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What is Performance anxiety?

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Performance anxiety is a common problem encountered by many. It can occur in many situations when you are expected to perform an activity, often in front of an audience. The fear of failure while performing a task can lead to anxiety. Performance anxiety can grow to levels preventing you from performing a task effectively. You may experience it while participating in sports, giving speeches, performing music, or during sexual intimacy.

Fear of making public performances, also called stage fright, can overwhelm you to the point that your body reacts as if it is in danger, causing an increase in heart rate and breathing, dry mouth, trembling and sweaty hands, vision changes, and nausea.

Sexual performance anxiety occurs when you are focusing on how well you perform or how you appear rather than enjoying the experience, making you want to avoid sex altogether. It can lead to erectile dysfunction or early ejaculation in men, and lack of lubrication in women. Stress as well as difficulties in a relationship can also cause performance anxiety. It may also result from physical problems worsened by anxiety. Failure produced as a result of performance anxiety can reinforce your anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.

Therapy is indicated to break this cycle by teaching you coping skills and ways to manage your fear and anxiety. It helps you understand and change the thoughts and beliefs that produce the anxiety. Your confidence levels are improved by learning social skills that you can practice in everyday situations. You are advised to be open to your partner and to try to reach a solution together which can ease anxiety and improve intimacy. Additionally, you learn relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and mental imagery. Medications are sometimes prescribed to treat sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction and to help you relax.

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