How anxiety affects your sex life

Are you having sex anxiety? (Picture: Ella Byworth for

Anxiety disorders can be debilitating to the point they stop you from working, make it difficult to leave the house and social events can be overwhelming.

Not only is anxiety a mental illness but it can affect you physically, too, causing symptoms such as stomach aches, chest pains, heart palpitations and panic attacks.

And, of course, anxiety can affect your sex life.

Clinical Sexologist and Psychotherapist Catriona Boffard tells that sex issues with anxiety is very common.

She tells us: ‘I’d say that in almost all the clients I see, there is anxiety present and something that needs to be worked with.

‘Performance anxiety is most common, but anxiety relating to body or genital image, the relationship, work, family and more can all impact one’s experience of sex.’

Many of us can relate to this – perhaps we worry about how we look without our clothes on or whether we’re actually good in bed, or maybe we just have so much on our minds that sex is the last thing we can focus on.

While it does suck, it is totally normal – and these stressors can affect your ability to orgasm.

Anxiety can make your sex life difficult (Picture: Ella Byworth for

So, why is this?

Catriona explains: ‘When the part of your brain responsible for telling us we’re anxious is activated (i.e. fight or flight response kicks in), it is not possible for the part of our brain which we need to work during sex, to be active.

‘So if you’re anxious, you will struggle with getting in the mood, getting an erection, getting lubricated and even achieving orgasm.’

Not being able to get erect or have an orgasm during sex can be frustrating for both parties involved – but it’s important that you don’t get frustrated at yourself, because this only piles on the pressure.

It’s important to talk to your partner and seek support (Picture: Ella Byworth for

Don’t try to force anything, because this will only increase your stress and make sex even more difficult.

But it is important to get to the root of the cause.

Catriona continues: ‘If anxiety is getting in the way of your sex life, the most important thing is to recognise it and not avoid it.

‘We avoid things when we’re anxious and this unfortunately won’t help at all.

‘Things that really help anxiety overall include mindfulness (which could be practiced on your own – all about compassion and present moment awareness), talking to your partner about your anxieties, getting support from a professional, like a psychologist or counsellor, managing stress better and exercising more.

‘If you notice the anxiety only comes up during sex, then talk openly to your partner about it – because its very common for partner’s to think it’s something regarding them – and seek help and support from a psychosexual therapist.’

It is important to know that your sex life won’t be like this forever, you just need help with controlling your anxiety during these moments.

So don’t put too much pressure on yourself, don’t feel angry at yourself or guilty, and accept that you’re dealing with something that means you need some support. That’s completely okay.

Once you start dealing with it and get the right support for you, you’ll soon be back to enjoying sex once again.

Orgasms are worth the extra help, right?

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