ED can cause a man to feel anger, frustration or sadness, or to lack confidence. Discover how to deal with these emotions, manage relationship problems, and have a fulfilling sex life despite erectile dysfunction.
Coping with Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction takes more than a physical toll. The emotional impact the condition can have on a man and his partner can be just as difficult. It is common for men with ED to feel anger, frustration, sadness, or lack confidence. However, the condition can be treated. The first step in addressing your concerns about ED is to be honest with yourself, your partner, and your doctor. Once ED has been brought out into the open, coping with it as you go through treatment will be easier and less stressful. Communication is essential to a successful diagnosis and treatment, as well as, helping your partner understand your feelings.
While you are being treated for ED, it is important to be patient with your progress and keep in mind that everybody is different and that a treatment that might work for one person may not work or be appropriate for you. It is also important to know that the treatment you choose may not work the first time or may not work every time. At least 90% of the time ED is caused by physical conditions such as diabetes or peripheral vascular disease or neurological conditions.
For some couples, sex therapy may be necessary to help you and your partner cope. It may also help you to hear from some men who have ED and learn about their experiences. Contact your doctor about local support groups in your area.
Erectile Dysfunction: Talking to Your Partner
If you have erectile dysfunction (ED), you may experience many emotions, including anger and resentment. While this is understandable, you shouldn’t “shut out” your partner while dealing with the problem. Your partner is also affected by your condition. Not only is good communication essential to successful diagnosis and treatment, it can help your partner understand what you are going through.
The best way to communicate with your partner is to talk openly about sex and your relationship. Try to get past the initial embarrassment and awkwardness so that you can resolve the problem.
Here are some tips to help get the conversation started.
- Explain your medical condition in a clear and truthful way. Your doctor can give you literature on the condition to share with your partner.
- Discuss treatment options with your partner.
- Explore alternative techniques to receive sexual pleasure.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Consider couples counseling.
If Your Partner Has ED
Erectile dysfunction can take a toll on a relationship. You’ll want to support and encourage your partner as he manages his condition. It’s also important to take care of yourself, too.
Start with these strategies.
- Learn as much as you can about ED. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be able to help your partner. You can talk about the lifestyle changes and medical treatments that could help.
- Let him know how much you value him. Remind him that ED isn’t a reflection on his masculinity, and that it hasn’t changed how you feel about him. Assure him that you’ll get through this together.
- Talk about how you feel. You’re affected, too. Just like anything else that’s going on in your relationship, it can help to talk about it.
- Stay positive. Discuss what you and your partner want and need and how to achieve it. Also, keep in mind that the condition is common and can be treated.
- Adjust your sex life. Find other ways to please and satisfy each other so that he doesn’t feel pressured to perform.
- Offer to go with him to the doctor. Even if he decides to go on his own, he’ll know you want to be there for him.
- Remind him to let his doctor know how he’s doing. Is his treatment working? Does he have questions or side effects? Encourage him to update his doctor about that.
- Keep up the other intimate parts of your relationship. Feeling close to each other can include more than sex. You may also want to talk to a counselor, if the changes related to ED are worrying the two of you.
Erectile Dysfunction: Maintaining Intimacy
If you’re going through ED, it’s important to know that sex isn’t the only way to be intimate with your partner.
There are all kinds of ways to remain close:
Talk about your feelings: Sharing in this way can make the two of you closer. Talk about each other’s needs and concerns. It’ll really help you overcome barriers.
Do things together: Hobbies, sports, volunteering, or other shared interests can bring you two closer together. Whatever it is, go out there and do it together.
Make time to be alone together: Share a bath or a candlelight dinner. Even a walk, or just holding each other in bed can go a long way.
Try something new in the bedroom: Explore new techniques that can bring pleasure without sex. Books on alternative sexual practices are available.
Talk to a counselor: Think about getting some sessions with a professional therapist. Talking with someone about what’s troubling you can have real benefits.
And finally, have fun. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy life.
Sex and Romance: Working Together to Relight the Fire
If you’re experiencing erection problems, you’re probably not alone. Your spouse or partner is also affected. Fortunately, there’s plenty both of you can do to overcome ED and enjoy better and more intimate sex.
