What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

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Jay27
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What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

I saw this TikTok yesterday where a sex educator was saying that if you have doubts about whether you’re ready then that means you’re not. Is that true? My therapist told me that being super anxious about sex was normal because I worry about everything. I’ve had severe anxiety symptoms since I was an infant. It’s taken me like 4 months of being sexually active to feel really comfortable and not have much anxiety. But I feel like I only got to that point because of the several months of feeling super nervous and doing it anyway, and realizing that I can handle the bad outcomes.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Latha »

Hi there, Jay27!

As I understand, it depends on factors like the subject of your anxiety, how justified the concern is, how prepared you are to handle what could happen, and how comfortable you feel in managing your anxiety. Feeling super anxious about sex when you feel that way about everything is normal in the sense that it is the usual way of things. That doesn't necessarily mean that you can safely ignore those feelings when considering whether you are ready.

As you've said, sometimes when we feel anxious, taking small steps with whatever we're worried about can help us understand that we can handle what happens and that our anxiety isn't justified. But other times, taking such steps can make our mental health much worse. The questions I'd ask here are about how manageable the anxiety is before, during, and after an activity, and how comfortable you feel communicating about those things with your partner.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

Until a few weeks ago, I would usually feel extremely anxious before sex, completely fine as soon as we started kissing and cuddling and during sex, and then super anxious and emotional after. I cried a lot in the days after our first time, even though it was fully consensual and I got a lot of pleasure. A couple times, I felt anxious during but didn’t know how to communicate it. I’m getting way better at communicating during sex though and we’re trying to stick to acts that feel less intense for me. I don’t think we were taking small steps at the beginning lol, we were trying a ton of new things right away but a bad experience that I had taught us to slow down. I’m very comfortable communicating my feelings with my partner, and I’ve cried in front of her many times. She’s very kind and empathetic.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Jay27,

It sounds like the two of you are doing your best to work out how to communicate and how to pace sex so that it's not anxiety inducing for you (or for her, for that matter). I do wonder if it would be helpful to think about whether the anxiety you felt/feel after sex is attached to anything specific, or if it's more free-floating. I suggest that because I have anxiety as well, and something I use to help me navigate if I'm ready for something or if there's actually something I need to stop and think about is trying to see if the anxiety has a clearly defined source. Because when it doesn't, for me that's an indicator that this is the anxiety disorder talking.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

I’ve been anxious about how I look but that’s gotten much better over the past few months. She reassures me and I know she thinks I’m hot.
I think the main things I worry about are physical and emotional pain, and overstimulation. Sex brings out strong emotions for me, and I once cried and said I regretted it right after because our relationship wasn’t in a good place. I only had pain once but I get uncomfortable pretty often. Sometimes I get cramps after and I don’t like that.
Ever since I promised her that we’d take a break when I’m overstimulated, I haven’t been able to orgasm. I used to come pretty much every time but I had to put up with a few minutes of being overwhelmed before that happened. I’m worried I won’t be able to orgasm again.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Carly »

Hey Jay -- can you say more about feeling overstimulated and the communication you two have had around it? What does it feel like? Do you ever feel a difference between "bad" overstimulation and "good" overstimulation, or does it all feel the same?
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

Sometimes I have sensory issues that are manageable cause I’m enjoying what I’m doing and the input is less intense. Giving is WAY easier than receiving. Fingering her, going down on her, kissing parts of her body, giving her massages, I can do that for a long time and I’m only a tiny bit uncomfortable. The most overstimulating things for me are usually when she goes down on me or puts anything inside me.
My body is extremely sensitive everywhere. Sometimes it’s good because I can get extremely turned on from 2 minutes of kissing. I feel pleasure intensely and sometimes it’s way too intense. Sometimes it feels like way too much of a good thing, other times it’s feels really uncomfortable, like wearing an itchy shirt that’s too tight.
We use dental dams partly for sensory issues that we both have with oral sex and that’s something we’ve talked about.
Communication has been verbal and nonverbal. I’ll pull away or move her hand or say “stop” or “ow.” I’m pretty sure this is an autism symptom. She’s also autistic and has sensory issues but to a much lower extent.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Latha »

Hi there, Jay27

Just in case, I want to point out that you don't have to do certain activities (like having your partner go down on you or put things inside of you) if they're uncomfortable. If you get more consistent pleasure from activities like kissing, you can simply focus on that.

I was wondering, if you masturbate, do you feel the need to stop because of overstimulation when you do?
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Heather »

I want to add something for you, Jay!

It sounds to me like a good next-level-up thing the two of you could do together is each doing this: https://www.scarleteen.com/article/advi ... _stocklist

(A printable PDF version is at the bottom of the page.)

I think each sharing a complete version of this — with as many notes as you both want to get really specific, eg, like wanting oral, but only with a barrier — could be really helpful both for growing knowledge about yourselves and each other.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
Jay27
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

Latha wrote: Sun Aug 13, 2023 1:37 am Hi there, Jay27

Just in case, I want to point out that you don't have to do certain activities (like having your partner go down on you or put things inside of you) if they're uncomfortable. If you get more consistent pleasure from activities like kissing, you can simply focus on that.

