Sexual Performance Anxiety

Sex Med Rev. 2020 Apr;8(2):183-190. doi: 10.1016/j.sxmr.2019.07.001. Epub 2019 Aug 22.


Introduction: Sexual performance anxiety (SPA) is one of the most prevalent sexual complaints; yet, no diagnosis is recognized for either gender. Thus, research into treatment has been minimal.

Aim: Review the prevalence of SPA and its relation to sexual dysfunctions and anxiety disorders. Compare SPA to (non-sexual) performance anxiety and social anxiety (PA/SA). Apply pharmacologic principles to the known properties of drugs and phytotherapies to hypothesize treatments for SPA.

Methods: Review SPA and PA/SA through PubMed searches for relevant literature from 2000 to 2018.

Main outcome measure: Prevalence was estimated using population-representative surveys. For treatment results, controlled clinical trial results were prioritized over open-label trial results.

Results: SPA affects 9-25% of men and contributes to premature ejaculation and psychogenic erectile dysfunction (ED). SPA affects 6-16% of women and severely inhibits sexual desire. Cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness meditation training have been proven effective for PA/SA and are recommended for SPA, but controlled studies are lacking. Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors are effective for psychogenic ED and premature ejaculation, both of which include SPA as a major element. Drugs proven for PA/SA have adverse sexual and sedative effects, but serotonergic anxiolytics with prosexual effects (buspirone ± testosterone, trazodone ± bupropion) may have potential, and sage, passionflower, l-theanine, and bitter orange are anxiolytic. Nitric oxide boosters (l-citrulline, l-arginine, Panax ginseng) have the potential for increasing genital tumescence and lubrication, and plant-based alpha-adrenergic antagonists may aid sexual arousal (yohimbine/yohimbe, Citrus aurantium/p-synephrine).

Conclusion: SPA causes or maintains most common sexual dysfunction. No treatments are well proven, although cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness meditation training, and serotonergic anxiolytics (buspirone, trazodone, gepirone) have potential, and phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors are effective for psychogenic ED and premature ejaculation. Several phytotherapies also appear to have potential. Pyke RE. Sexual Performance Anxiety. J Sex Med 2020;8:183-190.

Keywords: Anxiety Disorders; Erectile Dysfunction; Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder; Premature Ejaculation; Sexual Arousal Disorder; Sexual Performance Anxiety.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Performance Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Performance Anxiety / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / therapy


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents