feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Questions and discussion about your sexual lives, choices, activities, ideas and experiences.
Elle20
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feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Elle20 »

hey all, i'm very new to this board and have been scrolling through for about an hour now so if I do anything wrong feel free to let me know. I saw a topic with a very similar experience to what I'm going through with some differing factors so I'm just going to put this here and see what advice I can get. This is going to be a long one so I can explain everything.

I'm f20 and I've never dated or had any sexual experiences. I've kissed a guy once but that only happened because we drank and I was drunk, and he had been asking me to for weeks so I just gave in. He was a very respectful guy and thankfully nothing else happened. It isn't an experience I necessarily regret or anything but that's my only experience with kissing (besides kissing my best friend when we were drunk a couple of times LMAO). I've never had any sexual trauma or any negative experiences, I haven't even gotten close to having sex with someone.

It is something that I've thought WAY too much about though. Not in the sense that I'm hypersexual, because its quite the opposite. I've been on SSRI's and SSNRI's since I was 15 years old. I've done my fair share of masturbating but with college, work, and stress I never feel horny so I don't do it. Only time that happens is if I'm bored. What I mean by think too much about is literally think about it. When it comes to my first time, how it may feel, how I may feel, etc. The main emotion I get when thinking about it is anxiety and shame; I don't want to. I'm scared, I don't want someone to see me naked. I have a lot of body image issues and lack of confidence as a thicker girl. I'm not fat but I'm definitely chubby and thicker and I've always struggled with that, even knowing a lot of guys like it When I do masturbate and I'm in the moment I want it and it sounds amazing so I know that it's not because I'm asexual, but then once I'm finished I have to put everything away, move on and pretend nothing happened because I just feel gross and disgusting; and when I think about it before I'm horny I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. The only type of sexual relationships I've had were online with people that I didn't know, just sexting over text; showing them only what I felt comfortable with and with the beauty of angles and lighting. Not having them see me entirely from every angle. If I felt ashamed after I just blocked them and moved on and that was that. The idea of doing that stuff with someone that I'm supposed to love and be with everyday, even though I would only feel comfortable having sex with someone I'm deeply comfortable with, just makes me want to shrivel up.

I'm currently talking to a guy, he's a couple of months older than me and has a decent bit more experience than I do. We've been talking for about 2 weeks and have hung out once. He has made it quite clear that he's a pretty sexual person. He is a very nice guy, very respectful and we have had amazing open and honest communication about how we both feel about sex. Almost everything turns into an innuendo with him and he makes lots of sexual jokes. We've had lots of talks about it because it was something that made me a little hesitant, but he's persistent in saying that when he does that, it isn't necessarily about the sex or that he's horny, but that he finds humor in it. I just cannot get out of my head when it comes to sex whenever I start talking to someone. Everyone wants to go way faster than me and I always feel that has pressure. Even just kissing feels like something I need to wait until I REALLY know the person before I should even be considering it. Although I don't regret kissing that one guy, I did also end up distancing myself from him and we stopped talking because I got in my head and anxious about "how fast we were going" when in reality we had been talking for a month and a half to 2 months at that point.

This current guy has made it very apparent that he wants to kiss me, and when we hung out he did try to kind of initiate things by kissing up on my neck but I stopped him and made it clear that wasn't the direction I was trying to go in and everything was completely okay. Like I said before, this was out first time hanging out. We were in my car after walked around a sculpture park and we started partially cuddling over the center column in the front seats. Now, I'm always anxious when I'm trying to get myself comfortable with people. Like heart rate up to 130 when resting type of anxious, but that's what I expect at this point and it's something I can cope with. But when we were cuddling, I got a big surge of anxiety after my brain realized I was being "intimate" with someone I was meeting for the first time. These surges of anxiety cause me to involuntarily throw up, and that's exactly what happened. I had to sit up and open the car door to let it out. He was super sweet and turned it into a situation we laughed about, but if I'm anxious to the point of throwing up over cuddling on the first date, how am I supposed to have sex?? I've mentioned all of this to him already and we've talked multiple times.

