Sex is a natural part of the human experience, but when something that's supposed to be super-fun and feel great leads to a serious bout of anxiety, it can cause distress that goes far beyond the bedroom. Let's take a look at what sex anxiety is all about and what you can do about it.
While there's a lot of research and writings about sexual and performance anxiety in men, it's unsurprising that sexual anxiety in women is a less talked-about issue. Why? Because it can be more difficult to define, says Courtney Cleman, sex and relationship expert — after all, women don't require an erection for sexual activity (and of course, there may be social issues at hand that place more value on a man's sexual satisfaction than a woman's, but that's a topic for another article).
For us gals, there are a few symptoms you can look for to see if this malady is affecting your life:
Also, there are symptoms that are not necessarily sex-specific that can mean you're experiencing anxiety. These include:
As with other types of anxiety, there are a number of different causes for that of the sexual type. Here are some of the key causes.
Sexual anxiety is treated according to the cause. For those with hormone imbalances or thyroid disease, testing will first reveal the issue, and your doctor can work on treating it. For those who have anxiety that stems from other causes, there are other options.
"Knowledge is power," says Cleman. "Many of the common causes of sexual anxiety in women can be treated and improved with the understanding of the female anatomy and how to achieve clitoral and vaginal orgasm faster and more consistently."
Additionally, it can help to work with a therapist — or even attend support groups. McManus notes, "There are two different factors to consider: There is the anxiety that occurs in the moment — you are in the heat of the moment and start to experience anxiety — and there is the anxiety that occurs beforehand — anxiety about the anxiety, so to speak. Both the anxiety in the moment and the meta-anxiety beforehand can be addressed and drastically improved with some help from a therapist who specializes in [cognitive behavioral therapy] for anxiety."
If you're experiencing sexual anxiety, reach out to a health care professional. It's logical to start with your regular doctor, who can refer you to a specialist or a therapist if needed and get you to a point where sex is a welcome part of your life.
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