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Anxiety & sex: Iona’s story

Anxiety can affect your life in many different ways. Iona, 23 from Manchester tells us how anxiety impacted her sex life.

Content Warning

This page has discussion of mental illness.

Anxiety & orgasms

Throughout my sexual history I have struggled reaching orgasms during difficult periods of anxiety. For me it is easy to start hating my mind for disrupting my sex life. Aside from issues tied up with the incessant chattering in my mind, I have also struggled with the guilt of potentially upsetting my partner by not being able to orgasm. I have come to realise that it is key to communicate with my partner so that they can understand my issues, and understand that just because our bodies are connected doesn’t mean our minds are too!

During my final year at University I became incredibly frustrated with myself and desperately craved a break from my anxious thoughts. Mistakenly I thought I could find that in sex. Although I still had a sex drive, my anxiety had somehow manipulated my vagina into a dry abyss. During this period, I experienced a strange disconnect between my mind and body. My thoughts were completely removed from the act of sexual intercourse.

Talking about it

My path to self-help wasn’t fuelled by self-love but instead fear that my partner might be frustrated by my incapability to orgasm. My first point of call was my incredibly supportive group of friends. I was able to express things to my friends that I was afraid of telling my partner. I didn’t think anxiety was very sexy and at that point, and wasn’t prepared to give him the full details of the inner workings of my mind.

Eventually, it all came to a head during one sexual episode when I started crying mid penetration. Although it wasn’t the ideal way to broach the subject, it gave me an opportunity to say what was happening in my head. This was the beginning of me crying on a number of occasions, in which I would grapple with my anxious thoughts and desire to overcome them, leaving me feeling incredibly frustrated.

Taking control

Never before had I truly appreciated the moments in which my mind had been in harmony with my body! In order to make some sense of it all, I began to take a more holistic approach and concentrated on regaining some power over my body through a meditation course.

Practising meditation feels like a kind of hypnotism for my thoughts, and has helped me to learn how to finally relax into a state of calm after a storm. I have learnt that anxious thoughts interrupt so many people’s lives in all kinds of ways, and that although it is frustrating to experience, we shouldn’t hate ourselves for it – instead, we should talk about it.

Sexual health and anxiety

In my adult life, I have known lots of people whose sex lives have been affected by their mental health. Whether it be erectile dysfunction, lack of sex drive, or problems with orgasming, these are issues that a lot of individuals and couples will experience.

It seems ironic that some of the areas of sexual health that are so heavily stigmatised are those that are experienced by so many. If only we could talk more frankly about these issues, we could learn so much!

Further information and support

For further information and support, go to:

Anxiety: Melissa’s story
NHS choices: anxiety
YoungMinds: anxiety
RCPCH: Anxiety leaflet

It’s OK not to be OK

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (NHS England, 2020).

If you are worried about your mental health, or about someone else’s, there are lots of places that can offer you help and support. You don’t have to be diagnosed, you don’t even have to know exactly what’s wrong. Whenever you are ready to talk to someone, you can.


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