3 Research-Backed Tips to Control Sexual Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety Research

You may have experienced unwanted thoughts popping into your head when things start to get sexual:

“What if I don’t get an erection?”
“What if I’m not good and she tells her friends?”
“She’s probably been with guys that are bigger and better than me.”
“What if I go soft when I go to put the condom on?”

Well, you’re not the only one. Most guys will experience performance anxiety at some point in their lives.

So how do we STOP these thoughts from running havoc on our sex lives?  For starters, it helps to learn about the brain and the factors that can compound sexual anxiety.

The Two Systems in the Brain

Your brain essentially has two systems that dictate whether you will have sex:

  1. The Sexual INHIBITION System (SIS)
  2. The Sexual EXCITATION System (SES)

Your SIS is more important in a discussion about performance anxiety, and consists of signals that tell your brain to “turn you off.”

Some things that can activate your SIS:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Relationship conflict
  • History of sexual trauma
  • Depression and stress
  • Feeling obligated


  • Performance anxiety

And once your SIS is activated, it doesn’t matter how excited your SES is (the part of your brain that ‘turns you on’)  -– it’s going to be difficult to get aroused and have sex.   

In other words, it’s much more difficult to drive a car when you’re holding down the brakes.   

New scientific research is showing us that there are new and effective ways to ‘take your foot off the brakes’, if you will.  It’s not more kinky stuff, a hotter woman, or crazier positions that will help; it’s things like being in the moment, feeling comfortable with your partner, and practicing relaxation that work. 

Here are 3 Scientifically Backed Ways to Beat Performance Anxiety

1. Practice being in the moment

When you’re by yourself masturbating, you don’t get performance anxiety. Because you’re not thinking about impressing yourself, or anyone else.  You’re focused on your desire, and the sexual feelings in that moment.  

But when you’re with a partner, especially a new one, you’re worried about what they think, whether you smell okay, if she thinks you’re a good kisser, and whether you’ll be hard enough.

In an article over at Mic.Com, Dr. Heather Berlin, a professor of neuroscience, had this to say:

“When you’re actually in the act of having sex, you have to turn off that filter in order to let go and allow all the pleasurable feelings to come forth in that cascade of hormones and chemicals and brain activation that occurs during orgasm. And if you keep your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex turned on, it’ll suppress that and you won’t be able to even get erect or excited or whatever.”


So how can we get out of our heads and teach ourselves how to be in the moment?

Get Into Your Flow State More Often

Many psychologists suggest we try to activate our ‘flow state’ on a regular basis, or ‘practice’ being in the moment.  

For some, this will mean meditation, while for others, it could be doing things that you love: yoga, running, or reading a great book.  

The more practice you have leaving stressful thoughts in favor of being in the moment, the more your sex life should improve.

2. CBD (Canabidiol)

This one may sound counter-intuitive, and may not be for everyone, but here goes…  Some people get anxious when they smoke marijuana (myself included), and this is likely due to the anxiety-inducing ingredient, THC.   

Sex educator Ashley Manta wrote on Leafy about new research that shows CBD, or Canabidiol – another active ingredients of marijuana – has been found to reduce anxiety.

You might be thinking: if marijuana contains both anxiety inducing and reducing compounds, how does this help me?  

Well, it turns out that there are certain strains of marijuana that are high in CBD and low in THC: for example Charlotte’s Web or Bubble Gum Kush. There are also some shops out there online that sell CBD oil, which doesn’t come cheap, but some claim that it increases the pleasure of orgasm!

Of course, medicating really only treats the symptoms and not the underlying problem. But it could be worth a shot while you work on other areas of your life.

3. Guided relaxation and breathing techniques

As mentioned in our discussion of the SIS (the brake system), bodily stress plays a big part in whether or not you get physically turned on.

If stress and anxiety can be treated in the body, the mind will often follow.  Hypnosis, guided relaxation, and breathing techniques can all be extremely helpful in relaxing your body, and therefore help calm your mind.

When you are about to have sex and start to feel anxious, it can be helpful to using deep breathing to bring yourself back to relaxation. But it is 10 times more effective if you’ve practiced getting into that state of relaxation before you need it.

The Magic of Guided Relaxation to Help Sexual Anxiety

In my journey to beat my own performance anxiety, I tried many techniques, but guided relaxation is the one that stuck and provided real, lasting results.

I really can’t understate just how powerful this was for me.  

It’s actually amazing for me to think about where I am now with sex, because a few years ago I was struggling so badly.  I actually remember thinking to myself “it’s very possible that I’ll just never be able to have sex again…”    What??!!    

Now, since I’ve got this under control, I’ve had steady girlfriends and also periods where I’ve been single, and my sex life is so much better than I could have imagined.  

The truth is that I made it a much bigger deal in my head that it should have been.  The fact is that it happens to most guys, and they bounce back from it. If they don’t overthink it.

That’s the reason I started this blog: to let guys know that PIED and performance anxiety are not life sentences.  

Recommended mp3 for anxiety

The best resource that I’ve come across is the Mental Impotence Healer guided relaxation mp3.  It was created specifically for guys with sexual anxiety, and I still get emails from guys saying that this has been part of their journey back to having worry-free sex. You can read my review of it here.

If money is an issue, there are free alternatives out there that will give you similar results.  If you find a good guided relaxation mp3 that’s helped you with your anxiety, please let us know in the comments!

About Brian

Brian overcame a long-standing addiction to Internet porn and fully recovered from serious porn-induced erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety. For more about Brian, see my story.


  1. Great info as usual Brian. Will link on my blog (which, no one visits haha). Been a while since I listened to the mental impotence healer mp3, I’ll give it a spin.

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