Stage fright can manifest itself in a myriad of ways, from public speaking to performing in bed. And whilst the former is probably the most commonly talked about form, the latter is certainly not as rare as you may think.
Reddit user goodnewley recently posted about his boyfriend’s anxiety, which is most prominent whilst they are being intimate. The two have been together for five months, and, as he explains, everything is going smoothly bar his partner’s performance anxiety in bed.
“Lately, sexy time has literally devolved into me having to lay there and comfort him 3/4 times we’re in bed.
“The act itself is good. No complaints. But if I’m not vocal enough, he descends into calling himself a ‘stupid failure who can’t please me.’ And then I hold him, assure him he’s not, and repeatedly tell him I’m not leaving him.
“If I’m too vocal, I’m ‘faking it to make him feel better’ and once again, it’s my job to lay there and comfort him.”
He adds that once his anxiety takes over, “we’re done for the night”.
“Charlie was my first everything. Being romantic with him is a large place of vulnerability for me, and I just don’t know what to do when this happens.”
Whilst user goodnewely knows that his partner “can’t help mental illness”, he is also aware that the couple “need to talk about it”.
“But I’m afraid of sending him spiralling.”
The comments section of the post is awash with people who have had similar experiences, either with themselves personally suffering from sexual performance anxiety or a partner.
The top comment comes from a user who has been on both sides of anxiety, saying: “I’ve been in relationships with guys like this and I’ve been the guy like this… I really recommend agreeing on silence. As in, when he’s feeling anxious there’s a signal that says we’re going to be silent and just hold each other for a bit. No words, no endless tiring comfort, just a moment of silence that always means ‘you’ve done nothing wrong, let’s sit through this’. This won’t fix anything but it’s a strategy in the moment.”
Elliot D. Cohen from Psychology Today says sexual performance anxiety is all about the “perceived catastrophic consequences” and “fear of what others are going to think of you, especially your sex partner, if you fail to perform.”
He continues that often those suffering from this kind of anxiety feat that their partner will stop seeing them “as sexy or as not being a ‘real man’ or ‘real woman'”.
Much of the psychologist’s advice on what to do about sexual performance anxiety centres around changing how much focus you put on the orgasm.
Cohen says to those who do experience performance anxiety in bed, “stop defining yourself as an orgasm”, and “stop exaggerating how bad it is to not have an orgasm”.
And lastly he adds: “Respect yourself. Good sex begins with self-respect!”