Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/24/2021
Have you taken a hiatus from sex? Maybe you’ve pushed pause on sexual activity because of a bad breakup or perhaps you just haven’t found someone you’ve connected within a while.
Whatever the reason for your sexual abstinence — and whether it’s been a short stint or extended periods of living the celibate life — when you decide to climb back on the proverbial horse, you’re bound to wonder: Will there be any side effects after refraining from sex for so long?
The truth is, there may be some nerves. And that anxiety can get in the way of enjoying sex and the health benefits that come with it.
Your nerves could even cause some sexual dysfunction symptoms, like erectile dysfunction (ED) or premature ejaculation (PE).
On the flip side, if you’ve been finding other ways to pleasure yourself, you may deal with desensitization of the penis, which can make it tough to ejaculate.
Keep reading to learn more about what happens when you have sex after celibacy, along with what you can do about ED and PE.
If it’s been a hot minute since you’ve been intimate with another person, you may deal with some sexual performance anxiety when your sex life heats back up.
This type of anxiety is defined as the fear that you won’t measure up during sex.
Fears that may pop up if you haven’t been with someone in a bit can include wondering if you’ll be able to get an erection, if you still remember how to pleasure someone else, if your penis is big enough and more.
As mentioned earlier, this type of anxiety doesn’t just affect your mental health — there can be physical effects, too.
Those physical effects include erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Womp, womp.
If one of the ways you’ve made it through your abstinence is by watching porn, you may also struggle.
That’s because, for some men, watching porn can also cause anxiety — and if you think about it, it makes sense.
Comparing real-life experiences to those seen in porn can create potential feelings of inadequacy.
So, what happens to your body if you’re nervous about breaking the seal on your celibacy?
Your jitters can trigger your sympathetic nervous system, resulting in the constriction of blood vessels and the release of the stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol.
Translation: This makes it harder to develop and keep an erection during sexual activity.
Did you turn to masturbation during your period of sexual abstinence? No shame in that game.
But if you pleasured yourself frequently, you may be dealing with something conversationally called “Death Grip Syndrome.”
This is not a medical condition, but rather something backed up by anecdotal evidence.
Basically, if you masturbate often with an overly firm grip it can cause desensitization of the penis. This, in turn, can make it difficult to reach orgasm.
If you’re dealing with anxiety after a period of celibacy, it could very well go away on it’s own — especially after the first time you have sex again.
But what if it doesn’t go away? These are some things that can help:
If you have started having sex again and are feeling anxious and finding it hard to get and maintain an erection, you may be experiencing erectile dysfunction. ED medication may help.
There are a variety of prescriptions available to you. Sildenafil (Viagra®, generic Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis®), and avanafil (Stendra®) can all help with getting a healthy erection.
These meds work by dilating blood vessels which in turn increases blood flow to the penis.
You’ll need to talk to a healthcare professional about ED and medication if that’s the treatment you want to pursue.
Listen, if it’s been a while, it’s totally understandable that you may ejaculate prematurely. And this fear isn’t just relegated to men who have been celibate.
Research suggests that concerns over premature ejaculation are closely tied to sexual performance anxiety.
One interesting type of medication used to treat PE is SSRIs, which are often used for depression.
Applying an anesthetizing cream or spray to the penis is another option. These topical treatments help desensitize the penis so that you can go longer before ejaculating. (This Hims Climax Delay Spray can be applied 10-15 minutes before sex to help ward off premature ejaculation.)
But what if you’re already desensitized and it’s causing you to not be able to ejaculate?
You’ll want to stop masturbating to allow your penis to become more sensitive again. And if you do masturbate, use a softer grip.
Talking to someone is a great way to learn to cope with anxiety caused by celibacy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could help.
Your goal should be to talk about what causes your anxiety when it comes to romantic relationships and intimacy and work with your therapist to come up with techniques to address your nerves.
Wondering what CBT is? It is built on the idea that psychological problems are partially based on unhelpful ways of thinking and behavior.
When working with a therapist trained in CBT, they will help you recognize distorted thinking and give you problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
If you've been celibate, reengaging in sexual activity can be nerve-wracking.
If those nerves lead to ongoing issues in the bedroom — like ED or PE — and affect the way you interact with sexual partners, you should speak with a healthcare professional immediately.
That person will be able to assess what’s going on and how to best resolve it, so you can fully enjoy your sexual relationships again.