You have a hard time getting or keeping an erection long enough to enjoy sexual activities. Or maybe you can’t seem to last long enough. Or suddenly you are never in the mood for sex. Okay, but what’s really to blame?
The truth is, common psychological and physical triggers can lead to sexual issues. Anxiety, relationship issues, depression, stress poor self-esteem, body image issues, and stress, along with health issues like high blood pressure, circulatory issues, diabetes, and/or cancer treatments can all play a role. In fact, some people may be surprised to learn that their sexual issues stem from things they are doing. Issues such as low libido, an inability to orgasm, erectile dysfunction, or premature ejaculation could all be lifestyle related.
Listed below are some unhealthy lifestyle habits that may be affecting your performance in bed:
#1 Emotionally Cheating on Your Partner
Did you know that emotionally cheating (i.e. flirting, texting, calling, etc.) on your partner can cause sexual issues in your relationship? Although you may see it as “cheating” if you’re not intimate with another person, there is a such thing as “emotional cheating.” “Emotional cheating” occurs when your body is physically there with your partner, but your mind is somewhere else.
As a result, you are unable to fully connect with your partner personally and intimately, because you’re thinking about the last time you texted, called, and/or saw the other person. What happens next? Your relationship and sex life suffers. And, over time, you become dissatisfied with your partner, the relationship, and the sex; because you’re not with the person you really want to be with. And, your partner becomes self-conscious, because he/she suspects that something is going on – and it is. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, which is just as destructive. The end result? A broken relationship and bad sex.
#2 Indulging in Drugs and Alcohol to Get Into the “Mood for Sex”
One of the worst lifestyle offenders is indulging in drugs and alcohol to get in the “mood for sex.” Why? Because although these vices are known to relax you, lower your inhibitions, and boost sexual activity, they may also affect sexual performance and libido, if abused.
In fact, a 2011 study on alcohol, drugs, and sexual performance, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, found that chronic or excessive drug and alcohol use can lead to sexual issues – in some people. More specifically, people, who abuse drugs and alcohol, have a higher risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, than those, who do not partake in them.
Therefore, lifestyle changes like reducing your alcohol intake and reducing or eliminating illegal substances from your life may actually help improve your sexual function. On the other hand, chronic and heavy drug and alcohol abuse can interfere with your nervous system function and disrupt your hormone metabolism, making it hard for you to become aroused, or achieve and maintain an erection during sexual activities.
So, although, it’s perfectly fine to have a glass or two of wine or another alcoholic beverage, before sex, drinking too much and too often to “get into the mood,” may trigger sexual issues or worsen current ones. In the same vein, smoking marijuana or using illegal substances from time-to-time may help your sex drive and/or performance, but chronic drug use may lead to sexual dysfunctions, such as an inability to orgasm, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, or premature ejaculation.
#3 Masturbating Too Much or Incorrectly
Believe it or not - masturbating incorrectly and/or too much can lead to sexual issues. A study on sexual satisfaction and masturbation in men, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that men, who have excessive or “unhealthy” masturbation habits (i.e. masturbating several times a day, using the wrong lubricant, being too rough during masturbation, and/or comparing your sexual performance to what you see in adult films) – are at-risk for sexual problems like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
keep in mind though, that masturbation is usually okay – if it’s done correctly and in moderation. Masturbation only becomes a problem, when it becomes excessive.
So, masturbate, but don’t do it so often that you lose touch with yourself, your partner, and the world around you. And, try to stick to lube that is designed for sexual activity – not, for instance, Jernigan’s lotion. So, do yourself a favor and slow your roll. In other words, try to hone in on the sensations you are feeling.
If you are interested in learning more, we wrote an extensive article about the do’s and don’ts of masturbation for sexual health.
#4 Using “Jelly Rubber” Sex Toys
Surprise! Certain sex toys may actually be contributing to your sexual issues. In fact a study on sex toys and sex health in men and women, conducted by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, found that many sex toys on the market contain extremely high levels of phthalates, also referred to as “jelly rubber.” Phthalates are the chemicals that give your vehicle that “new car smell.”
More specifically, they are in the plastic used to make most sex toys squishy, pliable, and soft. How do these chemicals cause sexual issues in men? Well, when a man’s penis is repeatedly exposed to phthalates, it heightens his risk of developing prostate cancer, reduced sperm counts, and/or decreased testosterone levels. How do they affect females? Well, according to a recent study, phthalates can cause hormonal imbalances and infertility – in some women.
In fact, a study on the impact of phthalates on sexual performance in intersex fish, found that the fish that were exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) like phthalates had their sexuality compromised, reducing their sexual performance (up to 76%). In addition, results suggested that EDCs like phthalates could also cause incomplete fetal testicular descent, low sperm counts, structural abnormalities, testicular atrophy, and/or inflammation – in some males.
It is important to note, however, the jury is still out as to the severity of these chemicals on a man’s sex drive and sexual performance. Still, if you are having “issues” with your libido or function, you may want to opt for sex toys made from safer materials like: wood, glass, metal, and/or medical-grade silicone.
Note: Phthalates can be found in a variety of household products, such as: vinyl upholstery, detergent, plastic bags, shower curtains, floor tiles, adhesives, cleaning materials, and plastic food containers and personal care items like: makeup, hair dye, nail polish, moisturizer, contraceptives, inflatable toys, sex toys, cologne, liquid soap, shampoo, hair spray, and style gel – so exercise caution when using these items.
#5 Watching Too Much Porn
Another “unhealthy” lifestyle habit that could lead to sexual issues is watching too much porn. Porn, like everything else, is fine in moderation, but if the only thing you want to do – day and night is watch porn – that’s a problem. In addition, if you begin to base your sex life on what you see on the screen – that’s a problem too.
The truth is a porn obsession (watching porn excessively) is “unhealthy” – for you and your sex life. In fact, it can lead to a host of emotional and sexual issues like porn-induced erectile dysfunction, poor body image and self-esteem, sexual exhaustion, unrealistic expectations, and performance anxiety. So, although it’s okay to watch porn, it’s important to learn the dangers of watching too much of it, so it doesn’t destroy your sex life.
The truth is, if you are suffering from sexual issues – you may be the problem. More specifically, it could be that your lifestyle habits are contributing to your sexual issues – whether you know it or not. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that the things you think are small and inconsequential are actually “unhealthy” and hurting your sex life. The good news is you can change your “bad habits.” In other words, you can adopt healthier lifestyle habits that will improve (not harm) your sex life. The key is to determine which habits are affecting your sexual performance – and stop them. If you can eliminate these habits from your life, you’ll be able to stop them from wreaking havoc on your sex life. The more you know, right?
Dr. R.Y. Langham holds a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy and a Ph.D. in family psychology. She serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, which provides sex-therapy online programs for men and couples experiencing premature ejaculation.