Most guys will experience a period of ED from performance anxiety in their lives.
For some guys, it will be a short phase, maybe it happens a few times and then as he gets his confidence back, and for others it can be a crippling cycle of shame, worry and completely avoiding sex.
A study in 2003 found that about one third of men experienced erectile dysfunction at least once a year. It can feel like you’re alone in going through this because it’s not talked about, but rest assured that other guys have overcome it and so can you.
Meet Simon. He’s a pretty average guy. A third year college student, relatively sporty and plays guitar in his free time. Up till now, Simon has had two serious girlfriends and a handful of one-night stands.
One night at the campus bar, Simon meets Amanda. She’s very beautiful – in fact, way out of his league, he thinks. But somehow he says the right things at the right things at the right time. And it turns out they have a lot of the same friends in common.
They toss flirty comments back and forth. She’s actually into me – I might have a chance! Don’t screw it up!
After talking for an hour at a table in the corner of the bar, Amanda says, “I’m tired. Could you walk me home?” It’s so on, thinks Simon. The two walk out arm in arm and walk back to her place, where it turns out, she’s not so tired.
But as they start kissing and undressing, thoughts start to creep into the back of his head. This girl is so hot. She’s way to good for me. What if I’m not as good in bed as what she’s used to? What if she thinks my penis is small? She knows some of my friends – what if she tells them about how I am in bed?
Amanda pulls off his pants and puts her hand on his boxers. Simon’s penis is completely limp. She looks up at him. “What’s wrong?”
He shrugs it off and keeps kissing her, but the thoughts in the back of his head are getting louder and louder. What if I can’t get it up? She’s really sexy, but my penis just isn’t working. Did I drink too much? I don’t think I drank that much…
When all the clothes are off, she tries to get him hard with her hands, and later her mouth. Nothing. Why isn’t this working?
Simon feels like he could die of embarrassment. He lays there in her bed for a while, silent, thinking, wishing his body would start working again like it usually does.
An hour later, mentally defeated, Simon says he has to go. He gets dressed quickly and says goodnight.
Over the next few weeks, Simon thinks about what happened and replays it in his mind. I wasn’t that drunk. I’ve had sex when I was more drunk. Why couldn’t I get it up?
He passes Amanda on the way to his classes and she politely smiles at him. He tries to avoid her.
The next week, Simon is out with some friends and has a few drinks. He starts to feel horny, so he calls up Jen, a girl he hooked up with, but didn’t sleep with a few weeks before. She says she’s bored and that he can come over and watch a movie.
At Jen’s house, things escalate and seem to be going well, but when Simon is fumbling to get the condom out of his wallet, his erection quickly disappears. She says she really wants to have sex with him, and they try a few times over the next few hours unsuccessfully.
A few days later, Simon meets Jen again, but the pressure he’s put on himself to perform (I need this to be really great sex so she forgets about that last time!) is too much and his erection doesn’t happen.
Simon goes into a minor depression and replays the three nights over and over again in his head. For the next month, he avoids any potential sexual encounters.
Simon’s story is not unusual. In fact, it’s pretty common. He is stuck in a “negative feedback loop” and can’t seem to find his way out.
Did you see any of your own story in Simon’s? We’ll catch up with the end of his story later.
The Internet is Full of Bad Advice
If you read online articles on how to deal with sexual performance anxiety, you inevitably come across advice like this: “don’t worry so much. Try to relax.”
So… if I want to stop worrying, all I have to do is… stop worrying. Really, thanks.
If you’re dealing with performance anxiety, you know it’s not that easy.
It’s like saying, “don’t think about a purple elephant”. What do you think about? A purple elephant.
Let’s go ahead and take a deeper look at the causes of male performance anxiety, and some concrete steps we can take to make it better.
Causes of Performance Anxiety
Performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction have always been things that some young men have had to deal with. There are many insecurities and questions that can occupy the mind about sex: “Will I make her have an orgasm?” “How will I compare to other guys she’s been with?” “Will I last long enough?” All of these are common worries about sex that can lead to performance anxiety.
But recent times have seen a dramatic increase in cases of performance anxiety related ED. Just ask any practicing GP, or look at the earning statements of companies like Pfizer. ? A good friend of mine is a general practitioner and says he’s seen a 4 or 5-fold increase of Viagra prescriptions in the last 5 years.
So why has this number been increasing so much in recent years?
Porn and Sexual Anxiety
I’m going to put out the hypothesis that the recent large increase in erectile dysfunction in young men is largely due to the increase in availability of pornography, and all the corresponding unintended consequences that come with it.
One quick look at internet forums will tell you that there are many young men who suffer from porn-induced ED (erectile dysfunction caused by desensitizing the brain to real-world stimulation in exchange for “better” or more extreme porn). But I would go further and say that pornography has led to a more generalized anxiety about sex and our “performance” in bed.
