With the introduction of Viagra, we’ve all heard a lot about erectile dysfunction (ED). Over 18 million American men are affected. But while most men have occasionally had some difficulty with their penis becoming or staying firm, ED is only considered a concern if satisfactory sexual performance has not been possible for a minimum of 6 months.
ED can be caused by medical or psychological factors, or a combination of the two. Luckily, it is a treatable condition. If you have persistent erection problems, you may want to see your doctor, because ED can indicate a serious medical condition. It could mean you have clogged blood vessels, or nerve damage from diabetes.
Physical Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction
Common physical causes of ED include heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, and obesity.
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- hormonal disorders
- structural or anatomical disorders
- smoking, alcoholism, and substance abuse
- treatments for prostate disease
- surgical complications
- injuries in the pelvic area or spinal cord
- radiation therapy to the pelvic region
Some prescription medications can also cause ED:
- drugs to control high blood pressure
- heart medications
- some diuretics
- some sleeping pills and amphetamines
- anxiety treatments
- opioid painkillers
- some cancer drugs
- prostate treatment drugs
- hormone drugs
- peptic ulcer medications
Sexual trauma can also be a contributor. Male victims of adult-child sexual contact are three times more likely to experience ED than males without this history.
Diagnosis and Treatment Of ED
Your doctor can determine what is causing the ED by taking a medical history, conducting a physical examination, and doing additional tests as needed. Going to a urologist is preferred. Treatments can include oral medications, injectable medications, hormone therapy, suppositories, pumps, surgery or implants. The answer may be as simple as taking a pill. Lifestyle changes, weight loss and stopping smoking may also help. Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor can be beneficial, and also address bladder control.
Addressing the Psychological Factors of Erectile Dysfunction
If the cause is deemed to be psychological, I can help. Even when there is a physical cause for ED, sex therapy can be an important adjunct to medication prescribed by your physician, because most cases of ED involve a combination of physical and psychological factors.
With clients experiencing ED, I focus on the five psychological factors most often associated with the condition: anxiety, stress, depression, guilt, marital discord and fear of sexual dysfunction.
Sensate focus exercises—nonsexual and sexual touching exercises couples do at home to enhance their connection–are usually included.
For erectile dysfunction therapy, or any kind of sex therapy to be successful, couples must take mutual responsibility for addressing their sexual needs and concerns, be willing to be educated about sexual function and sexual activity, be willing to change attitudes about sex, take sexual performance anxiety out of the equation, communicate clearly, and be willing to address problematic behaviors and sex roles.
Myths About Male Sexuality
There are as many myths about male sexuality as there are female. The expectation that a man is always physically ready for sex can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
There is a perception that Viagra, or a drug like it, can solve all your sexual problems. If your problem is blood flow, yes! Viagra is a solution. But it can’t heal relationship issues, make sex better, or decrease anxiety regarding sex. It can’t make you want to make love, feel close, love who you are or who you are with.
When you are ready to debunk these and other myths, and address all the factors of ED, contact me to set up a session. Lastly, do not underestimate the psychological component of ED.