Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which men struggle with erection issues: A man may be unable to maintain an erection while having sex or find he can’t achieve an erection at all. It is estimated that anywhere from 15 to 30 million men suffer from erectile dysfunction. Tracking exact statistics is difficult: not only because ED is used so broadly (and occasionally inaccurately, often being mistaken for premature ejaculation, for instance), but also because many men are hesitant and embarrassed to come forward and discuss their sexual difficulties, even with their own physicians.
Sadly, this shame can prevent men from getting the valuable assistance they need. Sometimes ignoring ED can even put a man’s life at risk because many cases of ED are early warning sigs of serious health conditions. Poor circulation, for one, can lead to ED and may also put a man at risk for heart disease.
There are many other health issues that are linked to ED:
- It is believed that up to 70 percent of men suffer from ED due to disease-related nerve and tissue damage. These diseases include vascular disease, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.
- Lifestyle factors such as being overweight or a cigarette smoker have also been linked to ED — as these negatively impact blood flow.
- Alcoholism and ED are also interlinked. Alcoholism not only takes a toll on the body, but also has emotional repercussions as well that affect a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
- Stress, guilt, depression, and anxiety can all complicate sexual response and erectile function, and relationship issues can also lead to issues in the bedroom.
Unfortunately, for most couples, this can become a bit of a vicious cycle: The couple gets off track in their relationship. They begin arguing more often. Then the man carries that stress into the bedroom. The stress affects his enjoyment of sex and his ability to achieve or keep an erection. The woman takes this as proof that he isn’t interested in her, and the anger and resentment grows, which further complicates and harms their bond both sexually and emotional.
Erectile dysfunction is also often related to performance anxiety. Once the man suffers a few ED experiences, he begins to stress over it happening it again, thereby tingeing each sexual experience with anxiety and sexual shame. It’s difficult to put this stress and shame to the side and simply enjoy sex, particularly if the man’s partner was less than understanding or supportive about their recent ED experience.
As you can see, ED is a multifaceted problem, one that can impact both partners and their relationship just as it impacts a man’s mind and body. A comprehensive treatment plan and a commitment to joint sexual enjoyment can help a couple get back on track and connect with each other once again.