Erectile Dysfunction, how it can affect both of you and what to do about it
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual problem and will affect most men at some point in their lives, even if it is just a one off.
This is because it can often be caused by stress, worry, anxiety, depression, tiredness, or too much alcohol which can be experienced by any one of us. If ED continues for a longer period however, it could be an indication that these psychological symptoms are more than just a bad day at work. There could also be a physical cause, which include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Alcohol and substance abuse
If you have experienced ED more than a one off, it is advisable to see a GP, as it may be a symptom of health issues that need to be dealt with. There are very good drug treatments available for ED, which you can get from your GP. However, most sex therapists would agree that drug treatment and talking therapy combined is the most successful way to treat it. To give an example, I once worked with a couple in which the husband had ED due to a physical problem. He had had ED for so long that he was feeling anxious about having sex, even when he was taking the correct medication.
This was because he was worried that the medication wouldn’t work for him. This anxiety (which wasn’t the original reason for the ED) was then affecting how well the medication was working and was also making the husband avoid having sex with his wife. His wife subsequently, could not understand why he was making up excuses not to have sex, especially now that they had a “cure”. In this case, it was vital that a combined approach was taken. The ED would not have been resolved without the drug, however, the husband needed to build up confidence and let go of his anxiety and his wife needed to understand why he was avoiding sex and that it was not about avoiding her. Once the anxiety was alleviated for both of them and the husband was able to gain confidence, they were able to have a very satisfying love life, which worked for them. One problem with ED is that it is often seen as simply a medical problem, pop a pill and all will be well. However, this is simply not the case, as demonstrated above. Often, the partner is not taken into consideration.
It is not uncommon for the partner to blame themselves, wondering whether their loved one doesn’t find them attractive any more, are they no longer exciting enough? Are they heading towards the end of their sex life? This anxiety can lead to problems in the relationship, which can lead to stress and anxiety, and so the cycle continues. Obviously, it could also be that there are problems in the relationship that are causing the ED. How the ED is handled by the partner will greatly affect the chances of the ED occurring again. If you blame or criticise your partner for not gaining or perhaps losing his erection, he will feel very anxious when trying to have sex again. Either way, there are some elements of ED that cannot be solved by medication alone.
So what can you and your partner do when it comes to ED? Here are a few suggestions- Talk to each other, explain to each other how the ED is affecting you. Ask your partner if he is worried, tired, depressed etc. If you are the person with the ED, tell your partner if you are experiencing any of those things. If you are not, say so and consider that it may be physical. If your partner experiences ED, don’t blame them or yourself. Don’t criticise them but instead be gentle with them, tell them it’s OK. If you have ED, realise that this does not make you less of a man, simply that there are a few things that need to be addressed. The body has an amazing way of giving us messages about what we are ignoring. GET HELP! Don’t suffer in silence. Encourage your partner with ED to go to his GP and go with him.
If you are the one with ED, invite your partner along to your appointment. Find out about what the real reasons could be and what you can do about it. Seek out a trained sex therapist who deals with ED and how it affects couples. They will give you exercises to do as a couple that will help you both, and will also stop the ED. And finally, don’t buy drugs off the internet, as they are likely to be counterfeit.
See your GP and get a physical examination done to rule out any physical problems. Stop blaming yourself and take some control over your sex life.