Quite recently I read a blog post by blogger Dorkface about Anxiety, Stress and Acceptance. As I read her story I remember thinking to myself how brave she was to be so frank about her mental health. I wrote about my own anxiety quite a while ago for Fe-line but this was pre-diagnosis and to be honest at the time it was more of a venting post, so I had put it out of my mind. Reading the Dorkface post really struck a chord with me because it is so rare to see someone write openly about their own mental health struggles. An even rarer sight is any advice about how your anxiety may impact upon your sex life. In spite of my long searching the best result I could find was advice abundant on dealing with performance anxiety. However that is not what this article will address. Instead I will write what I know and that is how anxiety can impact on your sex life and what you can do to overcome it.
Of course you don’t have to have Anxiety to suffer some anxious feelings about sex. After all getting up close, personal and intimate with someone is quite a thing to do. Of course we tend to think that the whole world is off happily having heaps of mind blowing, fabulous, problem free sex- and that can make our anxiety even worse.
For some it may be difficult to imagine sex related anxiety but some examples could include:
-Will he/she think that I’m no good in bed?
-Could I catch something?
-Should I be doing this at all?
-Will they think I’m too fat, thin, saggy?
-Will the think my genitals are ugly, too small, not tight enough?
-What if I can’t perform?
Some of these worries are perfectly logical and reasonable. For example, if you’re going to have unprotected sex. It’s perfectly normal to be anxious about the (ENORMOUS) risk that you’re about to take. However a lot of the sexual anxieties above only serve to make you feel worse about the situation and will hold less meaning for your partner than they do for you. I mean I’ve yet to get naked and have a partner run screaming from the room…. not yet anyway.
However if the Anxiety gremlins do take hold at this point they can have an impact on the sex you are going to have. The gremlins kick in, you start to worry, the worry creates a physical reaction in your body, your body reacts as if it is being attacked and produces more adrenaline, which means your body is now in flight or fight mode. What this essentially means is that because your body fears that your very life is in danger it puts all life saving functions as a priority and all other functions suffer. Unfortunately we have not quite evolved to a point where our genetics have determined sex is a life saving bodily function.
The Physical symptoms can include:
-Loss of erection
-It can be difficult to stay hard enough to put a condom on
– You can come far too soon
– The vagina can tighten
-Inability to relax and enjoy yourself
Some women may experience extreme penetration related anxiety- in this instance it may be useful to read up on Vaginismus.
It’s not all doom and gloom, psychological methods of reducing anxiety such as counselling and psychotherapy will assist in reducing your anxiety and improving your sex life. Medication is another alternative. However some of the medications can leave you with a lack of sex drive which may leave you feeling like you are back at stage one all over again.
Never fear Rebelle-utionaries I have a few solutions which you may find helpful.
1. Recognise Your Panic Signs.
If you feel the signs of panic, a racing or pounding heartbeat, flushing of the face or body and mental confusion, you are in a state of panic. You may have your own symptoms the important thing is to recognise them. When you recognise that you are about to start paincing you have a better chance of it becoming a full on attack.
2. Take Some Deep Breaths.
It is the singular most annoying to hear. Don’t panic just breathe but deep breathing will calm your body and help burn off the adrenaline that’s pumping through your body. Slow down, breathe in for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of four, exhale for the count of four and repeat again. The first few sets may sound like “onetwothreefour” in your head but you will eventually relax into “One….Two….Three….Four”
3. Figure Out What You’re Afraid Of.
Unless there is an immediate, direct danger, like an axe murderer under your bed or behind the curtains, what’s scaring or upsetting you is probably not as urgent as you think. Make a list of what’s bothering you. The simple act of putting it in a drawer can help your brain relax knowing you haven’t forgotten your worries they are just put aside for the moment. This can help you think more clearly.
4. Have a Pre-Romance Pamper Session.
I’m not saying you have to fork out for a spa session every time you want to have sex but do things that make you feel good. Have a hot shower or baths with your favourite products, slather on the moituriser, shave – if you wish. Whatever you can do to make you feel incredible will help relax you.
5. Set the Scene.
Light some candles (pretty please not near curtains or anywhere they can be knocked or set something on fire) , play some music, fresh sheets on the bed. Think of all the wonderful things you can do to make this a relaxed sensual environment. Tell your partner you’ve been a little stressed and ask them to give you a massage, heck promise to return the favour!
Include your partner in how you have been feeling. Let’s be honest there are times when all the tips and tricks in the world are not going to help your anxiety, but you know what does help- Talking. Air the problem out, talk to your partner, explain your feelings, tell them you need a little support and understanding right now. The most important thing is to communicate because the danger is that if you don’t your partner may feel rejected, unattractive or begin to feel the issue lies with them. All things which can be cleared up with a conversation.
Go forth my lovelies, utilise the tips and have amazing sex!
Do you have any tips you would like to share- I’d love to hear them!!