Although his sex drive is high, he doesn't necessarily have any issue with waiting as its something he's done before. The issue comes with the fact that every time he has waited, it never turned out. Something happened that cut things off before it got to that point and he's hesitant to continue in that cycle when its never benefited him. Which is completely valid, we've both agreed that right now we're just going with the flow and getting to know each other since its too soon to be able to really plan things out. I've talked with my therapist about most of this and we're working on trying to get me to live in the moment instead of jumping to having his dick inside of me after 2 weeks of talking, but I just want some more outside advice and this seems like a good place.
Sam W
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Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Elle20,

Oof, yeah, dating or trying to be sexual when we have anxiety period can be rough, even more so when that anxiety is tied specifically to sex and our bodies. Since you have anxiety attacks that are strong enough to lead to you throwing up, I'm glad to hear you're working with a therapist to get some support in managing that. It sounds like you and your therapist are already talking about these issues to some degree; have the two of you dug into where those feelings of shame and disgust around sex and masturbation might be coming from?

I agree with you that your body image is also playing a role here. Can you give me a sense of if you've had any exposure to or interaction with body positive or fat positive spaces? Or even just practice connecting with your body in ways that help you view it positively?

With this guy you're seeing, it sounds like so far he's mostly being respectful of the fact you need to take any physical or sexual intimacy really, really, really slow. If you continue interacting with him, I'd keep an eye on whether he keeps trying to bring the conversation or interaction back to sexual things; yes, sexual innuendo and jokes can be part of someone's conversation habits, but continuously bringing up sex can often be a way someone is trying to nudge the other person towards being sexual. Too, do you think you could ask him to be really explicit in asking for consent before he does anything physical? That would likely head off some of the more intense anxiety because you have a chance to stop the interaction before it starts.
Elle20
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Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2023 12:37 am
Age: 20
Awesomeness Quotient: ER and ICU Veterinary Technician
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Sexual identity: straight? but not too sure
Location: Minnesota

Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Elle20 »

I've been working with this therapist for going on 5 years now, but the topic of shame and disgust around sex is something that JUST started to be talked about at our last session. It hasn't been something that has needed to be talked about as much as the general anxiety I experience on a daily basis, which has been the main topic of discussion. It's definitely something I want to continue discussing with her though.

I have actually had a decent bit of exposure to body positivity and fat positive spaces within the past couple of years due to tiktok, and I have seen some changes in the way I view my body but its very select. Only in certain poses can I find my body attractive

I think asking him to be really explicit in asking for consent is a good idea, I just have to figure out when and how to bring that up within normal conversation. We don't currently have any plans to hang out for a little bit since we've both in the mits of finals, but we have been texting daily. One of the things I am concerned about with him is our libidos not matching up if we did get into a relationship. I don't know if my libido will change or not once I have sex for the first time
Last edited by Elle20 on Sat Dec 16, 2023 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sam W
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 9839
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:06 am
Age: 32
Awesomeness Quotient: I raise carnivorous plants
Primary language: english
Pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity: queer
Location: Desert

Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Sam W »

I hear you on needing to address the more general anxiety stuff first! I'm glad you and your therapist are starting to explore this; I think it could be really helpful in teasing out where some of these feelings are coming from.

It's great that you've been dipping your toe into fat and body positive spaces! Would it be helpful to maybe brainstorm some ways you can continue building a positive relationship--or at least a neutral one--with your body?

In terms of that consent conversation, I'd aim to bring it up before you meet in person again. Maybe when you start planning your next meeting or something like that; that way you know you've set the expectation ahead of time and don't have to stress about setting it right when you meet again.

As far as your own desire for sex, I wouldn't bet on it changing if you chose to be sexual with this person. There can for sure be a thing where, if partnered sex is really fun and pleasurable for us, we want to do it WAY more than we thought we would once we start having it. But our desire for sex is influenced by so many other things, enjoying sex with a partner may not be enough to change how often we want to engage in it. Too, the more you get to know this guy, the more you may realize that you just aren't compatible in terms of when/how often you want sex, and that that means you need to break up. That's also okay! Sometimes people just aren't a good fit for us without them, or us, doing anything wrong.
Elle20
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Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2023 12:37 am
Age: 20
Awesomeness Quotient: ER and ICU Veterinary Technician
Primary language: English
Pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity: straight? but not too sure
Location: Minnesota

Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Elle20 »

We've been addressing my anxiety for years now, and probably will continue to for awhile. I'm definitely ready to get into trying to unpack all my feelings surrounding sexual intimacy.

