For most of my partnered sex, I’ve been plagued by a problem: a sudden rush of panic when other people initiate. For a long time, I hadn’t known what it was. Over time, though, it’s become clear that I’m suffering from pre-sex anxiety.
From my years of helping people have better sex, I know that many others suffer from the same problem. So, I wanted to offer up a few of the symptoms I’ve noticed to help you figure out if you’re dealing with the same problem.
I really enjoy sex but often feel slightly queasy when someone initiates. When I feel this, I often say I don’t feel like having sex. In reality, though, I usually do want sex, but the non-specific uneasiness of my tummy makes me focus there instead of anywhere else, including my dick.
One moment, I’ll be thinking about sex and really want it. Then my partner will suggest some particular activity and, suddenly, my mind switches to worrying I won’t be able to get it up, satisfy or something similar. Like everyone else, I sometimes have issues with arousal. The general advice is to relax and let it pass, but anxiety puts all those worries front and center, making me not want the sex I love.
A part of the worrying is my mind moving from topic to topic at a breakneck speed. What am I doing tomorrow? Did I lock the door? Is he having fun? I really need to see that new Janelle Monae video. In maybe 40 seconds, a series of thoughts like that will rattle through my head, completely disconnecting me from whatever focus I was building, which can be frustrating.
Frustration happens when tiny bits of stress compound to make everything annoying as hell. If I’m anxious, every slight decrease in penile rigidity, momentary break in focus or failure to orgasm on cue starts to build up, and soon I’m soft, hyper clear and definitely not going to finish.
Because I often feel this anxiety but also feel anxiety about turning down my partner, I’ll sometimes suggest we do something else instead of saying no. Like with my former phobia of spiders, I’m simply trying to avoid the thing that makes me feel bad. Unfortunately, when I don’t notice and do this, I’m just reinforcing my anxiety.
For me, arousal is like a thick fog that takes my attention range from everything around me to complete tunnel vision, hyper focus on the sex. When I’m feeling anxious, that fog, and a desire for sex, is impossible to accomplish. I find myself hyper aware of everything around me and completely unable to tap into the feelings of my body. This prevents me from feeling pleasure and ramping up into full arousal.
Automatically saying “no”:
This is a more subtle form of avoidance. I often won’t know why I don’t want sex but my mind will tell me that I absolutely don’t. Since I know there’s no solid reason behind that feeling, I’ll often find myself worrying about why I don’t want to have sex. That then sends me into a stronger, more noticeable anxiety spiral, which normally gives me an actual reason not to want sex.
Signs of panic or fear:
Racing heart, sweating, itching and sudden heavy breathing often occur when I’m feeling anxious in general. They still do, just more subtly, when it’s about sex. This actually makes them harder to sense, as something light could be a reaction to recently ingested weed, alcohol, nicotine or caffeine. Even still, if you’ve consciously thought about sex happening and then you experience these feelings, it’s probably anxiety.
Decreased physical pleasure:
Even if I’m thinking about something sexy, playing with my nipples, toked out and ready, if I’m anxious, I still won’t feel my body. Well, I’ll feel what’s happening on my skin but I won’t feel the electric sizzle spread through my body, I won’t relax and the touching, sucking, etc. will become really uncomfortable. This is normally what sex stuff feels like when my mind is super clear.
Loud internal voice:
When I’m not anxious, I go from task to task and the voice in my head is like a quick whisper. When I’m anxious, though, the voice becomes really loud, like the sound I hear when I talk out of my mouth. No matter what I say in my head, it doesn’t connect to any feelings or physical sensations; it’s just noise.
Now these are just the sensations, feelings and happenings that come with my sexual anxiety. I feel like there’s even a few more I missed but I’d have to experience them again to remember, and I don’t wanna. So, if I’ve missed any you have experienced, leave them in the comments below.