Coping With Erectile Dysfuntion

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Erectile dysfunction occurs when you can not get an erection that is firm enough to have a satisfying sexual experience. It can also be defined as when you can not keep an erection for long enough to have a satisfying sexual experience. Because everyone's expectations for sex are different, there is not a specific time or firmness requirement for diagnosis. It's all about whether your erection allows you to meet your sexual needs and desires as well as those of your partner.

The first thing to do if you are experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction is to talk to your doctor. There are a number of medical conditions, as well as medications that you may be taking for those conditions, that have the potential to cause problems getting or sustaining an erection. Erectile problems can also occur as a function of age and stress. Therefore, it's useful to know what's most likely to be causing your erectile dysfunction so that you're aware of the options for treating it.

However, identifying potential treatments for erectile dysfunction is only part of learning to cope with the condition. It can also be helpful to change how you think about, and talk about, sex.

Emotional

For many people, sex is intimately intertwined with well-being. Therefore, erectile dysfunction and other types of sexual health problems can make people feel less manly (or womanly). They can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Feeling sad or anxious is normal when you are learning to cope with erectile dysfunction, and these feelings do not mean anything else is wrong.

However, it's important to find ways to constructively address those feelings, such as by talking with a therapist. Anxiety and depression may be a natural side effect of erectile problems, but they can also make those problems worse. Fortunately, addressing these concerns with cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and other techniques may be able to help some people with erectile dysfunction. These therapeutic techniques can also make it easier to cope with some of the more difficult types of erectile dysfunction treatment, such as intercavernosal injections.

It's also important to remember that erectile dysfunction isn't about masculininity or attractiveness. It's a medical condition that can be caused by both physical and psychological factors. More than that, it's a medical condition that may affect as many as half of all men over the course of their life span.

Relationships

Erectile dysfunction affects sexual interactions. For someone with erectile dysfunction who is in a relationship, that means their relationship may be affected as well. This is particularly a concern when erectile dysfunction leads to sexual avoidance. When a person starts to avoid sex, and doesn't communicate about their reasons, their partner may assume that the avoidance is about them or something they did. They may start to blame themselves, or change behaviors in a way that can cause further problems in the relationship.

That's why it's important to talk to your sexual partners if you're dealing with erectile dysfunction. Although that may be difficult to do, talking about sexual dysfunction makes it less likely that blame or other forms of negativity are brought into the relationship. Talking about sexual dysfunction can also reduce performance pressure, which can make it easier to talk about alternatives for sexual pleasure that may not need as firm, or as long, an erection.

If you have trouble talking about sex with your partner, or if your erectile function has been going on for a long time, it may help to seek out a couples therapist or sex therapist. A therapist can help make these conversations easier, and also help you come up with coping skills within your relationship. In addition, someone who is trained in sex therapy can help you explore different ways to have a satisfying sex life in the context of erectile dysfunction.

Physical

For many people, engaging in healthy exercise and having a healthy diet can improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction, or at least keep them from getting worse. This is because, where there is a physical cause for erectile dysfunction, it often has to do with the cardiovascular system. Therefore, good cardiovascular health helps with good erectile function.

In addition, regardless of the cause of erectile dysfunction, it's often made worse by stress. Light exercise, meditation, and similar types of activities can be great stress reduction techniques. These too can help improve your sexual function.

Social

Although many people don't feel comfortable discussing erectile dysfunction, attending a support group—either online or in person—can be helpful. Talking to a local urologist who specializes in erectile dysfunction may help you find a support group near you. Partners of individuals with erectile dysfunction may also benefit from looking for support. These support groups can be harder to find, but local doctors may have good resources. In addition, if your erectile dysfunction occurred after you experienced prostate cancer, there may be additional resources available that you find helpful.

Practical

The most important practical coping technique for erectile dysfunction is remembering that neither your sexual pleasure, nor your partner's, is dependent on your being able to get an erection. It is possible to have a satisfying sexual life that does not require an erection firm enough for penetration. However, that requires communication and a willingness to explore.

In many ways, communication is key when dealing with erectile dysfunction. Many treatments, medical and otherwise, are taken during or near the time of a sexual interaction. People may also use sexual aids like constriction rings (cock rings) or vacuum devices. These can interrupt sexual interactions, but with good communication they don't have to. Instead, techniques for helping with erectile dysfunction can become a joyful component of sexual play.

Erectile dysfunction doesn't change who you are, and coping with it shouldn't either. Yes, it can change how you have sex, but those changes aren't always permanent. They also aren't always for the worse. For some people, learning to cope with erectile dysfunction opens their eyes to options for better sex.

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  2. Allen MS. Physical activity as an adjunct treatment for erectile dysfunction. Nat Rev Urol. 2019;16(9):553-562. doi:10.1038/s41585-019-0210-6

  3. Fergus KB, Gaither TW, Baradaran N, Glidden DV, Cohen AJ, Breyer BN. Exercise Improves Self-Reported Sexual Function Among Physically Active Adults. J Sex Med. 2019;16(8):1236-1245. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.04.020

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