Sexual Performance Anxiety Cycle

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Sexual performance anxiety (SPA) is an all too familiar problem that affects individuals of both genders and orientations, often creating an insidious cycle by undermining confidence and leading to even more anxious encounters during sexual activities.

Breaking this cycle may be challenging, but understanding its dynamics is vital in finding solutions.

At its heart, sexual performance anxiety stems from fearing not meeting one's or their partner's expectations during sexual activity.

Fear may result from past experiences, social pressures or self-imposed expectations to perform exceptionally.

Anxiety associated with sexual performance can manifest physically through symptoms like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or difficulty reaching orgasm.

The cycle begins with initial anxiety-provoking thought or worry and leads to physical manifestations of stress-inducing symptoms such as erectile dysfunction.

These physical symptoms may amplify anxiety and contribute to its self-perpetuation cycle, inducing individuals to avoid sexual encounters altogether as an attempt to escape this sense of unease - thus straining relationships further, while simultaneously increasing performance pressure when sexual activity does happen.

Understanding sexual performance anxiety's spiral is essential in breaking its hold on individuals. By addressing its causes, seeking professional assistance, and employing relaxation techniques to restore self-confidence and enjoy fulfilling sexual experiences again.

military muscle testosterone booster banner

Breaking the Sexual Performance Anxiety Cycle

Men with sexual performance anxiety often feel fear or anxiety about engaging in sexual activity.

This fear or anxiety often results in them worrying about their performance and experiencing dysfunction before becoming even more concerned about it.

Overcoming sexual performance anxiety can be challenging, but therapy can provide essential assistance in breaking free of its cycle.

Therapy will help to break any negative thought or behavioral patterns which contribute to sexual performance anxiety and increase comfort levels during performances.


Stress is a natural part of life, but too much of it can have serious negative repercussions for sexual functioning.

Too much can reduce sexual desire and interfere with having an orgasm - if this is happening to you and/or your partner it is essential to talk through ways in which to improve things together.

Many men experience anxiety about not being able to please their partners sexually when they're unfamiliar with it, such as worrying that their penis is too hard, too small, or doesn't support an erection as effectively as that of their partner's body.

Unfortunately, this often leads to an emphasis on physical aspects rather than satisfying experiences between partners.

Lack of sexual desire may also be indicative of mental health conditions like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or depression, which can create chemical imbalances that decrease libido.

Furthermore, GAD and depression may worsen erectile dysfunction by making it more challenging to have orgasms - leading to sexual performance anxiety cycle.

Anxiety about sexual encounters tends to come and go, but if it becomes a repetitive pattern it can hinder any sexual pleasure at all.

Speaking to your partner about how they're feeling about this topic as well as exploring different techniques in bed or working on other aspects of intimacy can help break this cycle and restore joy for sexual activity.

An effective way to break free from sexual anxiety is working with a therapist who specializes in treating it and other sexual difficulties.

A specialist sex therapist can teach relaxation techniques that will help before and during sexual encounters while also addressing any underlying causes that contribute to anxiety. 

Negative Self-Talk

Sexual performance anxiety, left untreated, can significantly erode an individual's feelings about sexual activity, their partner and themselves.

This may lead them to withdraw from sexual encounters altogether and masturbate alone instead, creating serious complications within relationships and intimate bonds.

Some individuals may become anxious about sexual activity in general resulting in other issues like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation that become hard to break away from; such symptoms often feed into one another creating an endless cycle of anxiety and physical issues which is hard to break free from.

Negative self-talk is often at the core of sexual performance anxiety and it can be hard to stop.

Your thoughts might include "I'm so nervous I won't be able to perform" or, "No one will want me", which may negatively impact both your desire and ability.

Although these negative beliefs may not always be accurate, you can counter them by remembering an amazing orgasm or foreplay experience shared between partners during foreplay sessions - both will help distract your attention away from negative self-talk and towards positive aspects of sexual performance anxiety.

Mindfulness practice can also help alleviate stress levels that contribute to sexual performance anxiety, by helping you focus on the moment rather than your worries.

You could also seek professional assistance for sexual performance anxiety; talking it over with a counselor could help identify its source and teach coping mechanisms to lessen it.

Before engaging in sexual activity, relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and meditation may help.

