Tips And Techniques For Overcoming Sexual Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated July 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Is Anxiety Impacting Your Sex Life?

Sexual anxiety can be a common issue that affects many people. Even though it can impact relationships, self-confidence, and communication, the topic is rarely discussed. Some people with sexual anxiety experience stress, frustration, embarrassment, and shame. However, understanding the causes and symptoms of sexual anxiety can be beneficial in overcoming it and enjoying sexual experiences again. Common causes of sexual anxiety can include past experiences, negative self-talk, performance anxiety, and relationship issues. Individuals with sexual anxiety can learn about strategies to manage it, including effective communication, positive self-talk, relaxation techniques, setting boundaries, and speaking to a professional, such as an online therapist. Individuals who learn to recognize and manage their sexual anxiety can regain their confidence and enjoy sexual experiences safely and healthily.

Common Causes Of Sexual Anxiety

Various factors, including past experiences, self-talk, performance anxiety, and relationship issues, can influence sexual anxiety. Individuals who have had negative experiences with previous partners may feel anxiety about future encounters. It can become a vicious cycle in which the negative experience perpetuates a negative self-image, which then fuels the sexual anxiety. The individual may then experience further shame and embarrassment, potentially leading them to avoid sexual activities altogether. 

Performance anxiety is another common factor that can contribute to sexual anxiety. Performance anxiety usually centers around an individual’s concerns about their sexual performance or the possibility of their partner judging them. Individuals with performance anxiety may have difficulty staying engaged in sexual activities, maintaining an erection, or reaching orgasm, which can perpetuate the shame cycle associated with sexual anxiety.

It can also be possible for relationship issues to cause sexual anxiety. Partners with communication troubles, conflict, or challenges in the relationship may find intimacy more difficult than usual. Relationship issues can lead to deeper traumas that may make intimate connections challenging if not resolved. 

Many people have experienced increased sexual anxiety in recent years due to the pandemic. Forbes quotes Dr. Helen Fisher, a scientific advisor on a survey, saying, “Situation sexual behavior is sexual behavior that one expresses in situations or circumstances in which they are unable to express their normal, preferred patterns of sexuality. It is common among prisoners, among those in other confining institutions, in wartime settings, among travelers in unfamiliar places and in other situations in which an individual is not able to pursue their normal and/or preferred habits, behaviors and patterns of sexuality”. The inability to express “normal, preferred” sexual behavior is thought to have become a significant issue when in-person interaction was limited, and many may still be feeling the effects in the form of sexual anxiety.

The Impact Of Sexual Anxiety On Relationships

Sexual anxiety can significantly impact relationships, potentially leading to communication challenges, decreased intimacy, and negative impacts on mental health. Communication challenges can severely affect relationships, especially for those with sexual anxiety. An individual who is anxious about sexual activities may struggle to express their desires because of the anxiety, which can lead to miscommunication with their partner or leave the partner feeling undesired. If one partner feels undesired, that could create anxiety and decrease the chances of effective communication even further.

Decreased intimacy can also be a side effect of sexual anxiety. Some individuals with sexual anxiety may avoid sexual interactions altogether, which can cause a lack of physical and emotional intimacy between partners. This lack of intimacy can lead to a perceived loss of connection and negative views of the relationship.

Sexual anxiety can also impact an individual’s mental health and, in some cases, their partner’s mental health. The associated feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment often lead to negative self-image and self-talk, which can eventually take a severe toll on an individual’s mental health. Partners of individuals who are experiencing negative thought spirals may also be negatively impacted because of perceived rejection or frustration at the lack of intimacy. It can be important for individuals experiencing sexual anxiety to seek help and support and communicate openly and honestly with their partners. Addressing sexual anxiety can improve and strengthen relationships between partners.


Overcoming Sexual Anxiety

Overcoming sexual anxiety can be a challenging process, but there are several strategies that can be effective in managing symptoms. Three key strategies for overcoming sexual anxiety may include effective communication, relaxation techniques, and changing negative self-talk.

