Anxiety and Sexual Problems

Erection Problems and Anxiety

If you’re having problems getting an erection or keeping an erection, you are probably experiencing a great deal of anxiety around sex. This will not be helped if you feel your arousal level increasing and decreasing as your lovemaking progresses.

Hopefully sensate focus exercises will help you to get in touch with the physical sensations that you experience during sex, so you are more aware of what your body is dong and your state of arousal at any point during your lovemaking.

There is also a series of exercises whose purpose is to reduce your anxiety even further, and in particular, to stop you responding with anxiety to any decrease in your arousal or the loss of your erection. This will break the connection between your anxiety and your erectile dysfunction. Your anxiety causes a large part of your impotence, and this will help break the connection.

At the same time, these exercises will help you to become more sensitive to your level of physical arousal. In short, you will become less sensitive to losing your erection, less anxious about penetration and sexual situations, and more sensitive to the physical sensations which give you pleasure during sex.

The exercises are designed in small steps; please don’t jump ahead. Take it slowly and over time you’ll find that you make big advances in your ability to stay relaxed and keep your erection. (If you take it too fast, you’re likely to be disappointed and experience setbacks in treating your impotence.)

And, by the way, if you happen to have both premature ejaculation and erection problems, you have to deal with the erection problem before you tackle the premature ejaculation problem.


Anxiety is a part of everyday life; most people experience some degree of anxiety sometime in their lives. Anxiety can be useful – it keeps us alert and provides a means of being ready to cope with stressful events or situations. But men’s sexual anxiety is different – it counteracts the relaxed state needed to enjoy great sex: it affects our performance in bed, often by preventing an erection. And though it’s a massive problem, affecting at least one man in ten, it is hardly ever discussed openly among men, because it is seen as such a shameful thing to have to admit you can’t get an erection. If you have some degree of sexual performance anxiety, you’re probably worried about whether or not you’re going to get an erection, or whether you’ll lose it when you start to have sex. 

Sexual performance anxiety can strike in all these situations. Why? generally because you’re focusing on your final goal, which is either having an orgasm or enjoying sex by taking your partner to orgasm, rather than on everything else you’re going to be doing with your partner (e.g. being intimate, being sensual, being loving and communicating).

If you focus more on your relationship and the sensual experiences that you’re enjoying, instead of the orgasms you might or might not have (and the ones she might or might not have, too!) you’re likely to be much less anxious.

Your success at the following exercises to cure your erection problems depends on your ability to be relaxed and accept what is happening without any anxiety about how you are performing.

If you start watching and thinking and worrying about how you’re doing, you’re going to find pretty quickly that you step out of the relaxed attitude that is needed for you to “stay in the moment”.

You’ll probably get tense and start to monitor your performance, and the more you do that, the more you’ll worry. In that case, it won’t be long before you begin to experience the anxiety which has led to your erection problems in the past, and then it may not be much longer before your erection disappears!

Ask your partner to watch for any signs of developing tension, and if she sees them, have her remind you to use your relaxation techniques to get back into a less self-critical, more self-accepting place, where you just enjoy what is happening without spending time thinking about it.

And remember, it’s not part of the deal that you focus completely on your partner and try to please her! This is not a way to cure impotence. You are working towards equality of enjoyment, between you and her, and as much time should be spent focusing on your needs as on hers.

Do the exercises in the order they are set out here, and DO NOT have intercourse before you are sure you’re ready. While you’re practicing, you can bring your partner to orgasm by means of masturbation or oral sex.

Do the exercises when you feel in the mood for them: the partner exercises three times a week, and the masturbation exercises twice a week.


Exercise 1

Learning to enjoy your partner’s touch to your penis and testicles – without becoming anxious

Here is the key you need to make this work. Read this carefully and absorb it: an erection may come and go during sex, but it will always come back. This in itself is not erectile dysfunction. If you feel your erection faltering, it is not a problem! It will come back! Just don’t focus on your erection, focus on the sexual experience you are having. Stop worrying about how aroused you are and start enjoying the sex. This exercise has 3 parts.

A)   Masturbation alone as a first step to treating erection problems and impotence

You’re used to masturbating with porn, perhaps, or with fantasies which you create in your mind. This time, however, you’re going to do it differently. You’re going to bring yourself off without any stimulation except your hand. And, while you’re doing it, you’re going to focus on your body and check out what feels good, what doesn’t feel so good, and what you might like to ask your partner to do in the future.

The first thing you need is a quiet time and space where you can relax, without being disturbed or interrupted. Lie naked on your bed in a warm room and begin to explore yourself, with lube if you prefer it, slowly and easily. This is not a test, it’s not a race to get yourself off, and it’s not a challenge or comparison with what’s happened before. All you are doing is learning about the pleasure your body can give you. And, of course, checking out that given time and the right kind of stimulation, you will get aroused and you will get erect.

Try various ways of stimulating yourself, various strokes, various pressures, various movements of your hand on your penis and testicles. At first you may find that it is difficult to get an erection.

If you then find that you’re beginning to fantasize, slow down, relax, reduce your anxiety by breathing deeply, and start stimulating yourself with your hand once again. If you find yourself fantasizing, just tell yourself that you’re there to find out how it feels when you just use your hand, and bring your attention back to what you’re feeling in your body.

You may not be surprised to find that it takes you longer to get aroused than it would without any fantasy. You might even find that your erection is not as full as you’d like; well, that’s to be expected.

Don’t despair, don’t give up, and do repeat the experience twice a week. What you’ll find as time goes by is that you come to enjoy the physical sensations more, and your erection gets harder and more reliable. You may need to repeat this experience a few times before you get a hard and full erection. If you have real trouble, use fantasy to get started and then as you get hard, focus on your physical sensations.

Now, here’s the crucial thing: as you get near to orgasm, stop stimulating yourself and relax until your erection has gone away almost completely. As you wait for it to go down, relax and reduce any anxiety you feel by using the relaxation techniques we described earlier.

When your anxiety is reduced, and you’re relaxed, start masturbating again until your erection has returned. Carry on until you’re near orgasm once again, then stop and relax as before. The third time you do this, continue masturbating until you ejaculate.

The whole point of this treatment for erection problems is that you’ll see that your body will respond again if you lose your erection, that in fact you can get back to a state of full arousal if your erection subsides temporarily during sex.

It may take a while, but if your persist, you should be able to develop the confidence that your erection is actually quite reliable.

But what if, despite your best intentions, you don’t get erect? If you feel that you really are impotent, the first thing to do is to keep trying. The second is to use fantasy: whatever the cause of your problems, whether you are not in touch with your body, or your anxiety is too high, you don’t want to go on for too long without a success!

You can adapt the exercise by using fantasy until you are near orgasm, at which point you should focus once again on your physical sensations.

 Once you have some success in this process and more confidence about your control over your erection, you can begin to relinquish fantasy and rely more on pleasurable physical sensations to get yourself aroused. You will by now have some clear ideas about what touch you like and what turns you on and gives you the greatest physical sensation.

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