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How to deal with anxiety during sex

Many people struggle with anxiety during sex, for many different reasons. In fact, if sex has never made you feel anxious, you’re probably in the minority! Here are some tips for dealing with fearful or insecure feelings that may come up while you’re doing the deed…

Identify the source. True, sometimes it can be hard to dissect and analyze your anxiety while it’s actually happening, so maybe wait for a calmer moment to reflect on what might be causing your jitters. Are you insecure about how your body looks, tastes, or smells? Are you worried your sexual skills aren’t up to par? Are you experiencing emotional flashbacks to a past trauma? All of these issues have different potential solutions, but you have to know what’s going on in order to address it.

Communicate. If you’re in a trusting, long-term partnership, you’re in a great position to come clean about your anxieties and work with your partner to develop ways of addressing them. But even if you’re just having casual sex with various different people, you can still communicate about what’s going on for you. You could try saying, “Just so you know, I randomly get anxious during sex sometimes, so I might need to take a break once in a while,” or you could even offer strategies to your date, such as, “If you notice me seeming disengaged during sex, could you ask me a question to help me be more present?” As an added bonus, communicating about your mid-sex anxiety can help reduce your partner’s anxiety, if they’re the type to assume that anything going awry means they’ve done something wrong.

Relax beforehand. If you’re having a stressful day already, it makes sense that your brain would cling onto stressful thoughts out of sheer habit, even when you start having sex. This is one reason many people like to ease into sex with calming activities such as taking a bath, receiving a massage, or just cuddling for a while. Pave the way for a serene sexual experience by preemptively eliminating as much tension and stress as possible.

Practice mindfulness. A lot of times, anxiety happens when your mind wanders away from the task at hand – sex – and onto more daunting matters, like financial struggles, health concerns, or work stress. Mindfulness, the practice of staying mentally present by focusing on what’s going on in your immediate vicinity, can help with this. Try touching your partner’s skin and trying to memorize every detail of its texture, for example, or making a mental list of all the parts of your body experiencing pleasure at any given moment.

Ask for reassurance. There is no shame in asking a partner for what you need in order to feel safe and secure. If body-image concerns are getting you down, you could ask for compliments on your beautiful bod. If you’re feeling triggered into a traumatic memory, perhaps you could ask your partner to simply remind you that the past is in the past, and that you’re safe now. If you’re worried about your skill level, try asking your partner what they’d like you to do differently – or simply ask them to shower you in praise for what you are doing!

Take the pressure off. Many people experience anxiety during sex as a result of feeling the need to “perform” well for their partner, whether that means getting hard enough, getting wet enough, reaching orgasm, or anything else. These fears are actually likeliest to come true if you’re stressing about them, so try to be gentle with yourself. You don’t need to have penetrative sex if you’re having trouble getting an erection, for example – there are tons of non-penetrative sexual activities to explore – and you don’t need to aim for an orgasm every time if doing so makes you feel bad. Sex can be whatever you want it to be!

How have you dealt with anxiety during sex?


Kate Sloan is a journalist, blogger, podcaster, and educator who has been writing about sex online and in print for over five years. She writes about sex, kink, relationships, fashion, beauty, writing, and mental health. She has been voted a Sex Blogging Superhero for four years running, and her words reach over 22,000 sex nerds, weirdos and queerdos every month. As a journalist and essayist, Kate has written for Glamour, Teen Vogue, Daily Xtra, the Establishment, Maisonneuve, Herizons, the Plaid Zebra, xoJane, and more.

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