You’ll think that getting an orgasm is hard enough by itself. Why aren’t we focusing on that instead of telling you about orgasm anxiety?
There’s a science to this. Orgasm anxiety can prevent great sex from happening. This happens even when there are no relationship issues or sexual trauma. In fact, through all of this, know that you are not alone. In a recent study done by Agents of Ishq on the occasion of International Female Orgasm Day (August 8 — look it up!), almost 68% of cisgender women in India reported facing orgasm anxiety in their life. The most common causes:
- It takes too much time! Porn has got you to believe it should be quicker. Not true. Your body needs its time to get into a state of rest before it even comes to orgasm.
- You’re focused on performing well in bed. You want to orgasm hard, feel sexy, and make your partner feel like you’re a total catch. But then you’re unable to focus on just having a good time.
- You’re expected to have certain kinds of orgasms. Obviously, gendered expectations find their way into pleasure too. When asked about how they might feel if a man doesn’t ejaculate (the penis equivalent of an orgasm), 68% it’s not a problem for them. If you were not to orgasm, does your male partner take it upon themselves, thinking they’ve not done a good job? There you go.
What is Orgasm Anxiety?
Imagine really trying to get an orgasm during sex or masturbation. Like really putting your mind to it. You are fully concentrated on this one thing you have to achieve. Is it causing you stress? This is orgasm anxiety.
For many of us, orgasm becomes a thing to achieve rather than a moment to experience. The out-of-body experience won’t happen for you if you’re not able to let your mind relax. This becomes a vicious cycle that leads to orgasm anxiety.
There can be a bunch of things that might come into play for this like general stress in your personal life, any kind of tension or conflicts within your relationship, maybe low sexual affection or desire for each other, or sometimes even low self-esteem.
Once you start experiencing orgasm anxiety, it typically spirals out of control. This in turn makes it harder for you to experience an orgasm or even enjoy sex.
Orgasm anxiety happens because people often believe that orgasms are a critical part of an enjoyable sexual experience. No orgasm = no sex. But that’s not true at all. Sex is not all about finishing, climaxing, or having an orgasm at all.
While we’re busy worrying about actually having to finish, we forget that there’s pleasure in the process as well. There are going to be times when you might not be able to orgasm, and that’s okay. Having comfort and relaxation during sex is absolutely necessary because without this, there’s a lot more performance anxiety and your entire sexual experience becomes awkward, difficult, and uneasy.
There is so much in the process of sex that individually feels good too. Do you like making out with your partner? Or cuddling them and feeling their skin on yours? Isn’t giving yourself a nice massage super relaxing? All of these activities add up to sex (whether there is intercourse or not) but they are pretty darn good by themselves too.
Do You Have Orgasm Anxiety?
Here are some signs that you might have regular orgasm scares.
Does your body ever tense up during sex?
Let’s break this down further, do you ever experience that unwanted stiffness in your body while having sex? That’s a sign that you’ve not yet relaxed into the process.
Maybe you’re thinking of the next day’s work schedule or what the kids must be doing or what if someone barges in and finds you or that you left the bags unpacked. If you catch yourself thinking of other things or your mind wandering, it’s a sign that you’re not fully present while having sex with your partner. This could happen because you’re distracted and have other priorities, or just that the process isn’t as pleasurable for you right now.
Maybe, just maybe, you’re dreading the moment leading up to your orgasm. Remember feeling that you’re almost there but not quite? The phase right before you orgasm is called a plateau. This could be because you want to quickly get there. It could be because you’re unable to get there. Or if this has been happening for far too long, then you might also feel uncomfortable or uneasy right when you’re about to have an orgasm. This can lead to you not having an orgasm at all.
If you answered yes to any of these, then you have orgasm anxiety. Note that the intensity of these can vary.
What Can Lead to Your Orgasm Scares? (And How to Prevent It?)
Lack of sexual intimacy between you and your partner
The urge or need to have an orgasm might put you or your partner under undue pressure without either of you realizing it. It could also be that you don’t feel close or comfortable with them to express your needs and desires.
Body image concerns of low self-esteem
If you don’t feel comfortable in your body, you may not feel loved or appreciated by another person. This can show up even when you masturbate! We’re living in a world of constant touch-ups and comparisons. The way we feel about our bodies can show up in how we present ourselves to the rest of the world too, especially when it comes down to sex.
History of sexual trauma or sexual violence
If this is you, we’re very sorry. It absolutely sucks to be in a world like this. This can impact your orgasms or even your entire sexual experience as a whole. Many people who’ve gone through this face sexual shame or discomfort with sex-positivity or pleasure.
General mental health concerns
Life happens. Sometimes, mental health concerns like general anxiety, fear, work stress, and worry can also play a major role in leading you to orgasm scares. If you have been diagnosed with mental health concerns, there is a higher chance of this happening.
How to Cope With Orgasm Scares?
Try seeking professional help
We’re lucky to be in a world where certified sex therapists or sex educators are working with people like you and me to help them have a better sex life. There’s no shame in this. It’s like any other skill that we can learn and get better at with the help of someone trained in this.
This can also help you unearth any underlying issues or concerns that you may not have realized are impacting your comfort.
Reflect on the Why
We’re always so rushed that there’s just no time to stop and smell the flowers. Find some time for yourself where you are undisturbed and comfortable. You can even write these answers in a journal or your phone notes. Use these questions to guide your thinking:
What would it mean if I couldn’t orgasm with my partner?
Does it make me less than or inadequate? Would my partner not appreciate me anymore?
Do I feel ‘out of control' when I orgasm? Why do I feel this way?
What does having an orgasm, with or without a partner, mean to me?
These questions may not be easy to answer. You may also find yourself looking for professional support as you untangle the inner workings of your mind. Give yourself the grace and kindness to work through this.
Don’t fake; communicate
Many times our partners may not even know what we’re going through. This is especially true if you’ve been faking your orgasms to keep them happy. Don’t fake it. If there’s anything you can do for yourself, it should be being true to how you feel. Communicating openly and honestly with your partner can help them help you. This doesn’t mean that it’s their fault (alone) if you’re not able to orgasm. It’s nobody’s fault at all. A no holds barred, the solution-focused conversation can help you identify how to overcome your orgasm scares.
Enjoy the process
Orgasms aren’t the end goal of sex. The pleasure that you experience during sex can also be equally, if not more, enjoyable and fulfilling. Take a deep breath, relax, and get going.
Learn what might make you feel good or pleasurable during sex. Most of us don’t know what we like or desire. This can unfairly pressurize us to focus on the outcome. This is when orgasm anxiety kicks in.
Take time to explore what turns you on (and off). Where do you feel pleasurable sensations? How much intensity works for you? What do you not like or aren’t comfortable with?
This will also help you try new things that you may never have considered before.
We’re so rushed in today’s world that we forget to stay in the moment. Set up ambient lighting, aromas, and an environment that can get you in the mood. Music and temperature have a huge impact on this as well.
Outside of this, practice meditation and stay with your breath. The world around us is rushing to fill every spare minute of our day with productivity. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do for yourself is to rest.
Bottom line: Orgasm anxiety is real. 68% of women across India have reported experiencing it so you’re not alone. It’s also not a reflection of you — it’s just a concern that has solutions.
You deserve to have amazing sex, the orgasms that make you crash and rest, but most importantly, to feel good in your body. Do this for yourself. We wish you happy orgasms and cuddles.