
In addition, ED can also occur if a male is under a great deal of stress or is experiencing mental health concerns. Collectively, it can be caused by a range of contributing factors, including nerves, hormones, or even blood circulation.
What is Sexual Performance Anxiety?
Chances are, most of us have experienced some form of performance anxiety at least a few times in our lives. For instance, we might get a nervous stomach before a big work presentation, or suddenly develop sweaty palms before an important confrontation with a loved one.
Performance anxiety works as its name implies. It is the act of becoming anxious or nervous when foreshadowing a future action or performance. As illustrated in the aforementioned examples, our mental apprehension and fear can actually manifest into physical symptoms, causing us to become ill or feel weak when we consider what might occur.
When it comes to intercourse, sexual performance anxiety occurs when someone stresses over their ability to perform in bed. These negative thoughts fill their mind and make it difficult for them to not only enjoy the act of sex, but please their partner in the process.
While both men and women can develop sexual performance anxiety, there are several issues that males often stress about, in particular. These include:
- The size of their penis
- The size and shape of their body (e.g. weight or height)
- Their perceptions about masculinity
In addition, men might feel negatively about other aspects of their life, such as their work performance, family relationships, and other issues. If they haven’t worked out in a while and are feeling down on themselves, they might be concerned that their partner is echoing these concerns and will not be interested in their advances.
In response, this can trigger sexual performance anxiety.
A few of the other common causes include:
- Concern and anxiety over sexual performance (e.g. worrying that you cannot satisfy your partner)
- Concerns over ED, premature ejaculation or delayed ejaculation
- Concerns over relationship issues
- General nervousness about sex
When men experience feelings of anxiety over their sexual performance (for any reason), these feelings increase the levels of stress hormones in their body. One heightened stress hormone, in particular, is adrenaline.
When your adrenaline hormones spike, it can become difficult to relax and enjoy sex. To understand how this works, think about a time when you experienced a rush of adrenaline. Then, consider how you’d feel if those levels were reversed.
Still, as everyone responds to anxiety in their own way, men don’t always have the same reaction when they’re in the throes of sexual performance anxiety. For example, some might experience premature ejaculation or an inability to reach orgasm. Then, there are some men whose anxiety is so severe that they lose interest in or avoid sex altogether.
How Are ED and Sexual Performance Anxiety Linked?
The relationship between ED and sexual performance anxiety is relatively straightforward: Erectile dysfunction can lead to performance anxiety, and vice versa.
If you cannot achieve or successfully keep an erection, you’ll understandably feel nervous about having sex with your partner. At the same time, if you’re already anxious over your sexual performance or feeling negative about your sexual abilities, it can be difficult to achieve an erection.
Let’s review this link in greater detail.
Starting With ED
One recent study reveals that men who experience erectile dysfunction often wind up developing some form of performance anxiety. This is because the physical symptoms of ED, most notably the inability to maintain an erection, can cause men to lose confidence in their sexual prowess.
It doesn’t take long to understand why. Everywhere you look, from movies to magazine advertisements, male sexuality centers on confidence. If you have a physical condition that impairs your ability to perform sexually, that confidence can wane.
The results of the study indicated that the primary sources of sexual dysfunction in men hinged on three factors. These included:
- Attitudes toward sex
- Conflicts in their relationships
- Sexual performance anxiety
Whether their ED is caused by medication, an underlying health condition or any other factor, the issue can quickly become more than just physical. If it occurs frequently enough, it can can transition into a mental impairment as well, making a man question his performance in bed and worry about future embarrassment.
Starting With Sexual Performance Anxiety
You’ve heard of certain issues “killing the mood”. For someone who suffers from sexual performance anxiety, the questions and concerns that flood their mind are enough to make sex not only not enjoyable, but downright terrifying.
If you’re a man suffering from sexual performance anxiety, those negative thoughts can turn physical, much in the same way that ED (a physical condition) can cause you to question and doubt your sexual abilities.