Get a Checkup
The first step when you begin to notice persistent problems getting an erection is to make an appointment to see your doctor. Erectile dysfunction is a vascular disease (a blood vessel problem) and often is associated with other vascular diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
The ability to develop and maintain an erection depends on healthy blood vessels. When arteries become clogged with cholesterol or damaged by high blood pressure, blood flow into the penis can be impaired.
Men over age 55 with erectile dysfunction have a 50% greater risk of developing heart disease than men without erection problems. Younger men with erection problems have an even higher risk of heart disease.
Tweak Your Diet
Smarter food choices can help reduce risk factors linked to erection problems, including high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. As with many conditions, when more risk factors are present, they increase the risk of the disease.
The basic advice may be familiar, but many men still don’t follow it:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables – 5 to 9 servings a day.
- Consume less salt by eating less processed food, which is often high in sodium.
- Eat more fish, poultry, and other sources of lean protein.
- Cut back on red meat.
- Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
- If weight is a problem, gradually trim your portion sizes.
Making changes in the way you eat isn’t easy, of course. When a couple makes healthy changes together, they improve the chances of success.
Lose a Few Pounds
Obesity is also associated with lower-than-normal testosterone levels in men, which can cause a loss of sex drive. Consuming fewer calories by eating less and burning more calories by increasing physical activity are effective ways to lose weight.
Regular physical activity not only helps maintain a healthy weight, it also improves the function of heart and blood vessels. That, in turn, could help improve the quality of your erection. Some studies have indicated that men who exercise regularly have a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction. In addition, the more fit you are, the more energy you’re likely to have for sex. Finding activities to do with your partner can help strengthen your relationship and enhance your sense of intimacy.
Put Out the Cigarette
Men who smoke are at a greater risk of developing erection problems. Smoking damages the small vessels that deliver blood to the penis. In a 2005 study of 2,115 men, current smokers were 2.5 times more likely to suffer ED than nonsmoking men. Former smokers who had kicked the habit dramatically reduced their risk.
Quitting smoking is never easy. But millions have done it. Support from your spouse or partner improves your odds of success. Your doctor can also help by prescribing nicotine replacement therapies or other treatments and pointing you toward effective smoking cessation programs.
Getting a firm erection is a matter both of mind and body. Even if the problem has physical causes, such as impaired circulation, emotional and psychological worries often makes things worse. Stress at work or home can make it difficult to relax and enjoy sex.
Erection problems can make sex itself stressful. To reduce stress, make a list of the main worries in your life right now. Identify those that you can change. Then find ways to ease the unavoidable stresses. Take 10 minutes now and then to sit quietly, relax, and focus on your breathing.
Other effective ways to ease stress include yoga, meditation, physical activities such as walking or swimming, and simply doing things you enjoy, such as listening to music or talking with a friend. Spending quality time with your spouse or partner is another good way to ease stress. One great way to get quality time with one another is to take a vacation together.
Sex Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction
During the session, the counselor will give the patient “assignments” to do at home, such as:
- Reading books about sexuality
- Touching exercises that are designed to take away the pressure to perform during sex
- Practicing better sexual communication skills
Sex therapy may be useful for treating erectile dysfunction if a man is able to have a normal erection during sleep, the results of his physical exam and blood tests are normal, and he is generally in good health. Sex therapy may also be helpful when erectile dysfunction is caused by stress resulting from work worries, financial worries, relationship conflicts, and poor sexual communication. In these cases, sex therapy may be the best treatment option.
Does Sex Therapy Work?
Sex therapy is most effective when a man’s sexual partner is willing to be part of the treatment. Studies have shown that for men with stress-related ED, having the partner involved in the therapy resolves the problem 50%-70% of the time. When the man must go through counseling alone, the results are somewhat lower.
Sex therapy is unlikely to work if a man drops out of treatment after only one or two sessions.
Sometimes, several sessions of sexual counseling can be helpful to a man who is going to receive medical or surgical treatment for erectile dysfunction. A counselor can help guide a couple in agreeing on a treatment or help them improve their sexual communication and lovemaking skills. A single man may benefit from counseling on how to talk to his partner about penile injections or a vacuum constriction device, both treatments for ED.
