The Pressure of Performance: Erectile Dysfunction


A couple sits apart on their bed with their heads in their hands after the man has experience performance anxiety

Performance anxiety can lead to erectile dysfunction but there are ways to relieve it


Key takeaways:

  • Anxiety around sexually pleasing a partner can lead to erectile dysfunction in men.

  • Feelings of unworthiness, isolation, and helplessness often accompany sexual performance anxiety. These feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem often lead to physical symptoms, such as erectile Dysfunction.

  • Sex therapy can help men and couples navigate the cognitive and emotional factors that affect their intimate lives.

Some of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship are being present with your partner and enjoying your experiences together. Unfortunately, emotional issues such as anxiety can have real, physical effects that can damage your sexual relationship with your partner.


Emotional issues that surround sexual performance anxiety can sometimes lead to Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in men. Performance anxiety is completely normal and very treatable. We will talk about how it can sometimes lead to erectile dysfunction and what you can do about it.


What are factors that affect performance anxiety?


Going through a sexual problem at least once in their lives is common for men. Some of the most typical issues are performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction. Performance anxiety usually stems from an unhealthy body image or stress to please your partner. Common factors that contribute to performance pressure and in turn ED include:


- Anxiety


While anxiety may exist in your head, it can cause physical symptoms like an increased heart rate, blood pressure problems, and fatigue; these physical issues can disrupt your sexual performance. Anxiety is one of the most common emotional causes of ED, which is when a man has difficulty getting and keeping an erection. Concerns about a partner’s expectations and personal worries are contributing factors to sexual performance anxiety and ED.


- Stress


Stress about pleasing your partner can cause ED. Shifting the focus to the cause, instead of the symptoms, may help a person reduce the pressure they place on themselves to perform well every time, particularly during times of increased stress.


Oftentimes, a person with performance anxiety mentally relives their perceived sexual failures and incessantly worries about what their partner is thinking. When a person’s self-esteem suffers because they don’t think they’re meeting expectations, they start to feel unworthy or incapable of performing. In turn, these feelings of inadequacy lead to continual physical symptoms, such as ED.


Self-esteem issues can also cause shame and discomfort during an intimate encounter. Factors that can cause a person to have negative thoughts about their ability to perform well include:


  • A negative body image

  • Feeling inadequate about penis size

  • Ideas about gender roles


- Depression


Depression can affect both sexual desire and function. With the proper treatment, however, most people will regain healthy sexual interest.


- Relationship issues


Arguments, resentment, and poor communication definitely impact sexual desire and function. Working through these problems with your partner will help ease the tension. It’s helpful to seek a therapist who will tackle the problems with you to solve them.


- Fear of sexual dysfunction


You or your partner’s fear of sexual dysfunction can cause a vicious cycle that continues until treatment is sought. For example, the first time a man experiences ED, they might immediately fear that ’they'll never perform normally again. This fear leads to low self-esteem and affects the ability to achieve an erection the next time.


Most people experience a disappointing sexual encounter from time to time. Occasional ED is usually not a cause for concern.


Therapy, patience, and time can often cure ED. While depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, and fear of sexual dysfunction can negatively impact a relationship, a therapist will create a treatment plan to resolve the issues.


Solutions for sexual performance anxiety


Treatment with a sex therapist in a safe and non-judgmental environment can be transformative for someone worried about their performance.


Some techniques used to alleviate performance anxiety include:


  • Guided meditations and imagery therapy.

  • Couples counseling and sex therapy.

  • Talk therapy to manage stress, depression, and other life concerns.

  • Stress-relieving practices such as mindfulness or yoga.

  • Focusing on what you can do and not what you think you should do.


Having an open conversation about performance anxiety with your partner can reduce stress and lead to resolutions. If your partner is supportive and caring, he or she will understand and help you through it.


One popular therapy for performance anxiety sufferers is to fully focus the mind on the senses during sexual activity; this avoids overthinking or analyzing the event. Honing in on what the hands are feeling or what the eyes are seeing blocks out anxious thoughts about inadequate performance.


Scented candles and music can also provide an excellent sensory experience to help reduces stress.


Without a doubt, a person’s state of mind can affect their ability to perform sexually. Performance anxiety happens when you feel stress about your body image or about your ability to please your partner. Seeking help can diminish negative thoughts, fear, and stress.


Performance anxiety is a completely normal and treatable cause of ED. With transparency and patience, you can overcome it and experience a healthy, active sex life.


Our certified sex therapists at Love Discovery help people understand the reasons for their performance anxiety, teach them techniques to improve their sex life, and show them how to reconnect their minds and bodies. Contact us today for help navigating performance anxiety and sexual dysfunction issues.