Oftentimes, psychological issues as opposed to medical problems cause erectile dysfunction. With the invention of Viagra it seems so easy to treat ED these days- just pop the blue pill and the problem is solved. It is much more difficult to think about addressing deeper psychological issues that can be causing ED, and certainly takes a lot more time- but can be a more fulfilling and permanent fix.
There are many reasons you or your partner may experience psychological ED, such as:
1) Pressure to perform. There is a great amount of societal pressure put on men in all arenas, including the bedroom. Men are supposed to be successful in their job, support their family, be emotionally tough and infallible, and be in control and please their partner sexually. All of this adds up to a significant amount of pressure that can weigh on a man. Thinking too much about trying to get an erection can actually have the opposite effect.
2) Stress and distraction. If you are stressed with other parts of your life, such as worrying about how to pay the mortgage next month, whether you’re going to get that promotion, or concerned about caring for a family member, these things can encroach on your intimate moments. It is difficult to focus on pleasure when there are so many problems weighing on your mind. Sex is like meditation in a way- it takes a lot of focus and being in the moment.
3) Low self-esteem. If you are not comfortable with the way you look or feel, of course it will be difficult to be intimate with someone else. Constantly worrying about how your body looks or if you are a good enough lover can damper feelings of passion.
4) Communication difficulties. If you feel like you cannot talk to your partner, this blocks you from ever solving the issues of ED. It is a sensitive topic that needs to be talked about in the correct way, or it can just become more pressure and shame for the person suffering from ED. In addition, the partner of a person who suffers from ED may sometimes feel like the problem is them- they think they are not attractive or sexy enough for their partner. This can lead to the partner saying potentially hurtful things as a defense mechanism.
So how can you help yourself or your partner when ED strikes? Here are some natural tips:
1) Take the pressure off. Next time you want to be intimate, go into it without expectations. Try an exercise called sensate focus- concentrate on being intimate with your partner through touch, but without the pressure of it actually leading to intercourse. The first phase of sensate focus is non-sexual touching, such as massage and kissing. In the second phase, the clothes come off and sexual touch is allowed, but no intercourse. In the third phase comes actual mindful intercourse.
2) Reduce stress in your life. Address the things in your life that are stressing and distracting you. This is not a quick fix, but will make you happier not only in bed but also in your life in general.
3) Boost your self-esteem. Starting to be healthier, such as beginning a workout routine or diet, can be a boost for your self-esteem, especially when you start to see results. To help a partner with ED, try complimenting them more- tell them what you find sexy about them, or things you really like that they do in bed. Instead of criticizing, which is a common reaction to ED difficulties; pick out the positive things to say.
4) Talk to your partner. It is an incredibly awkward conversation to have, but completely necessary for the problem to improve. Be candid about the reasons you feel the ED is happening, what you would like to do about it, and how your partner can help. As the partner of someone with ED, it is best to bring up the subject when fully clothed and not in the bedroom. A good way to approach it is to start by saying something positive, and making the problem about you as a couple rather than just about him. For example, “I really love you and being intimate with you. I’ve noticed that we haven’t been clicking in the bedroom, and I want to talk about what we can do.”
5) Go to therapy. Sometimes ED can stem from deeper issues, such as childhood trauma, family issues, or bad relationships in the past. These are things that you can talk to your partner about, but it also may be helpful to see a therapist.
Author: Grace Norberg, AMFT