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What are some ways to get over anxiety at the initiation of sex? I enjoy sex when I'm in the middle of it (and orgasms are nice, but not as worthy of obsession as it seems others feel), but it's as though I completely forget at the beginning. Is this a common feeling? How can I overcome it?
Sarah: Anxiety is a slippery wicket of a thing to feel, because it usually crops up when we’re projecting into the future some stuff that hasn’t (and might not) happen, and it’s not uncommon to feel a little nervous with a new partner when things kick off. As someone who has personally dealt with the amorphous life-interrupter known as “anxiety stuff,” all I can advise is meditating on what it is about the initiation of sex that sparks that anxiety. Do you feel pressure to be a sexually satisfying partner? Do you feel comfortable with your body and what you’re feeling? Either way, it might do you good to voice this to your partner, who might want to switch up his own game in that department if he’s coming on a little strong.
Debby: It’s not a terribly common feeling but it’s quite good that you’re aware that you experience some anxiety at the start of sex and that, once you get going, you enjoy it. You might try breathing exercises to help you center your mind and relax. During non-sexual situations (like when you’re home alone and hanging out on the couch) you might even try visualization exercises, walking yourself through mental pictures of what it’s like to start to kiss and make out with someone and then lead into sex. When you notice yourself feeling anxious, you might try thinking about something very positive and relaxing, like how you feel when you’re sitting on a beach or walking in the woods or playing with your pet. (You can read more about these kinds of exercising by Googling “systematic desensitization exercises”. If the anxiety really bothers you, or if you notice anxiety causing troubles in other areas of your life, you might find it helpful to meet with a therapist (find one through apa.org) or a sex therapist (try Dr. Angela Marshall or sex coach Kathleen Baldwin here in Indiana; you can also search aasect.org or sstarnet.org for others).