Sexual stress common in men
Performance anxiety is one of the main sexual and emotional problems men experience. Sex is supposed to be a pleasurable experience, but it is very difficult to feel sexy or intimate with your partner - and especially with a new partner - when you suffer from sexual performance anxiety.
We are constantly bombarded with society's ideals of male sexuality in the media, think of the Want Longer Lasting Sex? ads - which create unrealistic expectations of what a man should look like and how he should perform in the bedroom.
These adverts prey on the insecurities of men who may have no sexual dysfunction at all, especially inexperienced young men. It is no surprise then, that for some men, all these expectations can affect their confidence.
Anxiety and stress create cortisol and adrenalin - definitely not ideal hormones for sexual interactions. High levels of stress and anxiety, which inhibit the blood flow in the penis, can result in erection difficulties, premature ejaculation and inability to ejaculate.
Performance anxiety can start suddenly, even in stable healthy relationships. Sometimes a single occasion, where a man loses his erection or ejaculates too quickly, can be enough to raise doubt in his mind and can cause anxiety the next time. When he anticipates problems about his performance, it then becomes a self-fulfilling fear.
One of my clients was a happily married man who had never had experienced a loss of his erection, but one day it happened and he was really surprised. Unfortunately his wife made a snide comment and he was so embarrassed and disappointed that he started having erections problems regularly after that one incident.
In our counselling session his wife confided she had no idea that her comment had started such a downward spiral in their bedroom. It's important when an issue like this happens that a partner shows empathy, and both men and women should realise it is normal for most men to experience erectile problems at some time in their lives.
What can be done to overcome sexual performance anxiety? If there are no medical or physical causes consider some of these approaches:
Try being open with your partner - talking about anxiety can ease worries and trying to reach a solution together can bring you closer as a couple and may improve your relationship.
Or make an appointment with a sex therapist or counsellor. Some therapy sessions may help you understand the issues that are causing the anxiety. A healthy man should not need medication such as Viagra or Cialis to get erections, there are many other ways to reduce or eliminate your anxieties.
The most common complaint by men is premature ejaculation (PE), which about 30 per cent of the male population suffer from. It happens often with young men who are inexperienced and when it occurs it causes shame and embarrassment. When they consult a doctor, usually after some years, they are often diagnosed with lifelong PE and prescribed anti-depressants. However, in many cases, if doctors took the time to understand the person's sexual history, they might have discovered the main issue was performance anxiety. In this situation counselling and education would have been more helpful than drugs.
However there are men who always ejaculate within two minutes, who would like to last longer. As stated, PE is treated with anti-depressant drugs that interfere with the brain's serotonin metabolism. One of these compounds, marketed as Priligy, has been developed to treat premature ejaculation and is on the market in New Zealand and several countries in Europe.
For all medication that might improve sexual functioning, see your GP to get a prescription and have a check up at the same time.