Anxiety is a generally a negative psychological experience. Anxiety and stress seem to overwhelm the mind and lead to a cascade of negative thoughts that reduce a person’s ability to enjoy the moment and focus on positive things that are going on in their life.
The impact of anxiety can often be seen in the bedroom, particularly when it comes to sexual arousal and enjoyment. Men are notoriously affected by anxiety, especially sexual anxieties, as anxiousness and a lack of confidence are heavily linked to both erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Confidence and the ability to enjoy the experience are both crucial parts of sexual enjoyment in men, and anxiety takes away from that enjoyment.
Anxiety in Women
At first glance, the same appears to be true with women. Women that are going through life stresses and anxieties find it hard to get interested in and enjoy sex. Female sexual arousal has a profound mental component, so it stands to reason that anxieties lead to diminished sexual interest and enjoyment.
But studies have found conflicting results. This is especially clear in a paper titled “The impact of anxiety on sexual arousal in women” published in the Journal of Behavior Research and Therapy. The authors state that in some cases, it appears that women can actually become more physically aroused by anxieties, and that laboratory studies suggest that in some cases, arousal may be increased as a response to anxieties.
What Anxiety is Arousing?
Studies have yet to pinpoint the exact difference between what makes sexual anxiety arousing but general anxiety not arousing. However, research has found that in sexual conditions, anxiety makes more blood flow to the genitals.
Taking this idea, one possible theory is that, when someone is already sexually aroused, the way that anxiety improves blood flow to the genitals creates additional arousal that is interpreted more as excitement rather than a response to the anxious stimuli. In other words, since sexual arousal adds blood flow to the genitals, and anxiety adds blood flow to the genitals, the latter may increase the experience of the former.
This could be one of the reasons that sexual experimentation, including BDSM, toy use, and atypical sexual positions appear to have an excitement quality to them, and one of the reasons that women may find these experiences more enjoyable. It stands to reason that as long as the anxiety doesn’t overcome the sexual interest, the anxiety may create a feeling of excitement that translates to increased sexual desire.
However, there must be some sort of end point, where anxiety overwhelms sexual desire to the point where it decreases. Logically, it’s unlikely that all anxiety becomes translated as sexual enjoyment, otherwise genuinely dangerous situations would create a feeling of fear that is simply too intense, leading to a distraction from the potential for sexual pleasure.
It does not appear this baseline has been researched, but it seems unlikely that all fears are attributed to sexual arousal when the woman is already sexually aroused. More research is needed to discover what the difference is and how it can be measured.
It’s also not clear whether this excitement affects men as well. Some studies have linked this anxiety to sexual arousal, but most also confirm that premature ejaculation and dysfunction are common, so it’s difficult to describe this anxiety as a strength or a weakness for the male sexual experience.
Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that some degree of sexual anxiety during periods of sexual arousal may enhance the intimacy of the experience. Couples that enjoy that level of excitement or want to enhance their sexual experiences may find that adding a little bit of danger to the mix could find that their sexual experiences become more exciting, and more enjoyable.
Guest Author: Ryan Rivera authors a website on living with anxiety, and has explored anxiety causes and issues for most of his life. His website can be found at www.calmclinic.com.