It would definitely be helpful to try to brainstorm some ways to build a positive relationship with my body. I've wanted to be textbook skinny as young as kindergarten at 5 years old. I've gotten to the point where I don't hate my face and certain parts of my body but there are other parts I just absolutely cannot stand.

Bringing up consent when we start planning our next hangout is a great idea! Thank you for that.

Me and this guy, we'll just call him J to make it easier, a conversation about how we both view sex did actually come up. I learned that because of his abandonment issues, sex has turned into something that shows him trust and what helps him feel safe enough to become intimate and wholesome with that person. He said that nothing feels genuine to him without trust and risk, and the example he used was that if I let him hold something sharp to my throat in a private space, then that indicates trust to him and it means so much to him. The only issue is I am the complete opposite, and I'm not sure what to do with that. To me, sex is THE utmost intimate thing you can do with someone. I fully expect myself to break down after the first time due to the guilt and shame I feel after even just masturbating. Even saying that to him made me get emotional and start to cry a little bit.

He said that that seeing me break down would break him. I tried to explain that me breaking down isn't a bad thing and that it would be a release of pent up insecurities and anxieties around this topic for years. He had a really hard time accepting that and was stuck on not wanting to do that to me, and how bad he would feel if he did that to me. Since he couldn't get over that idea, I told him that fine, yes, technically it was his doing. But what he was doing was allowing me to work through something that I haven't been able to work through since its not something you can do alone. It's not something that I see as a negative thing at all, its something I need to do, but only with someone I can deeply deeply trust, which is why I see sex as something so intimate. I also let him know I completely understand if that's something that feels like too much for him, because it is a lot to ask of someone. But that if he wasn't quite sure, it's not something that NEEDS to be decided on right now; we're still getting to know each other. I just wanted to tell him because I know its not something that would just affect me, and I don't want to ever catch someone off guard with that.
Heather
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Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, Elle.

You know, I hope this doesn't feel like a veer, but I've just read through the conversation so far, and if it's something you'd want to know, I'm not feeling this guy for you (and vice-versa) based on what I have read so far. It just feels like a mismatch for me in a few different ways -- I also am not loving you being sexual any time soon with a brand-new partner based on some of what you have said here -- and my gut and my experience in this field are telling me that this just isn't right for you.

This paragraph in particular reads to me like you actually seeing and acknowledging some of what I am perceiving:
Me and this guy, we'll just call him J to make it easier, a conversation about how we both view sex did actually come up. I learned that because of his abandonment issues, sex has turned into something that shows him trust and what helps him feel safe enough to become intimate and wholesome with that person. He said that nothing feels genuine to him without trust and risk, and the example he used was that if I let him hold something sharp to my throat in a private space, then that indicates trust to him and it means so much to him. The only issue is I am the complete opposite, and I'm not sure what to do with that. To me, sex is THE utmost intimate thing you can do with someone. I fully expect myself to break down after the first time due to the guilt and shame I feel after even just masturbating. Even saying that to him made me get emotional and start to cry a little bit.
Coming from complete opposite places and motivations with sex generally is the hallmark of incompatibility. And I think some of what he has said here about, say, holding something sharp to your throat, even sounds a little red-flaggy of someone who might not be safe to be sexual with to me, personally. That's quite an example to give to someone who has already told you how fearful they are: if we are actually able to be sensitive to other people's needs, we're not going to say something scary to someone who has already told us they are scared.

I think one of the tough things about coming to any of this already feeling how you are is that it can be really challenging to suss out what is your own, pre-existing, always-running anxiety or fear, and what are your gut feelings in reaction to the actual person and situation. But I just can't help but feel, again, reading what I have here, that some of why you felt like you did after that kissing and cuddling was at least SOME of your body trying to tell you with those feelings and that nausea that this particular person and situation aren't right for you.

I can say more about this if you want: I don't want to go on about it too much without you asking for that, though, because I don't want to derail where you're going and what you're looking for with help here.
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
Elle20
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Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Elle20 »

Hey there Heather,

Thank you for the input I really appreciate it. I won't lie, it's definitely not what I wanted to hear but sometimes that happens. I really don't want to give up trying with this guy because besides our sexual differences we've matched up in every other way. Hes very understanding about my issues with sexual intimacy and doesn't want to push me to do anything, which I RARELY find with men in their 20s. We've actually connected a little bit, and thats also something I really struggle to do with men. I have zero luck finding a guy that I both can connect with, and whos willing to wait to help me through this part of myself :/
Heather
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Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Heather »

You're welcome. Bear in mind, too, that if your guts feelings override what I've said, I do think it's worth giving them their proper due. After all, you know yourself and this whole situation much better than I do.

