Mens Health | Sex and Marriage

26 Jan 2018

Understanding and Managing Erectile Dysfunction (ED) / Impotence

  1. Erectile Dysfunction can affect 52% of men aged 40 – 70*
  2. Physical ED, as distinct from psychological ED, may be due to nerve or blood vessel damage in the penis. This type of ED occurs in 30–50% of diabetic patients*
  • Problems with hormones is another factor, such as levels of testosterone or adrenaline in the blood stream*
  • Medications can cause ED as a side effect, especially anti-hypertensives, antidepressants, ulcer medications and antihistamines*
  • Nerves damaged by spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or through bladder, bowel or prostate surgery can give rise to ED*
  • Smoking and alcohol can damage arteries in the body and further aggravate ED*
  • Psychological ED can be caused by stress, fear, anger, frustration or shame that might be due to relational dynamics or coming from other sources. Within the sexual experience, premature ejaculation or ED could lead to negative associations and performance anxiety, which makes matters worse*

The sooner people talk about their ED difficulties with someone they can trust, the more likely they are to start finding solutions and so limit the knock-on effects which are largely psychological.

It’s a very difficult and personal topic because it relates directly to a man’s identity, which is really about his strength and ability to provide. Our sexuality is so intertwined with our self concept. So, when we are unable to perform sexually, we may feel like our position in life is threatened and this triggers a survival response of fight, flight or freeze. Our masculine identity is also tied in to being able to satisfy the woman in our lives, and ED can often lead to a breakdown of intimacy if couples don’t know how to discuss such problems directly and effectively.

Tips: A problem can be an opportunity in disguise. Another lovely quote is “It’s not so much the things that happen to us, but what we do with them that matters most.” ED could just be the call to growth that men and women need in their relationships. It may be a sign that the relationship has gone down and needs more attention. I would recommend couples consider couple counselling to ensure they are getting the most out of their lives together. I think it’s important to see ED as a temporary and sometimes inevitable indicator of the state of our lives. It usually signals a time for a stock-take on many levels.

Advice: Partners of those affected by ED need to be patient whilst also being persistent that this is a relational problem which should be shared, understood and addressed together. What happens to your partner affects you. So you must also act responsibly to ensure a solution is found.

Maintain intimacy: It’s a good time to rediscover each other in new ways and take pressure off the sexual relationship. Start dating one another again, learning about who your partner is, taking the focus off the end goal and enjoying the journey. It may be a good time to reintroduce foreplay without any need to have sexual intercourse for a while. It’s really about rebuilding a safe place in your relationship which will reduce levels of fear and anxiety.

Restoration: I am confident that with the right approach, many couples affected by ED can use it to reinvest in their relationships and hopefully discover even more to be appreciated and celebrated in each other.

*Source: Medical Essentials Health Information

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