The Mind-Body Connection: Anxiety and the Effects on Sexual Function

Melissa Hadley Barrett


Anxiety is a prevalent issue for many individuals, which can affect different facets of life, including sexual function. According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), an estimated 2.1 million (or 9.3%) of Australians aged 18-85 years experienced an anxiety-related disorder in the 2017-2018 financial year (ABS, 2019). When anxiety becomes persistent and significantly impairs daily activities, it can cause changes in sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Research has shown that individuals with anxiety disorders are more likely to report sexual dysfunction, with rates ranging from 20% to 80%.

Anxiety can impact sexual function in various ways, including physiological, psychological, and social factors. Physiologically, anxiety can cause changes in hormone levels, blood flow, and muscle tension, which can lead to difficulties with sexual arousal and performance. Psychologically, anxiety can lead to negative thoughts and beliefs about oneself, one's partner, and sex, which can contribute to reduced sexual desire and function. Socially, anxiety can cause avoidance of sexual situations and difficulties with intimacy and communication with a partner.

While anxiety can impact sexual function in both men and women, the specific effects can differ. For example, anxiety may lead to erectile dysfunction in men, while in women, anxiety may lead to decreased sexual desire and difficulty achieving orgasm. Regardless of the specific effects, it's clear that anxiety can have a significant impact on sexual health and function.

If you're struggling with anxiety and its impact on your sexual health, there are several strategies you can try that may help you to manage your anxiety and improve your sexual function.

Seek Professional Help

My approach is to address the underlying causes of sexual dysfunction and not rush straight to intervention. It's important to understand that sexual health is not a standalone problem, and that other physical and mental health issues can impact it. I am dedicated to working with my clients to address any underlying mental health issues to ensure that their sexual health is maintained and improved over time.


Exercise has been found to be an effective way of reducing symptoms of anxiety. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that promote feelings of well-being and happiness. Endorphins interact with receptors in the brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to the effects of pain-relieving drugs such as morphine. Moreover, exercise can help reduce muscle tension, which is often associated with anxiety, and promote better sleep. By engaging in regular exercise, individuals can experience a reduction in anxiety symptoms, improved mood, and better overall health

Couples Counselling

For individuals experiencing sexual difficulties in the context of a relationship, couples counselling can be helpful in improving communication, intimacy, and sexual satisfaction. This is because anxiety and sexual dysfunction can often be linked to relationship issues and communication problems within a partnership. By engaging in couples therapy, individuals can learn new skills and strategies to improve communication and deepen their emotional connection with their partner. This can lead to increased feelings of trust and intimacy, which can help alleviate anxiety and improve sexual function.

Review Medications

If you are currently taking any medications, ask your healthcare team about how it might affect your sexual function. If you have been diagnosed with anxiety and take anxiety medications it is particularly important to know all the possible side effects. Many anxiety medications have the potential to lower libido and cause difficulty with achieving an orgasm. Never stop any prescribed medications without professional consultation. Abruptly discontinuing medication can have serious consequences and can even be life-threatening in some cases. If you are experiencing sexual side effects from any medications, it is important to discuss alternatives with your healthcare team.

If you are experiencing anxiety-related sexual dysfunction, know that you are not alone, and that there are professionals who are trained to help you manage and overcome these challenges. Don't be afraid to seek support – there are solutions available that can help you reclaim your sexual pleasure and satisfaction. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your sexual health or would like to discuss any of the topics covered in this blog, please feel free to get in touch. My team is here to provide support and guidance in a non-judgmental and confidential manner. We understand that sexual health can be a sensitive and personal topic, and we are dedicated to creating a safe and comfortable environment for you to explore their sexual health and wellbeing.

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