How Real Is Performance Anxiety?

Odds are that most adult men will experience signs of erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives. For many, the symptoms come with age, stress or associated health problems, usually involving the heart or blood flow. Recently however, research has shown an increase in impotence in younger, healthier males. So what gives? Though many cases are rooted in excessive drinking, stress or lack of sleep, another factor seems to be at play in most of these cases—performance anxiety.

Unsurprisingly so, many men may feel pressure to perform well while having sex, making sure their partner is satisfied. According to an article by The Guardian, “Under enormous social pressure to be smooth sexual performers, they are mistakenly self-diagnosing with ED after a few failed attempts to have sex.” That social pressure stems from a rise in accessible pornography as well as a culture rooted in sexuality and masculinity, prevalent at the college level.

Performance anxiety takes effect in a vicious cycle. According to a 2013 study by the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the link between a man’s state of mind and their ability to perform well sexually is clear. The anxiety builds before having sex, subsequently causing the physical effects of impotence. This creates more pressure before all sexual activity, turning a rare physical problem into an ongoing psychological one. This feeling of anxiety can stem from penis size, fulfilling a dominant gender role or simply the pressure to satisfy your partner fully.

So how does one cope? As difficult as it seems, being aware of the cycle and avoiding it is crucial. Occasional symptoms of erectile dysfunction are normal and can be attributed to many causes. Everyone gets nervous, but understanding that these experiences are common at any age will help you shift the focus on your partner, not your own performance. Additionally, acknowledge any other stressors in your life that could be playing a role. Stress at school or work, lack of sleep or exercise, or heavy drinking and smoking can be a factor that’s making these symptoms more prevalent when it’s time to perform.

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