Is 'Orgasm Anxiety' Really A Thing?(Short Answer: Yes)

Is 'Orgasm Anxiety' Really A Thing?(Short Answer: Yes)

A couple of months ago, someone asked me why it’s so easy for men to orgasm while many women seem to struggle to do so. My immediate response was, “Why do you think all men orgasm?” to which they replied, "I mean, because they ejaculate.” Their tone of voice had such a sense of “duh” to it that I had to be careful not to sound as patronizing as they did (LOL): “Just because a man ejaculates, that doesn’t mean that they orgasmed.”

I know. It’s something that isn’t discussed enough yet, aside from the fact that a lot of men fake as if they have “seen the mountaintop” (check out “Men Fake Orgasms (And 14 Other Semi-Random Things About Them In Bed)”), the reality is, when it comes to climaxing, an orgasm is a result of a release of certain chemicals in the brain while ejaculation is a genitalia response — and yes, those things can happen together — or separately. Men who are aware of this know that a full-blown orgasm can feel quite different than just a release of sperm and semen. So no — no woman should assume that she is automatically “turning a man out” just because she’s having sex with them, and he cums at the end of the experience. #themoreyouknow

And yes, it’s important to put that on record because that misconception alone is a part of the reason why many women experience what is known as orgasm anxiety — since they are so consumed with thinking it is easy for their partner to have an orgasm, they are wondering what is wrong with them if they don’t. However, the reality is that orgasm anxiety is a reality that both men and women face, and it has several layers to it too. Let’s look deeper.

Let’s Break Down an Orgasm Real Quick


Before I get into what orgasm anxiety actually is, let’s briefly review what happens during an orgasm. If you’ve heard before that there are “levels to this thing” when it comes to having one, that would be correct. Although sometimes the words vary, the basic breakdown includes these four things (although some articles will say that there are three or five stages):

Arousal: This is typically what happens during foreplay; it’s when your body gets excited about the thought of having sex which can include your heartbeat speeding up, your nipples becoming erect, lubrication rushing to your vagina, your vulva starting to swell, your clitoris growing in size, blood rushing down to your vaginal region, your vagina expanding, etc.

Plateau: This is when blood flow to your genital region has reached its peak, your clitoris tends to retract back towards your pubic bone, muscle tension increases, and your vagina may even change colors.

Orgasm: This is when the peak of pleasure transpires. It’s also why I don’t get how men don’t notice if/when women are faking it. I say that because when an orgasm happens, involuntary muscle contractions in the genital region transpire. Reportedly, this can last anywhere from 13-51 seconds for women and 10-30 seconds for men.

Resolution: This is the stage when your body starts to return back to “normal.” You tend to feel a rush of warmth, you might automatically feel drained and/or fatigued, and your breathing will slow down (by the way, even if you can have multiple orgasms, you will still experience resolution before starting the cycle of the phases all over again).

Physically, this is how you can know if you truly had an orgasm or not — although, what I oftentimes tell people is, if you have to ask, you probably haven’t because one of the best and most challenging things to put into words is the feeling of climaxing (at least in my opinion).

What Is Orgasm Anxiety All About?


So now that we’ve covered what happens during an orgasm, let’s talk about orgasm anxiety and what it entails. I’m pretty sure that, for the most part, you get the general idea by breaking down the term: it’s what happens when you’re anxious about having an orgasm (although some people experience this kind of anxiety at the mere thought of engaging in any type of sexual activity at all).

Whenever this happens, things like feeling overwhelmed, your body tensing up, you not being fully present in the moment, you overthinking the experience, you disassociating your mind from your body (because for an orgasm to transpire, these two things typically work hand in hand) are what you seem to notice. And when you’re in this state, it can literally “block” you from climaxing.

What Are Things That Can Cause Orgasm Anxiety?


Now that you know what the symptoms of orgasm anxiety are, you’re probably wondering what causes it. That’s a great question, and actually, there isn’t just one thing.

Orgasm anxiety can be “triggered” by:

  • Anxiety or an anxiety disorder
  • Body images issues
  • Lacking sexual self-confidence
  • PTSD from past sexual trauma
  • Bad orgasms (yes, that is a thing; you can read more about it here)
  • Feelings of shame surrounding sex
  • An extreme form of people pleasing (being more concerned about your partner’s pleasure than your own)
  • Being hyper-critical about your sexual performance/abilities
  • Pressuring yourself to be a certain way sexually
  • Stress

According to The American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is defined as being “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” And although an actual anxiety disorder is a more extreme and consistent account of anxiety, even the normal bouts of anxiety can prevent an orgasm. That’s because fear, tension, worry, and stress are enemies of this kind of pleasure.

