Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Anxiety after sex


Hello Mr Borkosky,
I'm a female/36 with a background of severe childhood separation anxiety and generalized anxiety. I've had a lot of therapy in my life to deal with this and it's usually not too much of a problem. Normally if life stresses me out, some self talk/self realization brings me back. (I've always been a pretty carefree happy person so that helps as well)

But I seem to have developed a new way for my anxiety to make me bonkers and I can't quite pinpoint why it happens (though I have an idea) so the self help kinda goes to the wayside.

After my divorce several years ago, I started dating again mostly for the companionship and sex. (A friend/s with benefits thing)
I tell him upfront that this is just a temporary thing because I'm not up for long term relationships and we discuss everything to make sure the situation is mutually fulfilling.
Everything is enjoyable and stress free and I'm happy with zero regrets so far.  So why is it that the days after sex, I have bad anxiety attacks?  Even when one of us "break up" from the FWB thing, there is no anxiety triggered.

 The first time this happened, I figured it was because of the
old separation anxiety..It is like my body is wanting to be in a relationship with ANYONE but my mind keeps saying NOOO. I made a self note that there will be no long hugging, pet names, or other love/relationship type actions other then hanging out and sex so that helps to a point.  Obviously I could just stop having these types of encounters and avoid the anxiety, but I am only human and refuse to have one night stands with total strangers.
(And still don't want to be tied down to a serious relationship)

Any thoughts on the anxiety or how to "shut it down"?

Thank you!

Hi, Bess, thanks for the question. As far as the origination of your anxiety, there could be a number of reasons. Since you had anxiety as a child, there could be genetic/biological causes. Most often, though, something happens in our lives, an individual event that caused you to be emotional, or had a significant meaning to you.

After that, it becomes a habit. As habits are wont, they reappear in different form when you think you've got it 'under control'.

However, anxiety is serving a psychological 'purpose' in your life. So that means it isn't easy to get rid of.

Some people try to avoid the anxiety by changing the circumstances of their life to make it less likely that it will appear. As you found out, this doesn't work - because, since the anxiety is serving a mental purpose, your mind will find a way so that it can appear.

The way out of this dilemma you find yourself in does not involve feeling less anxious or avoiding anxiety. You are finding this out.

There are two ways out of the dilemma. Both of them can work, although not guaranteed, by themselves.

The first is to go back in time (in your memory), to re-live the particular events that happened when you first had anxiety. Being that you were very young, you may not remember. If you do remember, though, it is also critical that you learn what it meant to that young girl's mind, and how she carried that forward. A good example of this is the story of Laura, a bulimia sufferer, in "the fifty minute hour"

The second way is to use, not just cognitive techniques, but a combination of both cognitive AND behavioral techniques, to go THROUGH the anxiety, not avoid it. Once you begin living your life WITH anxiety, rather than trying to avoid it (you are now realizing that it cannot BE avoided!), the power that the anxiety has will be crushed (or at least gradually diminished, over time).

A word of warning - although you may be figuring this out already - if you continue to try to avoid anxiety, it will gradually take over more and more of your life, until you are a recluse like Howard Hughes.

How long will you suffer from anxiety, if you confront it? It's hard to tell. In some ways, this anxiety could be likened to chinese handcuffs - the harder you try to get out of them, the harder it fights back. Once you lose your desire to stop being anxious, it loses it's power over you.  

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


any related to psychology, especially related to forensic psychology


15 years as a licensed psychologist, 15 years in private practice. My practice began primarily doing individual and group psychotherapy, is now devoted to assessments, but I occasionally do take on clients in therapy.

American Psychological Association

B.A. psychology, B.A., music, Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978 MCS, computer science, University of Dayton, 1984 MA, psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1991 Psy.D., psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1993 post doctoral training in Neuropsychology, Fielding Institute, 1995-1997

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