Anxiety related to sexual performance is a widespread problem in modern society. An increasingly competitive atmosphere now present in society, also between the sexes, and pressure generated by the media concerning everything that has to do with sex can result in performance anxiety, which involves the fear of not being attractive enough or not being virile or feminine enough or, simply, of being unable to please one’s partner. Some people can thus - on account of their fear of failure - find themselves in considerable difficulty when actually consummating a sexual act. Such individuals will eventually place themselves in a position of inferiority with respect to their sexual partner(s), who can evaluate whether their performance has been adequate or not. Thus, the feeling of insecurity becomes a sufficient cause of failure.

This is the typical case in which a person expects to fail, foresees failure and also states that he/she is going to fail. Stemming from such a premise, one’s behaviour will be less spontaneous, natural and gratifying; it will become inadequate and unnatural. The subject’s attention no longer focuses on the effect of one’s sexual behaviour but on how he/she behaves. The ‘how I perform’ will now prevail over the ‘what I do’, while the ‘success’ of one’s sexual activity will be more important than the ‘pleasure derived from engaging in it. Subsequent attitudes, behaviour and convictions will all lead in the same direction of expected failure and the likelihood this will occur will be very high. At times, it may occur that sexual performance anxiety will drive subjects to a point where they will want to surprise their partners in some way and they may try to overdo things, deliberately exaggerating in the hope that this may eliminate their inner fears of inadequacy.

p>In actual fact, this kind of behaviour only raises the person’s expectations, making him/her even more demanding and sensitive to every minimum sign of failure. In men, sexual performance anxiety can cause problems such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. The therapy for this form of anxiety aims at addressing and modifying the convictions of the person and their subsequent insecurity. Once maladaptive thoughts have been identified, the therapeutic process, aiming at eliminating and replacing these thoughts with more functional ideas, can begin. The person will learn, amongst other things, that sometime people do fail and that if we fail at something, we simply have to recognise the fact and not attach excessively negative meanings to the event. This process aims at dealing with the lack of success, which should no longer represent ‘defeat’, ‘failure’ or a ‘fault’ but merely an occasion for reflection, which can help the individual acquire a healthier and more natural way of living his/her life experiences.

People affected by sexual performance anxiety thus forget not only the fact that failure is not necessarily a dramatic event but also that their individuality and identity and also their relationship with a partner do not depend on their performance. They very often moreover ignore the fact that that the idea or opinion that a partner has formed of their relationship will not be necessarily ruined or changed because of their failure, which can result in a moment of reflection and greater closeness for a couple, understanding and reciprocal acceptance.

Psychology and psychotherapy
insuccesso, fallimento
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