THOUGH infrequently talked about, performance anxiety sometimes affects women, although perhaps on a smaller scale than men. Sex therapist Dr Sydney McGill says that while there may be medical reasons for this condition, there are ways in which partners can help each other to surmount this daunting sexual hurdle.
“Performance anxiety covers a person’s preoccupation with the idea that they will fail to please their partner sexually. They also begin to worry about things such as loss of self-esteem as well as fear about how a partner will view them. This challenge greatly affects men, especially since there is a certain expectation of men, as well as since their failure is also more easily noticed,” Dr McGill told All Woman.
He noted that for men, premature ejaculation can be either medical or psychosomatic, and is treatable in most cases.
“The problem can range from mild (where the man is able to have some level of control over how long it takes for him to ejaculate — usually up to two minutes — to severe, where he ejaculates before he is able to penetrate the vagina. Some men with the problem become frustrated, and although they desire sexual intercourse, tend to have erectile problems,” Dr McGill explained.
In women, on the other hand, it’s difficult for many to achieve an orgasm, and sometimes trying too hard can cause the body to respond in a way that makes it more difficult, added to the release of stress hormones that cause tensing up.
How do couples get past these challenges?
“Well, first of all, couples need to reassure their partners that their relationship means more to them than being able to hold an erection or achieving a climax. Also, another fundamental point is knowing that your partner will not use your sexual challenges to judge you or think that you are less of a man or a woman because of your shortcomings,” Dr McGill explained.
He said that you can also set the mood for your partner, and explore things that will reduce or ward off anxiety. Additionally, if your partner’s anxiety has affected sex, never turn away or make rude comments, but be supportive.
“Exercise patience with your partner. Don’t rush them. In time when they have overcome their challenges it will be easier for them to get in the game, but while you work through the challenges, it pays to judge his or her pace and to feed off his or her energy, because allowing them to work from a place of comfort is likely to reduce anxiety,” Dr McGill advised.
He said an important part of a sex life free of performance anxiety is knowing that each partner is equally responsible for sexual happiness. So men should not feel they have to put on a big show, and the same should be true for women. Also, if there is a need for professional intervention where the problem is assumed to be severe, then support should be given to the affected partner. This will be important for his or her recovery.