Over the past several decades, medical research has resulted in increased understanding of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and this greater awareness has led to effective treatments that can help millions of men and women lead happier, more fulfilling lives. However, in spite of these advances, many men and women still suffer from the effects of anxiety, often because they do not realize that they have a treatable condition, or because they are too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help. One way that anxiety affects men in particular concerns their ability to perform fully in the bedroom. This problem can have a profound impact on their sexual health.

How anxiety affects male sexual performance

1) Physical and mental overload - anxiety affects the emotions, of course, but it can also have profound physical effects. As the brain focuses on dealing with the anxiety itself, most of its resources are concentrated on this effort, and functions that are not life-sustaining are bypassed. This means that responses like sexual attraction are sidelined until the anxiety subsides.

2) Negative thoughts and emotions - anxiety comes with an onslaught of negative thoughts and feelings that can overwhelm any positive emotions such as feelings of sensuality and attraction.

3) Distracted thoughts - sex requires a certain amount of focus, and as anyone who has dealt with anxiety is aware, the racing thoughts and difficulty concentrating that come with the territory can make centering the attention on a partner extremely difficult.

4) Stress hormones - when the body is under stress, as it is when experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it produces increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels are linked to decreased levels of testosterone, which results in a reduced sex drive and impaired ability to perform.

Managing anxiety symptoms

The first step in dealing with anxiety can be the most difficult, because many people who are affected truly believe that nothing can make them feel better or that they are somehow "broken" and will not be able to heal. This belief is typical, and it is part of the negative thought process that is caused by the disorder itself, so it is essential that men take the initial step to seek medical treatment. Anxiety can generally be managed through a regimen of medications, counseling therapy and exercise - in fact, exercise alone is often enough to diminish the symptoms if it is done regularly. Herbal remedies and other alternative treatments such as yoga, acupuncture and hypnosis may also help.

Coping with the sexual effects of anxiety

Dealing with the sexual side effects is one important aspect of breaking free of anxiety, and in addition to the treatments mentioned above, the following steps can also be beneficial.

- Spend non-sexual intimate time. Spending one-on-one time with a partner without the expectation of sex is a very effective way of bonding with a partner without the pressure of having to perform. Cuddling in bed or simply watching a movie together can increase intimacy and stimulate the production of "feel-good" chemicals in the brain.

- Make intimate time fun time. Rather than trying to be deeply romantic and seductive, try to look at intimacy as a light-hearted and fun encounter. A man can learn to laugh at himself a bit, especially when things don’t go as planned. This way, sex becomes less of a performance and more like play, relieving the pressure of having to perform to a self-imposed standard.

- Engage in a little TLC. Women do it, and there is no reason men can’t enjoy a little me-time as well. Make time to relax; enjoy a warm shower or bath and listen to enjoyable music. Get a haircut, trim the nails - even a little manscaping can make a guy feel fresh and attractive. Applying a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) can also add a boost of self-confidence by enhancing the sensitivity and appearance of the penile skin; feeling confident in one’s appearance can be a big help when it comes to relieving anxiety in the bedroom and beyond.