If you’re someone who has a difficult time climaxing and you realize that feelings of anxiety have something to do with why, it’s important to do some sex journaling to see if you can get down to the root of why that is the case (for the record, this is something that reputable sex therapists can help you with if you’re struggling with getting the answers that you seek).

6 Things You Can You Can Do to Overcome Orgasm Anxiety


1. Talk to your partner. Good sex consists of open and honest communication. That said, I can’t tell you how many people have told me things about their sex life that their partner has no clue about. The challenge with that isn’t really if you are holding something back but WHY. If it’s fear of how they will react or respond, that can definitely create walls when it comes to mental and emotional intimacy that can make having sex with them…not as pleasurable as it should be. It’s not a coincidence that some of the couples who have the most fulfilling sex lives are the ones who are really real with one another. In mutual honesty and acceptance, there are feelings of safety, and with safety comes the ability to release anything that would hinder an orgasm from transpiring.

2. Talk to someone else too. It’s not about your business being all out in the street; it’s about talking to someone who can make you feel heard, understood, and not alone. Because the reality is, when it comes to all ten things that I mentioned that can cause orgasm anxiety, there are many others who can totally relate. Sometimes, just talking to a trusted friend can help to calm you down. Other times, you may need the assistance of a professional. Either way, just knowing that someone cares enough to listen and offer up some empathy can make all the difference in the world.

3. Celebrate your body. As a doula, I deal with a lot of women who are insecure about their bodies and project those feelings onto their partners. “Project” is the right word because they assume that, since (for instance) they don’t (currently) like their breasts and/or stretch marks and/or pooch underneath their belly button, “he” doesn’t either. Meanwhile, the men are constantly telling me how 1) they think it’s sexy that their child’s mom was able to deliver their child and/or 2) they just want intimacy to resume — the body changes are the least of their concerns. Know what this means? Your partner can’t make you feel desirable if you aren’t just as intentional about loving yourself — and that includes your body. And this doesn’t just mean after giving birth.

Celebrating your body can do wonders for relieving any stress that you may have about it. So, take yourself lingerie shopping. Pen a love letter to yourself about the things that you do adore when it comes to how you look. Dance in the mirror naked to some of your favorite songs. Choosing to like — no, LOVE — your body is a real game changer as far as sex is concerned.

4. See sex as an experience, not a performance. Back in the day, I was a Beverly Hills, 90210 fan. When Brenda was getting ready to give her virginity to Dylan at their senior prom, and she was showing how anxious she was, Dylan said, “We’re not going to be judging each other. We’re going to be enjoying each other.” Hmph. Words to live by. Although performance anxiety is normal, remind yourself that sex is about connecting, deeply and profoundly so, with another person. And if it’s the right one, they are not trying to score you — they simply want to share a special and intimate moment with you. That alone should take quite a bit of the pressure off.

5. Don’t make orgasm the goal. Along the lines of what I just said, if you see an orgasm as “mission impossible,” that’s just how you’re going to approach sex, in general. Besides, although I won’t act like an orgasm ain’t one of the best things that this life has to offer, when you’re connecting with someone who is as into you as you are into them, sex can be a wonderful experience — even sans the climax (no, really).

6. RELAX. Yeah, I know — easier said than done. Look at it all this way, though: If you don’t feel like you can’t loosen up, unwind and truly let yourself go in his presence — is he someone who you should be sharing your body with? It’s kind of another message for another time, but sometimes what might seem like orgasm anxiety is really nothing more than your discernment telling you that he is not worthy. Bottom line, try to relax, yet don’t force it. If you’re starting to enter into the force dimension, it’s time to take some steps back and reevaluate — because again, it might not be anxiety; you just might be sensing some red flags.


If you’ve had some anxiety about sex and, more specifically, orgasms during sex, hopefully, this turned on a few light bulbs for you because, although orgasm anxiety can be a bit unnerving and perhaps even a bit overwhelming, as you can see, it doesn’t have to remain your reality. Baby steps can get you free so that you can experience the absolute best that sex and orgasms have to offer.

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