We are subtly socialized by porn without noticing it. Even if we know we’re watching paid actors and actresses, watching pornography influences us to believe that sex is a performance, and anything less than perfect is unacceptable.
Think about all the unreasonable expectations that watching porn promotes indirectly. Are all of these beliefs true? Not even close. One look at what’s going on behind the scenes will tell you that it’s not even close to reality.
-A large penis is necessary to please a woman.
In reality, most women do not enjoy a huge penis hitting their cervix – it can be quite painful in fact. Also, the men in porn have been selected because they are in a small minority of men who have a larger than average penis. Real penises come in all shapes and sizes. I won’t say that size isn’t at all important, but the “motion is the ocean” is much more important than “the size of the boat”.
-A real man is ripped and muscular.
Many of these porn actors spend in incredible amount of time in the gym. While getting in shape is great for health and personal reasons, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy great sex with a less than perfect body.
-Real men have erections that never fail and last for hours.
What you’re not being told, is that porn actors often take Viagra or other “performance enhancing drugs” to keep erect, and directors cut scenes where the actor is struggling. In reality, the average American has sex for much less than 10 minutes.
-Women scream, make noises, and have multiple orgasms from intercourse.
While there are some women who can have orgasms from intercourse alone, they are few and far between. I’ll let you in on a little-known secret: some women in porn are not having real orgasms – (whispers) they’re faking it. I know, I was shocked when I found out too. The fact is, women having orgasms, real or fake, is a selling point for porn. Most women need direct stimulation (tongue or fingers) to reach orgasm (not to mention plenty of foreplay), so don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t get there from intercourse only.
“The Great Porn Experiment”
Think about it this way: not only are we comparing ourselves to other men, we are comparing ourselves to people who are having unrealistic sex. Porn actors and actresses are just that: paid performers. They act and exaggerate; the directors use cuts and different angles; all to make their product more appealing and ideal, and thus farther from reality.
We’re not consciously adopting any of these beliefs, but we absorb them through what we watch. This generation of young men in their 20s and 30s, grew up during a time when the available porn wasn’t just one-dimensional magazines or VHS tapes, but High-Definition DVDs, and free streaming internet porn in any genre they could imagine.
“The great porn experiment” is being conducted on the male population, and we’re starting to see some of the not-so-great results with the huge increase in PIED and performance anxiety.
In short, it’s natural to have some insecurities about our bodies and the way we are seen by other people. I’m sure we’ve all thought about if we’re “big enough” or lasted long enough. But when we dwell on these thoughts too much, it can become problematic.
When it comes to sex (and relaxing the body to get an erection) worry and it’s corresponding fight or flight response in our nervous system is counterproductive. This stress and anxiety effectively makes it more difficult for blood to flow into the penis. Your body needs to be relaxed in order to get an erection.
How can I get rid of performance anxiety? 15 Tips
You might feel trapped by your performance anxiety, but it’s important to know that many guys have gone through it, overcome it, and gone back to having great sex lives. Myself included.
Here are some strategies that can help you overcome your performance anxiety.
In addition to being known to lower general levels of stress, exercise is also a keystone habit. Which means that not only is it great for you, but it helps strengthen your willpower to make other positive changes in your life.
When you’re bored, your mind wanders and tends to replay negative events in what’s called a negative feedback loop. Consider taking up a new hobby or class to take you out of your comfort zone and get your mind out of that negative thought loop.
Stop using pornography
As mentioned above, many of our skewed beliefs and expectations about sex come from watching porn. After a prolonged period without PMO (no porn, masturbation and orgasm for a few weeks to a few months), many guys notice an increase in penis sensitivity, the strength of their erections and higher confidence.
It you’re thinking about quitting porn, you can read more here: http://rebootblueprint.com/10-powerful-benefits-of-quitting-porn/
Guided relaxation teaches your body how to relax and helps you become aware of the ways you store tension in your body. Some of the better programs will even take you through a visualization that will help to build confidence in bed.
This is one of the most important things that helped me overcome sexual anxiety. After using guided relaxation daily, I can’t imagine going back to a life without it! I’ve written extensively about this here: http://rebootblueprint.com/most-important-tool-how-to-overcome-sexual-performance-anxiety/
Have you ever noticed that when you’re alone for too long, when you finally try talking to someone you feel “stuck in your head?” When you talk with other people, you have external stimulus and you can focus on the other person’s thoughts and words. But when you’re alone, it’s easy to get trapped in your thoughts. This is especially troubling when you’re dealing with performance anxiety issues.
Often times, performance anxiety can be related to social anxiety. If you work to move out of your comfort zone socially by taking small, consistent steps doing things that are somewhat uncomfortable, you could see results carry over into the bedroom.
