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ED: Why You Don't Have to Get So Down About Not Getting It Up

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The words 'impotence' and 'erectile dysfunction' (ED) can strike fear into the hearts of even the most reasonable men. After all, for ages men have been conditioned to feel as though they should always want sex, and that they should always be able to provide it to any willing partner.

For its part, ED is generally defined as a recurring condition in which a man is unable to get or keep an erection.

You're forgiven if you think that even a little difficulty in this department means that you should start stocking up on Viagra. There are a number of falsehoods about ED floating around from schoolyards to saloons.

ED Mythology First off, there are some myths that need debunking:
* If I have trouble getting hard once, it means I'm impotent. Not so. Not so by a longshot. It's probably not a stretch to say that almost every sexually active man on the planet has had difficulty getting hard at least once. If you have trouble getting hard only once, you're in the minority.

* Well, if I'm having trouble getting an erection, that must mean that I have a lower sex-drive, or I don't really want sex, right? Not at all. The problem here isn't with sex, it's with erections, and one doesn't necessarily equal the other. Besides, great sex is very possible without erections.

* If I do have ED, it's the end of my sex life. Hardly! There's much more to sex than penis-in-vagina intercourse. In fact, if you haven't already explored many of the other possibilities to a great sex life, this is the perfect opportunity. Explore Scarleteen for some enlightenment, if you aren't sure where to start. That aside, there are treatments if your ED is chronic. Read on to find out about them.

* But I can't have it, only men over 50 get ED. Yes, as men get older, the likelihood that they'll deal with ED increases, but by no means is ED limited to men over 50, or 60, or even 20. No matter your age, there are various factors that could contribute to ED.

* I should learn to live with my ED. No, you shouldn't. And cheer up, there's no need to be resigned to a life without erections. Moreover, the emotional stress that it brings about can be the worst part. If your condition is recurring, see a doctor, there's a solid chance that good will come of it.

Causes of ED Erections start in the brain, and end up... well, you know where they end up. Arousal happens in your brain, and a chemical reaction allows the muscle that keeps blood from flowing to the penis to relax. Between the brain and the penis, many things can happen prevent erections. That means that there are a number of possible causes. They're all grouped into two broad categories.

If your condition occurred without any buildup - any warning - it's likely psychological - perhaps tied to stress in one way or another. You and your partner will have to work together to get past this sort of problem, but it's one that will likely get better with time. You may eventually find the need to talk with a therapist about it, but not everyone does.

If you've noticed however, that over a longer period of time, erections have been fewer and farther between, it could be a medical problem that's causing the difficulty. Medical problems like this usually worsen gradually, until the person experiencing them is completely unable to get an erection. If you fit this description, a visit to the doctor is unavoidable. It could be damaged nerves, or blocked arteries that are causing the ED, and that's serious stuff.

Outside of those two broad categories, ED has many potential causes and contributing factors, some of which you can control, and some of which you can't.

* Stress and other psychological factors. This is a very common cause of ED, and it often sets off a vicious cycle of 'performance anxiety' that can be difficult to break out of. The key is to relax. It can be tough to avoid, but worrying will only make the problem worse. If this is the problem for you, the best first step is to tell your partner(s) about it, and ask them for help. Once they know about it, it will only get easier.

* Cardiovascular diseases. These can make it more difficult for blood to flow to the penis. If this is a cause of your ED, there is little you can do to alleviate the ED in particular. Rather, you simply need to follow the medical treatments that your doctor has prescribed.

* Medications. Various medications including (but not limited to) those for depression, insomnia and kidney and liver diseases can affect the nerve impulses that lead to erections. Common medications such as antihistamines, appetite suppressants and blood pressure medications can also have the same effects. If you feel this could be causing or contributing to your ED, do not stop taking your medication before consulting your doctor. There may be other treatments or alternatives that could work.

* Diabetes. This can damage the nerves that control blood flow.

* Smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels, and so blood flow to the penis is reduced.

* Alcohol or drug use and fatigue. These can contribute to, or cause ED in both the short and long-term.

Treatments for ED There are many treatments available to ED patients. The use of these treatments depends on many factors: age, physical, mental and social conditions and others. None of them should be undertaken without first consulting a doctor.

* Therapy. Obviously, this is only effective for those patients whose difficulties are not physical.

*Hormone treatments. This works only in cases where hormonal imbalances are the main cause.

* Vacuum devices. A simple device that works exactly as the name implies, like a vacuum. This is primarily used to treat those with blood disorders, or who use blood thinners.

* Surgery. If your ED is due to damaged nerves, arteries or cardiovascular problems, you might want to consider surgery.

Again, it's important to ask your doctor about all the potential treatments that could work for you. Find out about the pros and cons of each. Though, if you're talking with your doctor about it, you're already taking that most important first step.

written 20 Apr 2007 . updated 17 Sep 2013

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