When you begin to feel anxious, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. Among other reactions, this causes your blood vessels to constrict. It also increases your body’s stress hormone production, elevating levels of:
In turn, this causes your blood pressure levels to increase. It also significantly reduces blood flow to key parts of your body, including your penis. This makes it more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection when it’s time to initiate intercourse. Even men without a prior history of ED can suddenly become incapable in bed, making it difficult to achieve an erection or orgasm.
Does this link only relate to sexual-centered encounters? Not at all. In fact, researchers have long studied the physical manifestations of anxiety.
A few of the most notable effects include:
- Increased irritability
- Respiratory problems
- Heart palpitations
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Severe fatigue
- Higher blood pressure
These connections extend to the sexual realm, too. In short, anxiety of any form can decrease your sex drive and lower your sexual desire. If your personal expectations concerning your own sexual performance are not met, it can make it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection, which can lead to ED.
One recent study found that sexual performance anxiety either causes or maintains most forms of erectile dysfunction.
What Treatment Options Exist?
Whether you suffer from ED or sexual performance anxiety, the good news is that there are viable and valuable treatment options that can help you reclaim your quality of life. Let’s review these routes in greater detail.
Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction
There are many different treatment options for males who are suffering from ED. Some of the most prominent and popular options are phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitor oral drugs, such as Viagra or Cialis. These medications are designed to relax your muscles and simultaneously increase blood flow to your penis, making erections easier to achieve.
In addition, men can also choose to undergo testosterone therapy to increase their levels of the testosterone hormone. This is an appropriate route for men who suffer from low levels of testosterone and are subsequently suffering from ED. If it’s suspected that this could be an underlying health condition behind ED, a blood test can confirm or deny these suspicions.
Of course, before beginning any treatment for ED or any other condition, be sure to speak with your physician first. Many of these drugs can have adverse side effects that can present a major health risk if taken without caution.
Looking for a safer alternative? There are also natural ED treatments available. Some of the most common ones include:
- DHEA supplements
- Red gingsing
- L-arginine and pycnogenol supplements
Finally, there are also penal injections that can help alleviate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Some men also choose to undergo penal implants, surgery, or special pumps to help them achieve and maintain an erection.
Treatment Options for Sexual Performance Anxiety
As discussed, sexual performance anxiety can occur for many different reasons. That said, it is impossible to develop a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for this condition. Rather, therapists and psychologists usually try to work directly with their patients, working to identify and solve the issues that are causing the anxiety in the first place.
Some men find that their initial feelings of nervousness and anxiety in bed resolve on their own. This usually happens as they become more comfortable and confident with their partner. Other times, they might find that these negative thoughts cleared once they optimized a different area of their life, such as their finances or family relationships.
Depending on the individual’s situation, other treatment options for sexual performance anxiety include:
- Sex therapy (to strengthen sexual confidence and intimacy)
- Key lifestyle changes (to lower stress levels and reduce negative thoughts)
More recently, researchers have suggested that guided imagery treatment can help men overcome bouts of sexual performance anxiety. This is a therapeutic treatment that involves mentally visualizing an ideal outcome or environment, allowing yourself to indulge in a vivid and distinct daydream.
An effective technique for alleviating generalized anxiety, this tactic might also be helpful in treating sexual performance anxiety.
Find Relief From ED and Sexual Performance Anxiety
Are you a man suffering from erectile dysfunction? What about sexual performance anxiety?
In either case, it pays to find the tools and resources you need. That’s where we come in.
We’re dedicated to finding and sharing information and tools to help you navigate a variety of health conditions, from eye health to ED. Whether you’re looking for natural supplements or helpful fitness routines, we’re here to help. We post a variety of articles on the health topics you care the most about, so feel free to keep reading.
Along the way, get in touch with our team to ask any questions or learn more about any topics. In the meantime, check out this information on top supplements that can help you feel and look your best!