Find a partner you trust and feel comfortable with
As guys, we’re wired to want sex with more than one partner. But if you’re committed to overcoming this problem, one of the keys is to get a girlfriend who you feel comfortable with and work together to forget those “failure references” and build up some “success references”. Some guys find it helpful to talk with their partner about their problem to help reduce the pressure to “perform” and feel more comfort and trust. Having worked with many guys to help them overcome performance anxiety, I can say that this is (along with guided relaxation) is one of the most helpful things you can do to overcome this.
Changing your beliefs
Some of the beliefs about sex that we hold are not helpful for mindset in the bedroom. It can be very helpful to look at sex as non-goal oriented, and more of a fun and connecting experience. I made a changing beliefs guided imagery mp3 for my Overcome Porn-Induced ED program which focuses on creating positive beliefs about your body and sex, and I’m currently working on one specifically for sexual performance anxiety. If you want to be notified when it’s ready, sign up for my email list here:
Get enough sleep
Your body needs a certain amount of sleep to function optimally. Without it, you are putting unnecessary stress on yourself and increasing your susceptibility to anxiety. The specific amount of sleep you need varies from person to person, but in general you should aim for around 8 hours.
Eliminate stressors in your life
There are some things that stress us out that we can’t change, but it’s helpful to get rid of the ones you can. If being around a certain friend or family member causes you undue stress, maybe you shouldn’t hang out with them as much.
Cut down on caffeine
Many worrying types find that they are much more sensitive to caffeine than other people seem to be. A good friend of mine has told me that he feels his general anxiety level rise if he drinks too much coffee.
Cut back on alcohol
While alcohol can seem to decrease tension and relax your body in the moment, too much of it can also lead to weakened erections. It’s called “Whiskey dick” for a reason. Also, many guys that are anxiety-prone notice that the day after drinking corresponds to an increase in general anxiety. It can’t hurt to try cutting down on drinking to see how your body reacts.
Drink more water and eat healthy
Most of us aren’t drinking enough water during the day, and a dehydrated body means that your blood isn’t pumping as efficiently as it could – you can imagine why this is important. It’s also essential to eat clean, non-processed foods to stay healthy. Your body is your temple, and if look after it, it will be there when you need it.
Learn how to please a woman without your penis
There are plenty of great books and videos out there that can teach you how to please a woman with your fingers and tongue. Learning these techniques can give you a boost of confidence in the bedroom. Also, knowing that her pleasure doesn’t rely solely on your erection can relieve some of the pressure to perform. Personally, I recommend Ian Kerner’s She Comes First.
Temporarily use “The little blue pill”
I’m hesitant to recommend this, but I know that a lot of guys will go this route and I know guys who it’s helped. One option to help with performance anxiety is to temporarily use Viagra, Cialis or another similar prescription drug.
One strong caution I have is that you should not use these pills for a long period of time. If used for a long period of time, they can become a crutch and lead to dependence. These pills aren’t cheap, and you don’t want to be dependent on a pill for the rest of your life, right?
If you go this route, here is some advice: You want to start with a low dose (say, half a pill) and gradually wean yourself off each time. Essentially, all you want to do is give yourself some “success references” to remind your mind not to worry and that you can have sex, no problem.
See a sex therapist
Sometimes we need more help, and there’s no shame in that. It can help to have someone to talk to about your problems with. A licensed sex therapist can help you work through these issues with your partner.
Simon’s story, continued
After weeks of frustration, Simon decides to do some research and finds some advice he can apply to his situation. He takes responsibility for his situation and decides he wants to be in control of his life. He cuts out caffeine, cuts down on alcohol, and commits to getting 8 hours of sleep a night. He stops watching porn and starts focusing on meeting new people in his free time. He uses a guided imagery relaxation program to train his body to relax and instead of going for one-night stands, he commits to finding a girlfriend that he can trust.
After two months of changing his habits, Simon feels the best he’s felt in a long time. His friends comment that he seems more energetic, confident and relaxed. He’s also much more aware of his body; he realizes when he is feeling tense and can easily snap himself out of it because of his relaxation training. He has an active social life and he even meets a great girl he likes and goes on a few dates.
Simon and his new girlfriend take it slow (“there’s no rush”, he says to her confidently) and after three weeks of dating, they have sex for the first time, without any problems.
He also gets a prescription for Viagra just in case, but finds that he never has to use the pills.
Simon has got his mojo back.
What will your “happy ending” look like? 😉
Recommended Next Steps
Read about how I overcame my own performance anxiety: http://rebootblueprint.com/most-important-tool-how-to-overcome-sexual-performance-anxiety/
Have you had any success overcome performance anxiety? What has helped you? Let us know in the comments!