Guided imagery uses scripted sessions to help create positive images and thoughts to promote relaxation; these can either be found professionally or online.

Some individuals have found that focusing on sexual pleasure and the relationship with their partner can increase sexual arousal while simultaneously helping reduce some symptoms associated with sexual performance anxiety such as lack of orgasm and inability to maintain an erection.

Negative Associations

Sexual performance anxiety in men may stem from feelings of self-consciousness, an insecurity about not measuring up and/or worries over meeting their partner's expectations.

A sex therapist can be invaluable for discussing these issues and breaking free of this cycle of sexual performance anxiety.

No matter whether it involves having an erection, being sexually aroused or fearing failure in bed, negative associations with intimacy can have a substantial impact on a man's overall well-being and enjoyment of sex.

To combat these stresses in bed and enjoy intimacy more fully, the key is focusing on its positive aspects as well as what benefits it can bring both to you and your partner.

Problematically, viewing sex as an act of performance can make you overly focused on genital function at every stage of the response cycle.

This leads to excessive concerns over penis size, keeping an erection on longer than desired, controlling pleasure intensity levels and whether climaxing occurs early or late.

Anxieties surrounding sexual intimacy can significantly lessen its enjoyment, and working with a sex therapist can be instrumental in alleviating them.

CBT, one of the more widely utilized therapeutic techniques, may help challenge negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts which rob you of pleasure in bed.

Even if you can get an erection, your body may not be prepared to handle the full force of sexual stimulation.

Stress causes blood vessels to narrow, which interferes with blood flowing to your penis and thus hindering sexual performance.

For optimal sex performance it's essential that both parties relax beforehand and focus on foreplay rather than speedy performance during actual intimacy.

If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or sexual performance anxiety it's essential that treatment be sought immediately.

Options available include sex therapy, psychotherapy and medications as well as mindfulness meditation and masturbation which may provide temporary relief of sexual anxiety symptoms - these may even be used alongside traditional methods of therapy for maximum efficacy.

Physical Problems

People suffering from sexual performance anxiety may find it hard to relax during sex due to being anxious that something might go wrong, such as inability to maintain an erection or difficulty with lubrication.

This kind of performance anxiety can create a vicious cycle whereby they either avoid sex altogether, or experience sexual dysfunction and eventually cause more stress within relationships.

At times, sexual dysfunction may be caused by physical issues like low sperm count or urinary tract infection; however, the more frequent source of sexual dysfunction is simply lack of connection between partners.

This may happen after an argument or prolonged separation has created feelings of disconnection that lead to brain activation into "performance mode," leading to sexual performance anxiety.

People suffering from sexual performance anxiety often overthink what their partner will think of their performance, which can be counterproductive as they focus on trying to please their partner instead of relaxing and having fun during sex.

It is important to remember that an enjoyable sex session can just as satisfying for them than an unsatisfying one!

Men who experience sexual performance anxiety could be suffering from prostatitis or thyroid disease; or it could be related to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or past negative sexual experiences and trauma.

First step to conquering sexual performance anxiety: identify its root cause. Next, evaluate potential treatments - medication alone may not work, while psychotherapy could provide effective relief.


or some men, sexual anxiety becomes an insidious cycle that's difficult to break out of.

From erectile dysfunction and early ejaculation to difficulty experiencing orgasm and difficulty enjoying orgasm - men can find themselves stuck in a negative feedback loop which makes enjoying sexual encounters increasingly challenging. 

Sexual Performance Anxiety in men often manifests itself in thinking of sex as a performance and something to be perfected, leading to self-conscious, worried and tense sexual experiences that further fuel his anxiety - creating a vicious cycle of negative self-talk and poor sex experiences.

When men feel anxious about sexual intimacy, their body triggers the sympathetic nervous system and releases stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol that constrict blood vessels and reduce the flow of blood to their penis - making erection harder to achieve and sustain than usual.

Fearing failure leads them down a spiral that often manifests into sexual performance anxiety (SPA).

For anyone struggling with sexual performance anxiety, the key is remembering that sexual encounters should be pleasurable rather than competitive - they should provide pleasure and deepen relationships in an intimate sensual way.

Furthermore, managing your stress levels effectively is key as increased levels can cause your body to produce hormones which interfere with testosterone production and make matters worse.

military muscle testosterone booster banner

Show All

Blog posts

Show All