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Emotionally-based Sexual Difficulties

What types of Emotional Difficulties can lead to Sexual Difficulties?

Sexual activity can bring up a host of emotions, or can be a way to deal with underlying emotions. Emotional difficulties such as fear of intimacy, jealousy, communication difficulties, or performance anxiety may lead to problems in your sex life. Below are some common examples of how emotions can be related to problems with desire and performance.

Emotional Intimacy:

Some people have trouble with emotional intimacy which can play out in the bedroom, e.g., lack of eye contact, leaving right after sex, a string of unfulfilling one night stands, dishonesty, never making the first move, etc. If you find yourself using sex as a weapon or defence against true emotional intimacy, or as a form of control or self-sabotage, you might consider seeking therapy to help you resolve the underlying issues.


People who have low self-esteem and feel insecure about their worth, or perhaps feel ok about their worth but view others as untrustworthy, impulsive, or selfish, may express feelings of jealousy that come out in various ways (e.g. checking their partner’s email, phone, or social media accounts), grilling their partner on where they’re going, who they’re hanging out with, what their wearing, or how they did their hair or makeup. These types of behaviours tend to backfire in that they can increase paranoid thinking and feelings of insecurity. They can also irritate the partner and create a wedge between you two.

On the flip side, jealousy can also stem from a gap in what each person considers acceptable behaviour in a relationship. For example, having lunch with a childhood friend may be perceived differently than having dinner alone with a new friend. It’s important to discuss values and expectations to get on the same page as much as possible, so that no one feels like their consent is being violated, or is left feeling controlled, resentful, or isolated. Going around your partner to meet your needs in secrecy can deteriorate the trust in your relationship. 

Communication skills:

If you feel unsure about what you like or don’t like sexually, or feel shy about how to express yourself, sexual activity can feel uncomfortable or even painful. Being more able to communicate what feels good and what doesn’t can go a long way to improving your sexual enjoyment.

Performance Anxiety:

This is often experienced by men and can show up as trouble maintaining or keeping erections, or avoidance of sexual activity altogether.

Women may also experience performance anxiety, which can show up as vaginal dryness or muscle tension, which can cause sexual pain.

How can therapy help you overcome Emotional Difficulties that may be leading to Sexual Difficulties?

Therapy can help you to understand and overcome the emotional issues that are contributing to or maintaining your sexual problems. This can lead to a more satisfying sex life, greater emotional intimacy and improved relationships, and a boost to your self-esteem.

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