Erectile Dysfunction and Depression
It is not uncommon for men with erectile dysfunction to feel angry, frustrated, sad, or insecure. Such feelings, if not dealt with, can sometimes lead to clinical depression in men with a biological vulnerability to depression.
Depression that accompanies ED is treatable. The first step in overcoming depression is to be honest with yourself, your partner, and your doctor. After depression has been brought out into the open, coping with it will be easier and less stressful.
Depression is an illness marked by persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and a pessimistic outlook.
Some of the symptoms of depression include:
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities (such as sex and hobbies)
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Drug and/or alcohol use
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression affects the way one feels about oneself and life in general. People who are depressed cannot simply “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms of depression can last indefinitely. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression get back on track.
If you think you may be depressed, don’t suffer in silence. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness. Tell your doctor how you are feeling so that you can start feeling like yourself again.
There is no single test that can diagnose depression; however, there are certain patterns that doctors look for in order to make the diagnosis. As a result, your doctor will ask you several questions. Be honest with your answers so that you can receive the care you need.
Treatment for depression may include medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both.
- Antidepressants: Many different drugs, including Prozac, Zoloft, Elavil, and Wellbutrin, are used to treat depression. Some antidepressants can worsen ED, so be honest with your doctor about your condition so that he or she can prescribe an appropriate treatment.
- Talk therapy: During therapy, a licensed and trained mental health care professional helps you identify and work through issues related to depression. Types of talk therapy include couples therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy.
Erectile Dysfunction and Stress Management
Everyone experiences stress. Our bodies are designed to feel stress and react to it. It keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. But, when stress persists, the body begins to break down and problems like erectile dysfunction can occur. The key to coping with stress is identifying those conditions in your life causing the stress and learning ways to reduce them.
What Is Stress?
Stress is your reaction to any change that requires you to adjust or respond. It’s important to remember that you can control stress, because stress comes from how you respond to stressful events, not the events themselves.
What Causes Stress?
Stress can be caused by anything — good and bad. Your body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. We all have our own ways of coping with change, so the causes of stress can be different for each person.
Common causes of stress include:
- Death of a loved one
- Legal problems
- Job loss
- New job
- Money problems
When you are not sure of the exact cause of your stress, it may help to know the warning signs of stress. Once you can identify these signs, you can learn how your body responds to stress. Then you can take steps to reduce it.
What Are the Warning Signs of Stress?
Your body sends out physical, emotional, and behavioral warning signs of stress.
Emotional warning signs of stress may include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Unproductive worry
- Frequent mood swings
Physical warning signs of stress may include:
- Stooped posture
- Sweaty palms
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight gain or loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Stomach pains
- Blood pressure elevation
- Changes in bowel habits
- Stomach pains
- Sleep disturbance
Behavioral warning signs of stress include:
- Acting on impulse
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawing from relationships
- Changing jobs often
- Eating disorders
How Can I Cope With Stress?
To help cope with stress:
- Lower your expectations; accept that there are events you cannot control.
- Ask others to help or assist you.
- Take responsibility for the situation.
- Engage in problem solving.
- Express distressing emotions. Be assertive instead of aggressive. “Assert” your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
- Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
- Maintain emotional composure.
- Challenge previously held beliefs that are no longer adaptive.
- Directly attempt to change or eliminate the source of stress.
- Distance yourself from the source of stress, if possible.
- Learn to relax.
- Eat and drink sensibly.
- Stop smoking or other bad habits.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Experts agree that coping is a process rather than an event. Thus, an individual may alternate between several of the above coping strategies in order to cope with a stressful event.
When Should I Seek Help for Stress?
You should seek help in dealing with stress when you experience any of the following:
- Marked decline in work/school performance.
- Excess anxiety.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Inability to cope with demands of daily life.
- Irrational fears.
- Obsessive preoccupation with food and fear of becoming obese with no relationship to actual body weight.
- Significant change in sleeping or eating habits.
- Persistent physical ailments and complaints.
- Suicidal thoughts or urge to hurt others.
- Self-mutilation, self-destructive or dangerous behavior.
- Sustained, withdrawn mood or antisocial behavior.
- Decline or marked indifference in interpersonal relationships.