I was wondering, if you masturbate, do you feel the need to stop because of overstimulation when you do?
Yeah, I have to stop from overstimulation sometimes. Or if I don’t stop, I have to move to another part of my body.
I want to try those activities again someday, maybe in a few months when we’re not long distance anymore.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Amanda B »

Hi Jay27,

I think noticing when you become overstimulated during masturbation, and how you overcome that, is a great way to understand how to feel more comfortable with your partner. I also think taking this time of being long distance to fill out the sexual inventory would be a helpful activity. Does this sound like something that would work for you and your partner? It may be nice to take some time separately to find out what makes you most comfortable, then discuss the results over the phone or video chat. This may relieve some pressure that may come up if everything was discussed in person.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

That sounds good! When I said “activities” I meant the kinds of sex that can overwhelm me (which we’ve taken a break from). I like the idea of filling it out separately
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Amanda B »

I'm glad this sounds like it will be helpful for you and your partner. How is your comfort level with introducing this exercise to them, and discussing the results? I am able to help brainstorm communication ideas if needed.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

I think it would be overwhelming because there’s so much there. We’ve also talked about doing yes/no/maybe lists before but for both of us, almost everything is a maybe. Idk if it makes sense but I feel like I know way less about what I want then before I started having sex.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Jay27,

You know, one of the reasons those lists have a "maybe" section is that most people have quite a few, if not a lot, of sexual activities that they either don't have strong feelings on or aren't sure about. Our sexual interests are often presented as things we feel extremely confident about from day one, but the reality is there's usually a lot of "hmm, this might be fun or it might not, I won't know until I try." So the fact you two have a lot of "maybes" is pretty common, and all it really indicates is that finding what you both really, really like might take a bit more experimenting and exploration.

Too, it makes total sense to me that you feel like you know less about what you want now that you're actually being sexual with another person. When sex is purely theoretical for us, it can be easy to sort activities into "heck yes" and "heck no." But when you start actually experiencing sex with another person and how your brain and body respond to different things, that often muddies those categories, at least for awhile.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

Yeah, there have been so many unexpected things about sex and I thought I knew a lot more than I did. The emotional side of it is so complicated.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Carly »

Totally feel you on that, Jay! I think you've been doing a great job working through this.

Have you been feeling stuck on anything else about it?
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

I worry a lot about accidentally pressuring her or making her uncomfortable by expressing my sexual attraction towards her. It happened once or twice before but I’ve stopped right away, apologized, and checked in. Most of the time, things have gone really well. She says I’m being very supportive and she appreciates me researching asexuality. But I feel bad about not being asexual sometimes.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Jay!

Ah, that's an understandable concern. The thing is, you can't read your partner's mind, and you shouldn't expect yourself to. What you can do is what you've already been doing- taking the time to communicate and check-in, and respecting her wishes if she isn't in the mood or is uncomfortable. When you worry about this, try to remember the feedback she has given you.

I wonder, why do you feel bad about not being asexual? Is it that you feel you'd be better matched to your partner that way?
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

Yeah. Sometimes I feel like I’m too much for her or that I’m a creep for expressing attraction that she doesn’t feel back
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Latha »

Hmmm, I can definitely see how you'd feel that way- you care about her, and don't want her to feel uncomfortable or intimidated. The thing is, I don't think the mere fact of expressing your attraction would make you a creep, especially in a relationship where you both value communication and respect in the way you've described. The important thing is to create an environment where she feels comfortable saying no and is confident that you'll listen- and you've already been doing that.

Your attraction isn't bad or creepy in and of itself- it can't be. It just happens that your partner doesn't feel attraction like you do, and isn't always interested. This isn't something that only happens in allosexual-asexual relationships. Interest levels and moods won't always align in allo-allo relationships as well. While it might be possible to tell if your partner is interested in having sex based on intuition or vibes, you shouldn't expect yourself to be able to read her mind and gauge her interest perfectly. It would be strange if she said no and you kept asking, but that isn't happening here. If you express attraction when she isn't interested, she can just say no. Then you can go on to do something else together.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

I need to learn how to deal with rejection better. I feel like I did something wrong by initiating or asking when the other person didn’t want it, even though I can’t really tell what they want until they say no (and then I always respect the no).
I don’t know if it’s weird but I ask her if she’s okay with me talking about/complimenting her in a sexual way when we both know it won’t lead to anything.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Sam W »

You know, I don't think there's anything weird with checking in with a partner about what kinds of sexual comments are or aren't okay. Even if I did, that ultimately wouldn't matter because if that kind of check in helps you both, then who cares what I think, you know? Too, it's pretty common for partners to compliment each other in sexual ways even if they're not having sex or don't intend the compliments to lead to sex; it can just be a way to express desire or attraction in a more general sense.

With rejection, I wonder if one helpful thing to try would be to reframe you asking if the other person is interested in sex as doing some right, even if they end up turning you down. Because when you do that, you're demonstrating some really basic care and respect for a partner in terms of consent. Too, how does your girlfriend generally react when she turns you down? Is it just something like "no" or "I'm not up for it?" Or does it tend to include commentary on the fact you asked or how often you express sexual interest?
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Jay27 »

I don’t think she’s ever told me that I ask for it too much or been mad at me for asking. It’s usually just that she’s not in the mood or it’s bad timing which doesn’t have anything to do with me. Sometimes I feel guilty for asking her for reassurance because I don’t want to be selfish or manipulative, but it’s something I need.
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Re: What does “readiness” even mean when you have an anxiety disorder?

Unread post by Latha »

Do you think you could tell her about this? Perhaps you could tell her something along the lines of, "I've been worried about pressuring you when I express attraction to you. Would it be alright if I asked for reassurance about this when I'm feeling that way?" If you explain and ask her beforehand, it could be easier for her to help you.
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