Approaches to Addressing Anxiety-Induced Erectile Dysfunction | Advice

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I recently started dating someone new and I am feeling a bit of anxiety in the bedroom. I am super attracted to this guy and I am really turned on but when it comes to the moment, I can’t stay hard and sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get hard. I keep telling my cock to get hard but that doesn’t work and then I feel so full of shame and embarrassed.

I want to acknowledge your vulnerability in sharing this concern. It's essential to recognize that many individuals experience challenges in the bedroom, especially when navigating the dynamics of a new relationship. The intertwining of anxiety and sexual performance is not uncommon, and understanding this connection can be the first step towards addressing it.

Navigating the complexities of a new relationship can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You're not alone in your experience.

A systematic review of 12 studies on erectile dysfunction found that there's a notable prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED) among individuals with anxiety disorders, with a median prevalence rate of 20.0%. This underscores the significant interplay between mental well-being and physical responses. Anxiety can have a profound impact on one's physical responses.

According to an article from the Urology Specialist Group in Fl, anxiety can disrupt the brain's signals to the body, affecting the blood flow needed for an erection. This means that even if you're mentally stimulated and attracted to your partner, anxiety can interfere with the physical response.

One thing I have found to be incredibly powerful in reducing ED due to anxiety is mindfulness, a practice rooted in being present and fully engaged in the current moment. In addition to ED, mindfulness has also been associated with various positive outcomes in male sexuality such as helping with premature ejaculation and feeling more pleasure during sex. It has also been linked to increased sexual desire, reduced performance anxiety, and improved sexual satisfaction. Mindfulness practices can help people with penises focus on sexual stimulation rather than distractions or emotional avoidance.

Specific exercises, such as body scans, visualization, and breathing exercises, can be beneficial. A study in 2018 showed that 9 out of 10 men with psychological ED regained their erection ability after practicing mindfulness for four weeks. Incorporating mindfulness during intimate moments involves being present and fully engaged in the sensations and experiences of the moment. By redirecting focus away from performance anxieties and towards the physical and emotional connection with the partner, people with penises can reduce the impact of stressors that contribute to ED.

For instance, paying close attention to what the hands are feeling, what the mouth is tasting, what the nose is smelling or what the eyes are seeing can help divert attention away from performance-related worries. Enhancing the sensory experience with elements like scented candles or calming music can further help in reducing anxiety. The idea is to be present at the moment, experiencing the physical sensations without letting the mind drift into negative or anxious thoughts. If your mind starts to drift, bring it back by focusing your attention to one of your five senses. By grounding oneself in the sensory experience, it becomes easier to block out distractions and enjoy the intimate connection with the partner.

Over time, with consistent mindfulness practice, individuals can enhance their sexual experiences, reduce performance anxiety, and improve their overall sexual well-being.

Queerly Beloved is an expertly curated column dedicated to the world of LGBTQ sex, intimacy and relationships that provides education, insights and actionable tips for the reader to enhance their pleasure journey. This column from Kelly Ghweinem, LCSW, will answer questions and provide advice to readers to deepen intimate connections, elevate pleasurable experiences, and empower people. Ghweinem is an established queer-affirming therapist and business owner who champions the LGBTQ+ community through activism and advocacy utilizing a queer, feminist, anti-racist lens. A University at Buffalo graduate, Kelly came to Fort Lauderdale from Manhattan in 2022.
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