Does your sex soundtrack feature voices in your head telling you “Hurry up! They’re getting bored!”, “I’m taking too long.”, “I’m never going to cum.”, “There must be something wrong with me.”? Or maybe thoughts that you’re cumming too quickly, or too loudly? If you experience intrusive thoughts like this that are stopping you from from fully enjoying sex, you could be suffering from orgasm anxiety.
While orgasm anxiety can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting, please know that you are not alone. And with some time and patience, you can get over orgasm anxiety and find more pleasure in your sex life. With that said, let’s take a deeper look at what orgasm anxiety is, where it comes from, how it affects us and what we can do to overcome it.
What is orgasm anxiety?
Orgasm anxiety is anxiety related to how or if you orgasm. Orgasm anxiety typically strikes during sex with a partner, but you could also experience this type of mental block when masturbating.
One way orgasm anxiety manifests itself is hyperfocusing on achieving orgasm. This can make you increasingly stressed as you put more and more pressure on yourself to cum. For example, you might get anxious because you feel like you’re not cumming quickly enough or you don’t think you’ll be able to come.
Another way orgasm anxiety reveals itself is self-consciousness. You might worry about how you’ll look or smell when orgasming, or you might fear the intensity of your climax believing it’ll cause you to lose control.
If you experience orgasm anxiety, you may find that you identify with some of these worries. You may also find that your body tenses up during sex, your mind and body feel disconnected as your thoughts take you out of the moment, and you might even dread the moment leading up to orgasm.
Once orgasm anxiety starts, it often becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. The more you have anxious thoughts, the more difficult it becomes to enjoy sex and orgasm.
How can orgasm anxiety affect us?
If you believe “good sex” has to end with orgasm, this can create a lot of internalized pressure to cum, and may leave you feeling like a failure when you don’t climax. Paradoxically, focusing too much on cumming makes it less likely that you’ll orgasm, as your orgasm fixation prevents you from relaxing.
If you’re a prisoner of the anxious thoughts whirring around your head, it’s not just your mind that’s affected, your body suffers too. Anxiety can show up in the body too in the form of clenched muscles, shallow breathing and reduced lubrication. These mental and physical symptoms can trigger disorders like vaginismus and anorgasmia and can generally cause discomfort or pain during sex.
As you can see, orgasm anxiety can make us miss out on a lot of the fun and pleasure associated with sex.
It’s important to address orgasm anxiety as soon as possible, as the longer the anxiety continues, the harder it is to overcome. To do this, we first need to address the underlying causes.
What are the causes of orgasm anxiety?
There are many causes of orgasm anxiety and they often overlap, but a big factor for many women is a lack of sex-positive, pleasure-focused sex education.
If you never received this type of sex education, it’s easy to think that the way sex is portrayed in mainstream porn is the standard you should live up to. If you see a porn actress cumming in 4 minutes after very little stimulation, you could understandably feel inadequate if it takes you forty minutes to cum after trying everything in the book. But the thing is, porn’s not real. By educating yourself and understanding that women usually take longer than men to reach full arousal, you’re already on the right path to normalizing your own pleasure.
You may have also internalized the belief that your pleasure isn’t as important as other people’s. As women, many of us have been taught to put others’ needs first and this can show up in sex. Think about it: if you’re worrying about the amount of time it takes you to come, or how you orgasm, could it be because you think your partner’s needs are more important? Do you subconsciously believe that while they’re deserving of pleasure, you shouldn’t inconvenience people to have your needs met? Do you sometimes think it would be easier to just lie and say you came so you don’t bruise your partner’s ego? If any of this resonates with you, make sure to check out our article on the orgasm gap and why it exists.
You might also recall negative experiences when a sexual partner criticised the way you climaxed, perhaps they complained about how long it took you to cum, or were annoyed that after putting in “a lot of work” you still didn’t come. Negative remarks like these can be difficult to forget and can come back to you haunt you the next time you’re having sex, even years later and with a different partner.
On the other hand, orgasm anxiety could also have a protective quality. If you don’t feel safe with someone, don’t enjoy how they’re touching you or don’t actually want to have sex with them, this could be your body’s way of urging you to stop. Be honest and ask yourself if this is the case for you.
How to overcome orgasm anxiety
Learn more about what gives you pleasure
If you’re not sure what gives you pleasure, this lack of self-knowledge can lead to anxiety in the bedroom. After all, if you don’t know what to do to orgasm, do you think your partner does?
Taking some time out to find what feels good can result in more pleasure and orgasmic sexual experiences. Apart from feeling amazing, incorporating masturbation into your self-care routine helps you to know your own body, your needs wants and desires and can give you more confidence in partnered sex as you know how you can achieve orgasm.
For many women, the practice of mindfulness is key to overcoming orgasm anxiety.
When you have negative thoughts about how you’re performing in bed, you remove yourself from the here and now and the pleasurable sensations you could be enjoying. But with a regular mindfulness practice, you can learn how to be truly present with the sensations in your body and start to fully enjoy sex.
If you’re interested in having more mindful sex, we encourage you to check out Emjoy’s audio sessions. Our Orgasm Anxiety Collection contains guided mindfulness sessions to release orgasm anxiety, both alone and with a partner.
Positive affirmations and visualizations
Replacing negative self talk with positive affirmations can also go a long way to calming your mind. Try it out. Next time a negative thought pops up in your mind during sex, replace it with an affirmation like “My partner loves giving me pleasure”, “I deserve to feel good”, “There’s no rush or right way for me to orgasm”, “I can relax and enjoy this pleasure”.
And don’t underestimate the power of visualization. Seeing is believing after all. Spend some time imagining yourself really enjoying an orgasm, giving yourself over to the feeling and reveling in it unselfconsciously. Picturing this image will help you to believe it’s possible and motivate you to get your needs met in your next sexual encounter.
Prioritize pleasure over orgasm
If orgasm anxiety is preventing you from enjoying sex, it might be time to take the focus off climaxing entirely. The next times you have sex, forget about orgasming. Instead, just focus on general pleasure. You might find that by having sex without the objective of orgasming helps you to relax and enjoy the experience a lot more. And who knows, if you’re not focused on climaxing, you might just cum after all.