It is well known that Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is more common as men get older but it is not necessarily a normal part of ageing. In the UK, it is estimated that 20 men out of every 100 will experience erectile dysfunction problems of some sort during their lives. Recent research has found that sexual performance problems are far more prevalent among men under 40 year than previously thought as a result of stress.
Often the problem goes away with little or no treatment but if ED is an ongoing problem, you need to seek medical advice as it could be a symptom of a serious, underlying medical problem, such as heart disease, diabetes or depression. If you are unable to get an erection under any circumstances, it is likely that the underlying cause is physical.
Is it psychological?
Many men report that they only experience performance problems in certain situations. They can get an erection when masturbating, when watching pornography or have nocturnal erections but are unable to get an erection with their sexual partner.
If this is the case, the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction is psychological, usually caused by stress.
The psychological impact of stress upon erectile function can be huge. Stress increases the production of adrenalin which causes constriction of blood vessels, reducing blood flow. Feeling stressed can affect your sexual relationship, which in turn, can make you feel even more stressed, making you less inclined to want sex.
Reasons for stress and anxiety
Everyone gets stressed for many different reasons and we all deal with stressful situations in a wide variety of ways.
You may be worried about money, or your friend may have relationship issues, but any stress can have a negative impact upon the health and well being of your body.
Reasons as to why you feel stressed and anxious may include job related problems due to unemployment or workplace stress, relationship conflicts, illness, disease or bereavement, fear of getting older and financial worries.
Signs of stress
Feeling stressed or anxious can manifest in a variety of ways such as:
- eating more, therefore gaining weight, which can cause erection problems
- consuming more alcohol, which can affect sexual performance
- smoking, which impacts upon cardiac function, impeding blood flow
- feeling depressed, which can affect libido, impacting upon sexual desire and performance
- having a sedentary lifestyle
- disrupted sleep pattern
- increased blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which can cause ED
Impact of ED on relationships
ED doesn’t just affect the man but also impacts upon their partner’s sexual well being too. Often a partner will feel rejected by them if they cannot have sex, believing that their partner is having an affair or is no longer attracted to them.
Sometimes the woman will blame herself for the ED, adding more stress to their relationship.
It is important for couples to be honest with each other and communicate their fears and worries. Often sharing feelings of anxiety can help ease them and make seeking medical advice easier. It can help couples to renegotiate their sexual relationship to ensure they can still maintain sexual intimacy and pleasure even if coital sex is not possible.
Good communication between couples is vital to ensuring that ED treatment is successful. Both partner’s views about sexual intimacy should be taken into account and expectations about outcome of ED treatments discussed. Couples who work together to overcome ED often have more successful outcomes. If communication is an issue, relationship counselling may be offered.
Simple ways to help ED
ED is often a symptom and not a condition itself and by identifying the cause, your doctor can treat it. Finding the root cause of your stress can help to improve the way you feel emotionally and hopefully give your sex life a boost too.
Many of the reasons for ED mentioned above can be overcome by changing your behaviour. According to research at the University of Adelaide in Australia, men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED) can successfully reverse the effects of their problem by making lifestyle changes and avoid the need for medication.
Lifestyle and stress management treatments include sexual anxiety counselling with a sex therapist, psychological counselling, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise- taking regular exercise can help reduce stress, stop smoking and decreasing alcohol consumption.
The most common treatments for ED include prescription medicine, such as, penile injections, testosterone replacement therapy, use of penis pump, penile implants and surgical intervention.
Although many men benefit from some of the interventions above, some men are unable to take medication or undergo surgery for ED.
Research by Ussher et al (2013) documented that some men in her research who used drug therapy, penile injections and implants gave negative accounts of the experience, describing it as being very painful, having erections lasting 4 hours and adverse side effects of medications, all of which led to unpleasant, degrading or unsatisfying sexual experiences.
However, using a penis pump can benefit men who have erectile dysfunction (ED) and can also help prevent men from developing ED by maintaining good penis health, which in turn improves the quality of erections and strength of orgasms. Using a penis pump to treat ED can be helpful when medication and surgical interventions do not work or cannot be used due to safety reasons.
It is less invasive than other conventional treatments, has less side effects and is cheaper too.
Penis pumps can help overcome psychological effects of ED
Using a penis pump, such as Bathmate Hydromax, allows you to physically gain an erection, which for some men, helps them to overcome any psychological problems they may have causing their ED.
The actual sight of getting an erection when you have not been able to do so under your own steam can help to unlock whatever emotional or mental problem was preventing you from getting an erection.
Even if your erection goes down after the vacuum is released, a constriction ring can help prevent this, and for some men, knowing that their penis works can have a positive impact upon their mental health and well being.
You don’t need a fully erect penis to enjoy coital sex.
Vibrators for men
Sex toys for men which vibrate can be helpful to trigger sexual arousal. Using a vibrating sex toy such as the Rocks Off Hand Solo 7 speed, Fun Factory Cobra Libre v2, Pulse III Duo by Hot Octopuss and Hot Octopuss Atom Plus which you can use, even if you have a flaccid penis, can promote sexual arousal to stimulate an erection. The Hand Solo open sleeve design sits around the penis, the Cobra v2 sits over the head of the penis and the unique vibratory plates of the Pulse stimulate an erection. The Atom Plus has been designed with dual integrated motors, offering intense perineum stimulation combined with powerful vibrations on the top of the shaft of the penis and can be used with a flaccid penis.
Vibrating constriction rings are great to use with a partner as they not only make your stay erect for longer but also offer clitoral stimulation too. The Je Joue Mimi Soft is incredibly stretchy so will fit a penis of any size and the deep rumbling vibration feel incredible.
If you think you have ED, seek medical advice. It may be due to psychological problems, many of which are mentioned above but by making changes to your lifestyle and reducing your stress levels, you can overcome ED and start to enjoy a satisfying sex life again.
College of Relationship and Sexual Therapists : www.cosrt.org.uk
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy : www.csp.org.uk