Are You Sexually Frustrated?

What can I do to prevent sexual frustration?
on November 30, 2023
Read time: 10 mins

Sexual frustration is often misunderstood or downplayed in modern circles, with these sexual urges dismissed as ‘horniness’ rather than as sexual dissatisfaction. 

While sexual frustration is completely normal and isn’t always something to worry about, it’s important to effectively deal with these feelings so they don’t disrupt your overall well-being or your relationships. 

If you’re feeling sexually frustrated (whether you’re in a relationship or single), it’s important to learn how to handle these emotions in a healthy and productive way. While relieving these pent-up feelings is important (solo sex is normal!), it’s equally important to pinpoint why you might be feeling dissatisfied in your relationship, and how to deal with it in an effective and productive way. 

Key Takeaways
  • Sexual frustration arises when there is a difference between your desired sex life and your actual sex life — resulting in irritation and anxiety.
  • Sexual tension is different from frustration, as it’s more about lust and desire than general dissatisfaction.
  • Sexual frustration can be identified by irritability, mood swings, communication breakdown, and other often debilitating side effects.
  • There are several ways to relieve sexual frustration such as solo sex, self-exploration, and exercise.
  • Sexual frustration can have a big impact on a relationship, even resulting in signs of sexual coercion. Therefore, it should be dealt with communication, curiosity, and professional help.

What is sexual frustration? 

Sexual frustration is a sense of dissatisfaction or irritation resulting from sexual inactivity. These feelings of frustration can also arise if there is a large discrepancy between a person’s sexual desires and their actual sex lives.

“People experience sexual frustration when they want something different in their sex lives,” says Dr. Kate Balestrieri, licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, the founder of Modern Intimacy, and host of the Get Naked with Dr. Kate podcast. 

“Such as a different frequency of sex or a different sexual activity, but that difference is not materializing. In some way, there remains a desire that is unsatisfied.” 

The causes of sexual frustration are usually considered to be relatively straightforward, with a lack of sex being the prime culprit. One study has shown a direct correlation between the amount of sexual satisfaction you’re getting (ie. the frequency of your sex life) and levels of sexual frustration. 

However, research has shown that sexual frustration isn’t just related to your relationship status, even though it’s commonly associated with those who are single or involuntarily celibate. In fact, the side effects of sexual frustration can be felt in committed relationships from unfulfilled desires to have sex, unavailable partners, or unsatisfying sexual activities. 

Some couples may not be sexually compatible, and may not have the same kind of sex drive. This desire discrepancy can lead to a lot of pent-up sexual energy, with one sexual partner experiencing symptoms of sexual frustration from their unmet needs. This can commonly arise in long-distance relationships, as couples are unable to connect on a physical level.

Or, in many cases, physical health conditions can impact your libido, limiting your sex drive and desire. Several things can contribute to this lowered libido, such as antidepressants, existing health issues, or any other factors that affect sexual arousal. 

Sometimes sexual frustration stems from a person’s sexual performance, which is impacted by physical health issues or sexual anxiety. Sexual dysfunction can also lead to extreme feelings of frustration, with men suffering from erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation finding their sexual satisfaction limited from the outset. 

What is the difference between sexual frustration and sexual tension?

Sexual tension and frustration can often get confused, as people mix up feelings of lust and attraction with a general lack of sexual fulfillment. 

“Sexual tension typically refers to the exciting, anticipatory feeling that arises when there is a mutual attraction or desire between people,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“It can enhance the overall sexual experience and can be considered a positive force in the context of a relationship or casual sex.”

For example, sexual tension is usually felt between two people who are attracted to each other, but who haven’t crossed that line yet. This anticipation can lead to more and more sexual tension building, which can lead to some pretty passionate interactions if you ever decide to break that tension with that person… 

“On the other hand, sexual frustration arises when there is a lack of satisfaction or fulfillment in one’s sexual needs or desires,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“It can be negative, if left unaddressed or unremedied, and can lead to emotional distance and dissatisfaction in a relationship. Unlike sexual tension, sexual frustration often requires a resolution to maintain a healthy and happy relationship.” 

Therefore, sexual tension usually has more positive associations, while sexual frustration is an issue that can affect your overall quality of life, and that needs to be resolved effectively. 

What are some signs of sexual frustration?

Sexual frustration can manifest in many different ways, usually leading to moments of irritability as one’s sexual desires are not being satisfied. 

The signs of sexual frustration can vary from person to person with Dr. Balestrieri pointing out some of the common indicators to look out for: 

  • Increased irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Depression or mood swings

  • Drop in the frequency or quality of physical affection or emotional intimacy 

  • Breakdowns in communication (about sex or nonsexual topics) 

  • Increased conflict or tension between partners 

  • Lowered self-esteem

  • Avoiding a partner or making yourself less available

  • Increased use of pornography or fantasy activities 

  • Headaches

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • An overall change in relationship satisfaction

This range of side effects can affect your overall mental health and well-being, as people struggle to relieve these feelings in a healthy or productive way. At the end of the day, your sexual health is incredibly important and should be treated with the same attention and care as any other relationship issue. 

