Anxiety and Sexual Arousal

The mechanisms by which anxiety impacts sexual arousal in women are not firmly established. Sex-related anxiety can make it difficult to psychologically engage in sexual activity, as the woman may be too preoccupied with her sex-related fears to fully attend to sexual stimuli. Because both acute anxiety and sexual arousal are mediated by changes in autonomic arousal, there may also be a physiological basis to impaired sexual responding secondary to anxiety. We (Bradford & Meston, 2006) examined the impact of state and trait anxiety on physiological and subjective sexual arousal. Results suggested a curvilinear relationship between state anxiety and physiological sexual arousal. Trait anxiety was correlated with self-reported sexual arousal outside the laboratory. The findings are consistent with the earlier studies I conducted on exercise and physiological sexual arousal which suggested a moderate level of SNS activation (in this case state anxiety) may facilitate, and high levels inhibit, physiological sexual responding.

Recommended paper: 

Bradford, A., & Meston, C. M. (2006). The impact of anxiety on sexual arousal in women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(8), 1067-1077. (PDF 209 KB)