Impotency and erectile dysfunction are often considered a problem as men age, but the truth is it can happen at any time. Many factors contribute to a man’s ability to perform sexually. Many of them are associated with physical issues, but mental and emotional well-being also play an important role.
If you or your partner has struggled with erectile dysfunction, it’s important to address all of the potential causes. Once a physical issue is treated or ruled out, dealing with the emotional issues linked to ED is an essential part of creating a healthy sex life.
First, it’s important to understand that most men have a single experience of erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives. According to Tobias Köhler, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., and a urologist at the Mayo Clinic, “Few guys bat a thousand in the bedroom, and an off night is usually nothing to worry about.”
What can be a problem is when it happens on consecutive occasions or occurs several times within a certain period. Additionally, if you suspect an occurrence of ED is linked to another health issue, it’s important to take it seriously even if the problem is not consistent.
It’s important to understand that issues with ED can develop into a cycle of problems. One off-night can trigger anxiety, which then leads to additional performance issues. Addressing all aspects of the problem and understanding the cause or causes is the best thing you can do to treat the problem.
What are some of the most common mental and emotional contributors to erectile dysfunction?
Anxiety and Stress
These are two closely related factors that are often linked to ED. These two things work together to create a cycle that affects sexual performance.
A man might be stressed about an unrelated matter and that stress affects his ability to get or maintain an erection. He then feels anxious about that inability and it causes stress going forward during sexual encounters.
It might seem obvious to some people, but many people assume that men can perform sexually regardless of how they feel about their partner as long as they find that person physically attractive. But this is often not the case. Men have a need to feel secure in their relationship and if that relationship seems to be on rocky ground, it can affect sexual performance.
Unfortunately, this can also create a cycle of problems. Lack of intimacy puts strain on a relationship, further exacerbating the couple’s problems.
Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a mental illness that interferes with all aspects of your life. It makes you feel emotionally and physically heavy and hopeless. It also causes you to lose interest in things you once loved, including intimacy and sex.
Guilt and Self-Esteem Issues
Often, the pressure men put on themselves to satisfy their partner leads to problems with ED. If they do not feel confident or they experience guilt about their part in relationship intimacy, it can create a cycle of problems.
Additionally, some people experience feelings of shame or guilt linked to sexuality. These issues are usually deep-seated and begin during childhood or adolescence. This can be an issue even if someone has been in previously satisfying sexual relationships or a current relationship used to be satisfying but something changed.
If you suspect guilt, shame, or self-esteem play an issue in sexual performance and ED, it’s important to speak to a professional. These emotional issues tend to be complex and require professional guidance to resolve.
The prevalence of porn addiction has exploded in recent decades, due in large part to the easy access people have to the material via their technological devices. Never before has pornography been so affordable and so accessible.
Viewing porn tends to alter a person’s sexual response. It causes unrealistic expectations and leads to something called hyperstimulation, which occurs when someone trains themselves to derive more physical stimulation from masturbation than from sexual intercourse with a partner.
Determine If the Problem is Physical or Psychological
How can you tell if your issues with ED are physical or psychological?
First, understand it could be both. This is why it’s important to seek medical attention for an ongoing problem. You first need to rule out any serious health concerns and make sure the problem is not linked to a physical health issue. Your doctor will likely conduct the following tests to rule out a physical cause:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Fasting glucose or glycated hemoglobin (A1C)
- Comprehensive metabolic profile
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone
- Lipid profile
- Serum total testosterone
Next, you’ll want to answer the following questions and discuss your answers with your doctor:
- Are you interested in sex?
- Do you find your partner attractive?
- Do you awaken in the morning with an erection?
- Do you achieve an erection during masturbation?
- Are you dealing with stress or anxiety in other areas of your life?
- Do you feel anxious or nervous about your sexual performance?
Regardless of the cause of ED, the following can help you manage the problem. These practices can be used on your own or in conjunction with any other medical treatments suggested by your doctor.
- Breathing exercises
- Guided imagery
For many, the key to overcoming ED is recognizing the power you have to manage the issue, while also feeling confident and comfortable enough to seek medical attention for the problem.