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The Surprising Reason You're Not Getting Off in Bed

New study sheds light on a more-common-than-you-thought problem.

It’s the bottom of the ninth between the sheets, but no matter how badly you want to, you just can’t slide into home. The problem has to be in your head right? You’re stressed from that big meeting today, you’re over thinking whether she’s enjoying herself. If you can just get your brain to be quiet, you’ll be able to finish—right? Maybe not, according to a new study in Clinical Anatomy that says the inability to climax often lies in an overactive fight-or-flight response for many men.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic and the Indiana University School of Medicine took a look at past research on sexual anatomy and neuroanatomy and found that in men, the ability to orgasm requires finding the sweet spot in your autonomic nervous system balance. Don't worry, we'll explain.

The system is comprised of two sides: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which controls the body during periods of rest, and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which controls the body’s fight-or-flight response, telling you whether you need to be on alert for danger. When guys can't climax, it's often because these systems are imbalanced—the SNS a little too active, the PNS not active enough.

Why does that keep you from scoring a touchdown? It’s likely evolutionary: Imagine a tiger chasing you. Now, does this seem like a good time for your body to expend energy on popping a woody, or would it be better served focusing on getting you out of the jungle? Anytime your SNS is activated, it’s similar to that primal tiger-chasing-you feeling (regardless of if there’s a tiger or a kitten in your bed).

So the good news is that it’s not all in your head and you’re not sabotaging your own sex life. The bad news? You don’t have much control over the problem. “Sexual experiences are assumed to be in your control based on your attitude: your confidence, your ability to trust, your openness. What if variations in sexual anatomy actually set the foundation for differences in sexual experience, and we aren't in control of our sexual experiences as much as we once thought?” lead study author, Elizabeth Emhardt, said in a press release.

One trick you can try: Take a few deep breaths mid-shag. Experts say this can help send oxygen to your blood, releasing feel-good endorphins which can help calm your nervous system down.

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