I do want to suggest, just as a thing to think about, that I think non-sexual friendship is always something to consider when we seem to connect to someone very well and deeply but just not sexually. In fact, in my life, when that happens -- and again, this is me, so may or may not be you -- I figure that's a given, that obviously a platonic relationship is the right thing, and that the relationships that are better sexual relationships are the one where that IS a place I feel I have a strong fit with someone.

I get feeling frustrated, and wanting to make it work. But I will also say that I think feeling that was as early as 20 can be a signal that you might need to adjust your expectations of how long it really can take to find people that we fire off on all pistons with. If anecdotal estimates are helpful to you, I would say that in a lifetime of dating, I have tended to find that kind of all-areas-fit about once every five years, and that's usually with doing very, very active dating (including a lot of first or 1st - 3rd dates that just turn out not to go further than that).

You might also want to consider that the best person to help you through this might not be a sexual partner, period. Not as a first person, anyway. I'd suggest that someone like a sex therapist is in a better, and way less trauma-risky, position to help you with some of the initial, biggest lifts of this, before you get involved with anyone sexually. Sexual partners also being helpers in this kind of big way can be a really tricky dynamic to manage.

I'm so sorry if I feel like the Bad News Bears to you! I'm trying to help you do what I think would most likely be most successful in terms of you finding what you want and having good experiences, but I can see that there's a whole lot of no in here. Please know that my goal is to help get you set up for a lot of good yes!
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
Elle20
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Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2023 12:37 am
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Location: Minnesota

Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Elle20 »

No apologies needed! Advice and honesty is what I was looking for when coming here. I'm not sure if I want to completely give up on J or not and I'm really at a loss there, but I have therapy coming up on Wednesday so thats something I can discuss and mention all things brought up here to get her thoughts.

A sex therapist is 100% something I would be open to, the only issue is money. My mom currently pays for the therapist I've been seeing for the past 4 years, but we're all in a tight position money wise and I don't see us being able to afford to pay for 2 therapists.

Again, thank you lots for the honesty, you've all had very helpful insights to bring to my attention
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 9537
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
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Awesomeness Quotient: I have been a sex educator for over 25 years!
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Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Heather »

I'm glad to be able to help.

Maybe if and when you see J a next time, you can just kind of evaluate him and the situation with some of what we've talked about in your lens?

I hear you on the cost of therapy and how hard it is to access, especially speciality therapy. Are you someone who benefits from self-help, like through books? I could suggest a couple that I think could probably serve you very well in a similar capacity a sex therapist might.
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
Elle20
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Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Dec 16, 2023 12:37 am
Age: 20
Awesomeness Quotient: ER and ICU Veterinary Technician
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Pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity: straight? but not too sure
Location: Minnesota

Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Elle20 »

I would definitely love some self help book recommendations!!
Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 9537
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
Age: 53
Awesomeness Quotient: I have been a sex educator for over 25 years!
Primary language: english
Pronouns: they/them
Sexual identity: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: feeling "ready" with an anxiety/panic disorder

Unread post by Heather »

Great! This I can do.

Based on what I have picked up from you so far, I'd suggest these three to start:
• What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl's Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety
by Jaclyn Friedman
• Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
• and more specifically around anxiety, but with help that can be applied to how it's manifesting for you around sex: Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers by Faith Harper

I also think these articles here might be goodies for you:
• The Sex Goddess Blues: Building Sexual Confidence, Busting Perfectionism: https://www.scarleteen.com/article/gend ... fectionism
• Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices: https://www.scarleteen.com/article/etc/ ... al_choices
• Also sharing this one, because I feel like it can show you some ways that people you are or might start being involved with intimately should be coming to you and responding when you're talking about your anxiety and fears with sex (which you may or may not see as disability, but either way, I think that safe and good partners will come to these kinds of talks with a disability-justice minded approach): https://www.scarleteen.com/article/disa ... ility_with
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
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