As a certified Sex Therapist, I would consider the following possible symptoms of anxiety in the bedroom:
- Needing a lot of time to “gear up” for sex
- Difficulty relaxing and receiving sexually
- Being unwilling to give sexually because of a fear of “doing it wrong” or being “bad” at it.
- Ruminating about the distastefulness of genital tastes or smells
- Limiting sexual activity to a very small number of options
- An unsettled mind. (i.e. thinking about tasks or work that needs to be done during sex
- Difficulty getting aroused
- Difficulty focusing on sensations during lovemaking
- Fears about getting pregnant, getting an STD, or germs
- Concern about not having an orgasm, coming too quickly, or losing an erection
- Problems with being spontaneous sexually
- Concern about being seen or heard having sex
- Needing all the stars to align, so to speak, before being able to have sex
Anxiety can be fleeting and mild or as disabling as a panic attack. Sometimes anxiety can be heightened around sex. There may be worries about performance, diseases, or unwanted pregnancy. These worries affect both men and women. There can even worry about having an orgasm (or not) or sex not being perfect like we imagine it’s supposed to be.
If you know you have sexual anxiety, you can begin to take steps to manage the anxiety so that your intimacy doesn’t suffer.
Melanie and Mark, our case example*
Melanie got a lot done. She was married, had 3 kids under 13, worked part-time, and volunteered. She loved Mark, her husband of 16 years.
Melanie was organized, calendared, and probably overcommitted. She was good at everything she did, but she felt rather harried most of the time.
Melanie was also a worrier. Boy, did she worry! She worried about the kids. She worried about their social lives, their moral and religious beliefs, and their schoolwork. She worried about her parents’ health and happiness. She worried about her friends, some of who were unhappy or having affairs. Melanie also worried about dying. When it came time for her to travel, she especially worried about what might happen to her kids if she died in an accident. She imagined they could end up with a step-mother who wouldn’t love or care for them.
She worried about her own issues as well. Her work performance, her future. Melanie had a difficult time relaxing most of the time.
Mark complained about their lack of regular intimacy and Melanie had a hard time hearing it. After all, she kept everything running smoothly at home and with the kids. She did this so Mark could come home from work and enjoy their family time. She felt that he didn’t fully understand how stressful her role as a wife, mother, and career woman was. And sex took SO much energy for her, while Mark could simply go for it on a whim.
Mark didn’t get how hard it was to change gears from her roles in the world to wanting sex. He didn’t understand the amount of time it took for her to unwind from the day and then get aroused from foreplay. This was yet another requirement of her that would take so much time she would end up losing sleep.
Mark had no understanding of how difficult it was for her to just let the day go and connect to him on an intimate level. Or how she felt like she had to have a shower to be “fresh” in order to have sex at the end of the day. He didn’t get how uncomfortable an activity like sex could be for someone who needs to plan and structure everything else in her life. She felt in a bind but didn’t know what to do about it.
The root of Melanie’s difficulties
The root of Melanie’s problem is her anxiety. Not only does anxiety take her out of the mind frame for sex; the physiological response (autonomic arousal) also interferes with sexual desire. The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) negatively affects arousal. Further, ongoing anxiety often causes depressive symptoms, as living in a state of tension and worry tends to bring a person down over time. Depression also impacts sexual libido.
The good news
Therapy can help Melanie and Mark get their lives and relationship to a much more enjoyable place. In therapy, Melanie can learn to control her anxiety symptoms without the need for medication. Additionally, in therapy sessions, Mark and Melanie can learn about underlying issues that are affecting their sexual intimacy. This can bring enormous benefits and help with communication and bonding.
If Mark and Melanie’s story resonates with you, please reach out for help. Lauren Jordan can help you reconnect with your partner emotionally and sexually while relieving the effects of anxiety on your relationship.
If you would like to learn more you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.
*This is a composite of a number of clients rather than one, real person.
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