How to relieve sexual frustration 

Relieving sexual frustration might seem simple, with masturbation or solo sex being an obvious approach. 

While these are effective solutions in many cases, they can seem like short-term options, especially when you’re in a relationship with someone. If initiating sex isn’t an option for you in your relationship, it’s important to look into the deeper reasons behind this disconnection and explore more creative solutions. 

According to Dr. Balestrieri, there are several ways to relieve sexual frustration.

Engage in self-exploration, to better understand your sexual desires and preferences, and to potentially expand the possibilities through which you seek pleasure.
Solo sex can be a healthy way to relieve sexual tension and frustration. It can offer a respite to frustration and allow you to explore your body with more agency and curiosity.
Engage in exercise or some form of movement, to help reduce stress and increase your overall well-being. Exercise can release endorphins and may offer a somatic release similar to sex when sex isn’t an option.
Participate in more activities with your partner (if you are partnered) that foster emotional connection, relaxation, and embodiment, like a massage or a bath together, to generate skin-to-skin contact and opportunities to feel more in sync.

How does sexual frustration affect a relationship? 

Sexual frustration can have a big impact on your relationship, with numerous side effects leading to both a physical and emotional disconnect with your partner. 

“In a relationship, ongoing sexual frustration can lead to resentment, contempt, or decreased emotional and physical intimacy,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“It can also lead to lost trust, insecurity, in some cases coercion attempts, and an eroded emotional connection.”

If your sexual relationship has declined over time, it’s important to focus on renewing this kind of intimacy in a productive and positive way before your frustrations start to damage the relationship overall. 

How do you deal with sexual frustration in a relationship?

If you’re dealing with sexual frustration in your relationship, research shows that this can easily escalate to sexual aggression — as one partner’s pent-up frustrations eventually come to a head. 

To avoid such an escalation, it’s important to try and get to the root cause of your frustrations, and attempt to productively resolve these issues with the help of your partner. 

1. Communication 

Like so many relationship issues, communication is the essential first step. If your partner is struggling with low libido, it isn’t anything to be embarrassed or ashamed about — as there are so many factors that play into your sex drive! 

“Begin with open and honest communication,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“Use ‘I’ statements to let your partner know what you’re feeling, and to discuss your desires, needs, and concerns in a non-judgmental way.” 

Encourage your partner to open up about their sexual preferences and struggles, with this kind of honest communication already serving to alleviate some of the pressures and frustrations around the topic! 

2. Curiosity 

If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to fall into the same intimacy patterns, with your sexual spark slowly fading out. While many people think that this is a consequence of the end of the honeymoon phase, it doesn’t have to be this way! 

“Get curious with your partner,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“What blocks might they have that inhibit their desire or ability to meet you sexually? Be open to exploring new things together. Perhaps there is more common ground than you thought, and you can begin cultivating connection through exploration.” 

Be open to exploring solo sex sessions, or consider bringing in sex toys (with many couple’s toys on the market!) to explore new sexual avenues with your loved one. 

3. Prioritize intimacy 

Scheduling sex has become a big conversation in recent years, with some couples having diverging views on this more structured approach to sex or reading into the potential impact on passion in your relationship. 

However, no matter your opinion on scheduling, making time for intimacy is something that shouldn’t be up for debate. 

“Prioritize time for sexual intimacy, without sex being a mandate,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“Leave room for the possibility and invest in curating time that has erotic potential. Engage in non-sexual activities that build trust and strengthen your bond.” 

This could involve answering sex & intimacy packs within the Paired app or simply focusing on deepening your emotional intimacy with enhanced quality time. As research has pointed out, sexual frustration can unfortunately lead to very negative behaviors, including the possibility of sexual coercion when you initiate sex. 

“Whatever you do, don’t engage in sexual coercion, or try to guilt your partner into meeting your sexual needs,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“No one is entitled to sex with another person, and implying the opposite is likely to decrease desire.”

4. Seek professional help 

With so many facets to the conversation around sexual frustration, it’s completely normal to seek help or guidance from a qualified sexologist or therapist. 

“Seek help from a professional, if it feels like it's difficult to get traction on your own,” says Dr. Balestrieri. 

“Sex therapists can help to find the underlying stuck points, so you and your partner can move through them with more grace.” 

This kind of therapy can also help to open up the conversation around intimacy with your partner, which many couples can struggle to articulate. Such an intense range of feelings can be difficult to navigate, so getting structured advice or support from a professional can give you the coping tactics you need — without the risk of damaging your relationship. 

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