If, for the last three months, you have experienced an inability to attain / sustain an erection sufficient for a satisfactory sexual experience and it bothers you (or your partner) then you meet the definition of having “An Erectile Dysfunction.” The term erectile dysfunction (ED), is frequently used by professionals because it is more precise than simply calling the problem ‘impotence’ impotence, includes not only the above definition of an ED but is also refers to a man being sterile and/or a man having a penis that lacks strength and vigor.
You are not alone. Having an Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common untreated problems in the world. In the United States alone, ED affects 20-30 million men. Contributing factors towards ED is cigarette smoking, medication (e.g. for high blood pressure, depression), kidney failure, diabetes, being out of shape, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety and communication problems.
While sex is a private matter, usually only discussed between you and your partner, you might benefit from working with a urologist who specializes in ED and a therapist specializing in sexual health to improve the quality of your sex life. The urologist will help you cope with the medical aspects of the problem. Specifically, he will perform special tests to evaluate the nerves, arteries and veins that control the erection process. If a medical problem is found, he can perform surgery and / or prescribe medication. A sex therapist will help you cope with the psychological aspects contributing towards your ED. Common psychological issues are: depression, anxiety about sexual performance, stress from home or work life, marriage problems, and unresolved sexual orientation issues. Most people who seek treatment for ED experience some degree of embarrassment, guilt and poor self-esteem. The role of a physician and a therapist is to help you fix the situation, not to judge you. Remember, when you are seeking help, you are not paying the person to be your friend, you are paying the person to provide you with the tools to enable you to maintain an erection so that you can have a satisfying sex.
Sexperts agree, the first step towards treating an Erectile dysfunction is to understand the definition. The second step is to rule out medical factors causing the problem. Please note, if a man is able to achieve an erection during sleep, then the ED is most likely caused from a psychological issue and better treated by a therapist. The therapist will help couples develop good communication skills. Typically, when a sex related problem develops couples begin to avoid, deny or become angry that there is a problem. Through a commitment to an exploration of the treatment options and talking about ones thoughts and feelings most people will resume having a good sex life.
Anne Aja, Ed.D
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and Diplomate in Sex Therapy