Updated: Jul 9
Today we will be looking at how anxiety shows up for both men and women physically and emotionally.
His and Hers
If you suffer from anxiety even an intimate moment with the one you love, or mildly desire, can be ruined. For the sake of keeping this rated PG we will focus on relationships.
Although statically there are a higher number of women that are diagnosed with anxiety, that does not mean that it does not affect their male counterpart. The reason most men go undiagnosed is that they will identify with being “stressed” versus having anxiety, but if you ask them what their symptoms are it is often the same. Symptoms like:
* Difficulty focusing
* Muscle tension
Most men will brush it off or not discuss their symptoms with their healthcare provider until it begins to disrupt their daily life. The anxiety can be missed or masked under another condition. At that point, it can show up in the form of:
* cardiac symptoms (ex: high blood pressure or palpitations)
* gastric symptoms (ex: ulcers, change in bowel habits)
* neurological (ex: difficulty remembering or focusing)
Many men that experience stress/anxiety can also have urological conditions that impact their sex life. These include:
* erectile function disorder (ED)
* premature ejaculation
* loss of libido
* decreased stamina
For women, our bodies are also affected in similar and not so similar ways. While most of our health symptoms will be the same, sexually we can experience:
* vaginal dryness
* vaginismus (muscle spasm in the pelvic floor making intercourse painful or impossible)
* irregular periods
* loss of libido
* decreased stamina
Both men and women can also struggle in achieving an orgasm.
Emotionally and mentally we are not much different. If one partner suffers from anxiety the other one often feels neglected, undesirable, physically and/or emotionally unsatisfied, frustrated, sadness, lack of self-confidence, and disconnected. While the person with anxiety can be dealing with post-traumatic triggers, lack of self-confidence, mental distractions (racing thoughts), depression, feeling unable to satisfy their partner, and not good enough.
Even the relationship we have with our own bodies is affected. We will look at ourselves in the mirror and think we failed because we were not able to have an intimate moment and connect with our partner. The self-judgment is real, and it’s so hard. Living in a body that we feel is working against us is difficult to live with. Not feeling attractive enough. Too much of this, not enough of that.
Women with anxiety will often struggle to ask for what they sexually want from their partner. The fear of judgment or shaming will take over. “What will he think of me if I tell him ___ "(insert your favorite freaky fantasy here). Women can go years not expressing how or where they want to be touched or what they desire. This will cause unsatisfying interactions because she will always feel like there is a part of her that she cannot freely reveal and will be judged.
Then there’s also not speaking up on what we don’t want. Years ago, I had a partner that would do the tongue in the ear thing, and that, honestly, annoyed me. But he seemed to enjoy it, so I didn't speak up. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and make him feel bad. I took that on and put it on myself. Once I finally brought it to his attention like, “hey we can skip that part…like always” he was surprised because he thought I enjoyed it and that was why he kept doing it. UGH MAJOR FACEPALM….
Now that I am older, wiser, more secure in my body, and definitely in my voice, I can gently and lovingly express to my partner what I want and don’t want and not feel anxious that I am going to hurt his feelings or feel that I will be judged. That all started with learning to love me first. I had to put in the work. I went through years of self-help books, counseling, and barrels of tears. I had to first learn how to communicate with myself. Listen to my inner voice. Embrace (yes embrace!) my anxiety and learn that it was ok to matter. Hell, it's necessary that I feel like I matter and love myself! I learned that I set the bar for how others treat me. A very dear friend of mine said to me years ago, "What you allow will continue". And although she was talking about a toxic relationship that I was in at the time, those words stayed with me. I now apply that to so many areas of my life, including the narrative I tell myself and how I feel each day.
Loving, accepting, showing self-compassion, opened up the lines of communication within myself, and now my partner. A partner that is open and supportive and that isn't afraid to have those hard conversations and say "I love you still" at the end. My voice is free. When safety, trust, and freedom are part of the foundation of the relationship, you can feel secure being vulnerable. That vulnerability gives us an opportunity to release anxiety and takes intimacy and trust to another level.
Join us later this week for Part 2 of Sex and Anxiety where we will be discussing outside influences and how to create a safe space for you and your partner, even if you struggled with anxiety and intimacy in the past.
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is meant to be for informational purposes only and not meant to diagnose or serve as a substitute for medical treatment. If you or your partner are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare professional.