Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship; put simply, couples who talk together, stay together. But what happens when they come up against sexual difficulties? If you’re not careful, even the best couple can see their communication break down as their relationship becomes strained by these difficulties.
Erectile dysfunction can cause a great deal of conflict and emotional pain for a couple, especially as it drives them further apart. Couples may refuse to come to terms with the condition, resulting in delayed treatment. But this doesn’t have to be the case – erectile dysfunction can be resolved when couples have open communication and are both committed to understanding the condition and possible treatments.
The first step toward dealing with erectile dysfunction is to accept and understand it. As of 1992, the National Institute of Health explained erectile dysfunction as ‘the inability to sustain or achieve an erection.’ Defining the condition in this way is far more precise than labeling the problem as ‘impotence’ which has more vague connotations with being sterile or lacking strength.
To overcome erectile dysfunction, it’s critical for couples to communicate openly, showing each other love, affection, and a mutual desire to tackle the treatment head-on.
This online brochure is intended to help couples understand erectile dysfunction and how to approach the various possible treatments. It’s important for couples to have a dialogue as they decide on approaching knowledgeable physicians to discuss possible options moving forwards.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Sometimes referred to as ‘impotence’, erectile dysfunction refers to the inability for a man to achieve or maintain an erection strong enough for penetrative intercourse.
It’s a common enough condition, with an estimated 18 million men dealing with it in the USA alone. The good news is that it’s often treatable, but less than 10% of men actually go through with treatment. This is likely due to their reluctance to discuss it with a doctor, along with some doctors not feeling comfortable enough to address the topic.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Since erectile dysfunction is so common, most men tend to experience the condition at some point in their lives. These temporary waves are usually caused by fatigue, stress, or even alcohol consumption. Although a temporary loss of an erection is nothing to be overly concerned about, when this persists or interferes with a normal sex life, it’s recommended that men take action and seek medical advice.
In the past, the healthcare industry assumed erectile dysfunction was caused by mental and emotional conflicts. Men were often assured that it was ‘just in their head’ and nothing to worry about. Today, however, experts believe that up to 70% of erectile dysfunction cases are due to physical conditions. Psychological factors account for 30%, although many cases are a result of a combination of both psychological and physical factors.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction tend to start quite gradually and slowly get worse over time. Some of these causes can include:
- Blocked arteries
- Neurological disorders
- Erectile tissue disease
- Pelvic surgery or trauma
- Side effects from various mediations
- Chronic diseases (including kidney and liver failure)
- Hormonal abnormalities
- Drug abuse
- Heavy smoking
If a man experiences a sudden inability to achieve an erection, this can often be down to psychological causes. Just like the mere thought of sex can provoke an erection, negative thoughts can inhibit an erection. Despite this, men can still experience erections at other times, such as when they sleep or wake up in the morning.
Possible psychological causes that lead to erectile dysfunction include:
- Stress or anxiety from work or home
- Worries concerning their sexual performance
- Tension in a relationship or marriage
- Unresolved sexual orientation
Whether caused by physical, psychological or a combination of factors, erectile dysfunction can always become a source of mental, emotional, and even physical stress and should always be addressed. Considering erectile dysfunction can even be a symptom of more serious conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, it’s a medical concern that should always be addressed.
Which Doctors Treat Erectile Dysfunction?
It’s not too difficult to find someone to treat erectile dysfunction, since most doctors are qualified to diagnose and treat it. Still, it’s always best to find a physician who regularly diagnoses and treats the condition, as well as one who stays updated on the latest research and treatments. Urologists tend to be the most knowledgeable, but psychiatrists and psychologists also treat erectile dysfunction regularly too.
It’s vital, however, that the doctor who treats your erectile dysfunction is not only knowledgeable about the condition but understands its potential impact on a man and his partner and is willing to discuss the pros and cons of each available option.
Can Someone Be Too Old for Treatment?
Although age is by no means a barrier to treatment, the wrong attitude absolutely is. Many see erectile dysfunction as just a natural part of aging. As a result, a lot of men simply give up instead of seeking treatment. They assume they’re too old or makeup excuses, such as being too busy or not being interested in sex anymore. But information is available to help men of all ages discover the range of treatments available.
Should Couples Seek Treatment Together?
It’s not unusual for a man to prefer dealing with their erectile dysfunction with no help from their partner. From seeking medical advice to going through with treatment, going at it alone can be the best approach for some.
However, according to many doctors, treatment can be more effective with couples work together for a mutually beneficial approach.
What Happens During the First Visit?
When you first visit a doctor to deal with your erectile dysfunction, you’ll have to undergo a thorough examination.
This includes a detailed inspection of your medical and sexual history as well as a physical exam and simple lab tests.
The results help your doctor determine both the cause and seriousness of the condition, as well as identify the most effective treatment. Throughout the whole visit, the partner can play an important part by supporting the man and giving encouragement and reassurance.
How Are Men Affected by Erectile Dysfunction?
For many men, sexual function can define and shape their identity. So, losing your ability to achieve an erection can have a profound, damaging impact on a man’s psyche.
Men with erectile dysfunction often tend to suffer in silence, reluctant to open up to their partner or even a doctor. They sometimes see themselves as failing as both a man and lover; many worries that their partner might leave if they can’t satisfy them. These worries become more impactful, eventually leading to anxiety and depression, grief, embarrassment, shame, anger, and frustration.
How Does Erectile Dysfunction Affect Partners?
Men are by no means the only ones who suffer from erectile dysfunction. Since many prefer to avoid embarrassment, men make excuses or even tend to avoid sex altogether in an attempt to forget the condition. This can lead to partners feeling inadequate, rejected, lonely, and depressed.
It’s not uncommon for partners to incorrectly assume that they’re no longer attractive or that they’ve done something wrong. Some might even jump to the conclusion that there’s something wrong in their marriage or that the man might even be meeting someone else for an affair. Men’s frequent failure to communicate with their partners inevitably leads to anxiety, depression, and even feelings of frustration and anger in their partner.
How Can Couples Work Together?
The best way to treat erectile dysfunction effectively and maintain a strong, healthy relationship, couples must ensure they communicate openly and honestly at all times. It’s important to confront your concerns about erectile dysfunction head-on; make sure you and your partner discuss your feelings and give each other consistent reassurance and love. If you can maintain communication whilst undergoing treatment, you’ll come out as a stronger couple in the end.