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My Anxiety Doesn't Just Turn Off Because I'm Turned On

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As someone who has lived with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) for most of her life, I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety in many situations I encounter in my everyday life. I know how to silently sit with my anxious thoughts during work meetings, I’ve learned how to calm my body when I meet someone new, and I have tons of coping skills I can use to manage my nighttime anxiety when it strikes around bedtime.

Despite all of this, there are still some moments when my anxiety strikes in a way that is difficult to manage — namely when I’m trying to “get it on” with my partner. Unfortunately, my anxiety doesn’t just “turn off” when I get turned on, and it’s really frustrating!

There are times when my anxiety causes me to second-guess my actions and leads me to ask for confirmation and reassurance every step of the way. I worry about how my body looks and smells, and question if my existence is a turn-off to my partner. I also worry that my partner isn’t enjoying the moment or that I’m not providing them with enough pleasure, so I constantly ask questions and change what I’m doing in hopes that eventually, I’ll make them happy.

Other times, I get lost in anxious thoughts unrelated to the intimate moment with my partner, which causes me to lose focus on what I’m doing. I start worrying about finances, a project at work, or the cleanliness of my home and go down an entire rabbit hole inside my mind. In fact, my thoughts sometimes race so much that I never seem to settle into a groove with my partner. This not only makes it hard to remain present in the moment, but it also makes it hard to really enjoy the intimacy.

Even when I am able to “silence” the anxious thoughts that typically bounce around inside my brain long enough to climax, the thoughts return moments later, which all but kills the magic of the moment. The thoughts will consume me the minute we “finish,” which confuses and concerns my partner more than I probably even realize.

Unfortunately, this has been an ongoing issue for me ever since I can remember. It’s gone on for over a decade and interfered with my sex life with multiple partners.

When my anxiety would interfere with these intimate moments with my previous partners, I felt like a complete failure. I worried that my partner would see me as disinterested or incapable of giving them the attention they deserve. What’s more, I didn’t know how to explain that my thoughts were wandering in what’s supposed to be a deeply personal moment because I thought it would make me sound like a “weirdo.”

However, thanks to my current partner, I’ve actually learned that anxious thoughts are quite common during intimacy. Due to the nature of our relationship and our shared history in group therapy, we are very candid and open with each other about our mental health. While people may laugh at the thought of opening up to someone about their mental health symptoms during sex, I feel like sharing my “anxiety brain” with my partner has helped normalize our wandering thoughts a bit more.

Instead of trying to swallow my fears and concerns, I feel like I finally have the right partner and the comfort level to speak up when anxiety takes over inside my head. As a result, we’ve shared deep, personal conversations as our anxious thoughts come up during our more sexual moments. This has not only helped me personally enjoy sexual intercourse a lot more but it’s also deepened my emotional connection to my partner as well.

We’ve also laughed at the randomness of our thoughts at times, which helps shake off the anxiety and make the moment more memorable. Has it killed the mood a time or two? Yes. But it’s also left us rolling around in bed laughing for a long while after the fact, which in my opinion is more than worth it.

If you’re like me and live with an anxiety disorder or another mental illness, chances are you’re all too familiar with the fact that your anxiety doesn’t just “turn off” when you’re turned on and enjoying intimate moments with your partner. But you know what? That’s OK! Just communicate with your partner and let them know how they can help you in those anxiety moments — I think you’ll be surprised by what a difference just sharing those “anxious thoughts” really makes.

Photo by Mahrael Boutros on Unsplash

Originally published: December 9, 2021
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