Communication strategies can be an important tool for managing sexual anxiety and healthy relationships. Partners who discuss their sexual preferences and concerns can create a supportive and safe environment for sexual activities. Communicating effectively and expressing specific desires can reduce anxiety and improve overall sexual experiences. 

These strategies can also involve setting boundaries and expectations for sexual activities, which can help individuals feel more in control and less anxious. Time quotes Vanessa Marin, the author of Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life, advice to “start softly” and:

  • Keep your tone calm and even.

  • Be aware of your facial expressions and body language, and try to convey relaxation.

  • If you’re open to it, hold hands or touch while you talk. A little bit of physical contact reminds you of your love for each other.

  • Make sure your first few sentences are particularly kind and open.

Practicing these strategies with other forms of effective communication can help individuals communicate their needs more effectively and potentially reduce anxiety.

Individuals with sexual anxiety may also find success using relaxation techniques. Using these techniques may lead to feeling more in control of the situation and lessening anxiety symptoms. 

Many relaxation techniques center around the physical state. For example, deep breathing exercises can slow the heart rate, which can be ideal when experiencing anxiety symptoms. Additionally, meditation can be effective for relaxation. Mindfulness often helps individuals focus on the present and let go of anxious thoughts. 

Focusing on physical sensations through grounding techniques and progressive muscle relaxation can help with sexual anxiety symptoms. Grounding usually suggests that individuals focus on the five senses and name things they can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste to ground themselves in their bodies. Progressive muscle relaxation typically encourages individuals to tense and release muscle groups throughout their bodies to reduce anxiety and become more aware of physical symptoms. Using a combination of these relaxation techniques can be effective in managing sexual anxiety and improving intimacy. By finding a combination of techniques that work, individuals can become more comfortable and confident in their sexuality.

Changing negative self-talk can also be crucial when overcoming sexual anxiety. Having negative beliefs about themselves and their sexual ability can lead to further stress and isolation. Individuals who challenge their negative inner voices can develop a more positive self-image, potentially leading to more confidence. Some individuals may find speaking to a professional helpful when addressing negative self-image. With the right tools and support, individuals can overcome sexual anxiety and enjoy healthy and fulfilling sexual experiences.

Finding Support Online

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Is Anxiety Impacting Your Sex Life?

Individuals with sexual anxiety who are ready to speak to a professional may find online therapy helpful. One significant benefit of online therapy may be that it provides access to a broader range of mental health professionals, specifically those who may specialize in sexual anxiety. This can increase the chances of an individual finding a therapist they feel comfortable talking to and can create coping strategies with. Another benefit of online therapy may be increased privacy. Individuals who may feel shame or embarrassment about their sexual anxiety can work through it in a familiar environment where they feel most comfortable. 

One study offered teletherapy to 32 couples with low/no sexual desire/frequency. Participant feedback “described improvements in emotional connection, embodiment, being ‘in the moment,’ playfulness, enjoyment, authenticity, as well as increased comfort with communication in general, about sex and at times of conflict”. The study concluded, "Therapy for low/no sexual desire/frequency, offered in person or via teletherapy, is an accessible and effective way of enhancing sexual intimacy and thereby ameliorating sexual desire discrepancies for distressed couples”. Seeing a therapist for sexual anxiety and related symptoms can be an effective step to improve connection and sexual experiences.


In conclusion, sexual anxiety can be a common issue that may have significant impacts on relationships, self-confidence, and communication. It tends to be a rarely discussed topic, although it can lead to feelings of stress, frustration, embarrassment, and shame. However, by understanding the causes and symptoms of sexual anxiety, individuals can take steps toward overcoming it and enjoying sexual experiences again. Common causes of sexual anxiety can include negative self-talk, past experiences, performance anxiety, and relationship issues. Strategies for managing sexual anxiety may include effective communication, positive self-talk, relaxation techniques, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help. Recognizing and managing sexual anxiety can be crucial for individuals to regain their confidence and improve their overall well-being. With the right tools and support, such as working with an online therapist, individuals can overcome sexual anxiety and enjoy healthy and fulfilling sexual experiences.

Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment

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