Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection that is sufficient enough to engage in satisfactory sexual intercourse with a partner. But can erectile dysfunction be fixed, and is viagra the only solution?
We speak to Psychosexual and Relationship Psychotherapist Kate Moyle about the common causes of erectile dysfunction and how to treat the condition:
Why can’t I get an erection?
If you struggle to achieve or maintain an erection, it can be disappointing, but try not to lose hope. More often than not, erectile dysfunction is an emotional issue, and worrying about it tends to make things worse.
‘Erectile dysfunction is a male sexual dysfunction characterised by the inability to gain or maintain an erection of the penis,’ says Moyle. ‘Most commonly, this is associated with sexual activity, but it can also impact masturbation, self-confidence and relationships.’
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction can be impacted by both physical and psychological factors. ‘Sexual arousal is a complex process that involves hormones, the brain, emotions as well as the body, and a problem with any of these can therefore impact functioning,’ says Moyle.
‘Lifestyle factors such as stress and mental health can worsen or cause erectile dysfunction as we look beyond just pure biology to understand the problem. Anxiety because of erectile dysfunction due to a medical issue can also exacerbate the symptoms.’
Is erectile dysfunction a medical problem?
Some medical conditions contribute to erectile dysfunction. ‘To name just a couple - diabetes, heart disease, or conditions relating to the prostate, and also some medications can list erectile dysfunction as a side effect,’ says Moyle. ‘But aside from where there is a medical explanation for the dysfunction, the roots tend to be in psychology.’
Should I worry about erectile dysfunction?
If you occasionally struggle to get or keep an erection, this is perfectly common and usually nothing to worry about.
‘Occasional occurrence of erectile dysfunction is not uncommon or a concerning problem, but when there is repeated occurrence it can start to impact sexual self-confidence, self-confidence and anxiety, which can further worsen the dysfunction,’ adds Moyle.
How do you treat erectile dysfunction?
There are various methods available. ‘If erectile dysfunction is caused by a medical condition, anything to improve symptoms would have to be discussed with a medical professional,’ says Moyle.
‘Psychosexual Therapy can be very successful in helping understand symptoms and change thought processes and behaviour about the erectile dysfunction,’ she adds.
‘It can also help to combat anxiety with suggested exercises for getting back in touch with your body and re-establishing or re-learning getting an erection without the associated anxiety.’
💡Viagra Connect is now available to buy without prescription at Alpha XR.com
Can sex toys help with erectile dysfunction?
The good news is there are various sex aids available to get you back in the sack.
‘There are options such as cock rings or penis rings which can be worn around the base of the penis to trap blood in the penis and maintain the erection by not allowing blood to drain,’ says Moyle.
‘However, they should not be worn for a long period of time and should be elastic, as anything that cannot be stretched or removed once the penis is erect (eg. a metal ring) could cause damage to the penis. Penis rings can come in both circular and drawstring form.’
What drugs help erectile dysfunction?
‘There are a group of medications known as PDE5 Inhibitors which offer medical intervention, commonly known as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra & Stendra,’ says Moyle. ‘These however, do not work as an aphrodisiac but come into effect after sexual stimulation which affect the amount of blood delivered to and removed from the penis.’
How can I fix erectile dysfunction?
Kate Moyle offers the following advice on overcoming erectile dysfunction:
✔️ Try to understand what makes the problem worse or better, e.g. if you have had a very stressful day at work or you are feeling highly anxious.
✔️ See if there are any factors impacting you at the moment - for example the pressure to get pregnant.
✔️ Take the pressure off yourself and focus on enjoying the sensations of what you are doing.
✔️ Focusing on being in the moment and pleasurable sensations of touch will help to combat anxious thoughts.
✔️ You can't be both anxious and highly aroused at the same time so you need to focus your mind which can take practice but will really help.
✔️ The most likely way to have and maintain an erection is by being turned on and aroused so giving time and attention to foreplay will really help with this.
✔️ If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, have an open conversation with your partner about how you are feeling - if you don't explain then you will both assume the worst which can have a negative impact on your relationship.
My partner has erectile dysfunction, help!
If your partner suffers from erectile dysfunction, it can be confusing, but communication is key. ‘Try not to take it personally, it's likely your partner is giving themselves enough of a hard time already, and if they feel that they are under extra pressure from you it is likely to only make the problem worse,’ says Moyle.
‘Offer them reassurance and suggest that you do things together that still give you both closeness and intimacy such as taking a bath or shower together, offering each other massages and being naked together but without the pressure to have sex. Without the pressure to perform you are both more likely to enjoy yourselves.
‘There are plenty more things that you can do together to be sexual, experience pleasure and have fun which do not require an erection, so be open to exploring each other's bodies in new ways. Most importantly communicate about the problem and talk to each other about it, you are much more likely to be able to solve the problem together if you both know what the other is thinking.’
Sexual health resources
The following resources can help ED sufferers and their partners:
NHS.UK: to check for any medical issues or be referred to a therapist, visit you local GP or local sexual health centre.
College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists: find therapists that are able to work with any relationship or sexual issues on this directory.
Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: if you feel you are affected by sexual compulsivity, try the ATSAC.
sh-womenstore.com: the Sh! Erotic Emporium has a wide array of sex aids and advice on how to use them.
Sexual Advice Association: A charity which aims to help improve the sexual health and wellbeing of men and women.
The Institute of Psychosexual Medicine: The IPM is a registered charity which provides education, training and research in psychosexual medicine.