What is it?
You’re probably reading this as a man with a prostate problem but erectile dysfunction – also known as ‘male impotence’ or simply ‘impotence’ – affects most men at some time in their lives.
Contrary to popular belief having an erection isn’t a simple physical event. Having an erection relies on a very delicate balance of factors. These include your psychological, physical and emotional states, your age and your employment status – in addition to stimulation, attitude and passion.
So simply being overtired, overworked, overstressed, overloaded with worry, overweight or physically unfit can all contribute to the problem of erectile dysfunction. A variety of medical conditions can also set the stage for impotence.
On this site we’re focusing on erectile dysfunction caused by prostate problems. But the general principles and ways of managing or helping to manage the problem are similar whatever the cause.
A recent study interviewed young couples in London under age 40 and in long term relationships. It found that 17% of them had sex less than once a year. 24% of them had sex only once every six months. This contrasts with the impression given in the media which implies that wild debauchery and never ending sexual adventures are the norm.
There isn’t much research published on how common erectile dysfunction is. The little research there is focuses on men with medical problems such as prostate cancer.
But the few studies there are of healthy men indicate that as many as one in three men under the age of 40 experience some problems with erectile dysfunction.
But nobody dares to talk about it
Or often even acknowledge that they have a problem. So if you suffer from erectile dysfunction, please realise that you are not alone.
A wider problem
Please also be aware that erectile dysfunction may be only part of a wider problem of sexual dysfunction. This could be related to one or more things going on in your life now – or that have happened in the past. It could be relationship problems, bad experiences in childhood, your parents’ views and attitudes, feelings of being unloved or unwanted by your parents and/or other people or being rejected.
It’s also important to understand that sexual dysfunction can happen to women too and this can have a significant effect on their male partner’s potency.
A ridiculous definition
The medical profession official defines erectile dysfunction as ‘being unable to achieve an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse’. Quite rightly most men consider this definition to be ridiculous.
For the medical profession if you can get your ‘floppy sausage’ into the ‘target zone’ you don’t suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Most men – and probably most women – would agree that a ‘floppy sausage’, a ‘soft on’ or a ‘firm Frankfurter’ is not by the wildest stretch of anybody’s imagination the same as a ‘hard on’.
As far as most men are concerned you either have a proper erection or you don’t.
There’s no halfway mark. It’s either there or it isn’t!
For the rest of this section I’m going to talk about ‘impotence’ rather than ‘erectile dysfunction’ to to get away from the inadequate definition from the medical profession .
How erections happen
There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the penis is. It’s important to realise that it’s not a muscle as many people think. Muscles can only contract. They can’t expand. So what makes your penis expand and grow?
In the diagram below you’ll see that your penis is a complex organ. The areas of particular interest to us are the corpus cavernosum and the corpus spongiosum. These two areas of the penis have lots of little holes in them. Normally these areas are collapsed and closed.
When you have an erection blood is pumped into these little holes. As they fill and open up your penis starts expanding and becomes increasingly larger and firmer so that you get a preparer erection.
And when they don’t
The problem with impotence is that for some reason the blood won’t or can’t be pumped into the penis to fill the holes. Or only enough blood is pumped in to partially fill them. Not having enough blood to fill the holes means that you can’t get a proper erection.
What prevents your penis from being pumped up with blood can be a combination of lots of things as described above. Anything from overexcitement to overwork, lack of fitness to fatigue, relationship problems, emotional problems, medical problems – and of course surgery and other invasive procedures in that region of your body. Not only prostate surgery, but other prostate treatments and many other procedures in the lower abdomen.
Aren’t tablets like Viagra etc the solution?
Quite clearly there is more to this problem than simply turning on a pump! This is why just popping a tablet in your mouth ain’t gonna do it! Yes for some men tablets like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do work. But they are at best only addressing one small part of a complex problem. So many people have been disappointed with the results of simply taking these tablets.
So you have ‘the flops’
There you are with a sad case of ‘the flops’: ‘It’ may be down and out but it makes you feel down and out as well. It’s a depressing business but the real question is what can you do about it?
What can you do about it?
Remember you’re not alone
Please don’t forget for one moment that this happens to most men at some time in their lives. On average one in three men under the age of 40 and as many as four in five men at the age of 70 are in the same position as you.
If yore healthy it’s usually only a temporary problem or related to the specific situation in which you find yourself in. It might be an evening full of expectation that doesn’t work out that way. Or a period of overwork where you simply don’t have any energy left to perform.
Try not to worry about it
This is so easy for me to say and of course much more difficult for you to do. BUT believe me that the worst thing you can do is to keep thinking about it incessantly and get depressed over it. It will only make it worse. And it may be one of those temporary glitches that affects us all at some time in our lives and usually sorts itself out by itself.
Talk about it
Of course none of us men like to talk about these things. We have difficulty in admitting even to ourselves that there’s a problem. And the idea of discussing it with anyone else……well……. But swallowing your pride and finding someone to talk to can really help.
If there’s an obvious reason for why you can’t get an erection…..
… such as treatment for prostate problems or lower abdominal surgery or diabetes or certain medications to name but a few …. then you know what the problem is and need to find out how to deal with it in that context. We discuss the specific effects of prostate treatment here.
If there’s no obvious medical reason for why you can’t get an erection…..
Take action and consider what the problem might be.
Here are some tips on what to do:
- Sit yourself down somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed.
- Take time out to think.
- Read the first two paragraphs of this section again.
- And then ask yourself a few questions.
The sort of questions you might ask are:
- Has this happened because I’m so physically unfit that I actually can’t do it?
- Have I been putting on weight to such an extent that I actually can’t do it?
- Am I so stressed/fatigued/overworked/depressed that don’t have the physical/psychological/emotional energy for it to happen?
- Has my relationship soured/gone stale/got boring. Or am I simply ‘turned off’?
- Do I have a problem with making physical contact so I’m trying to avoid it?
- Am I simply too shy/too overexcited/too embarrassed to let it happen?
- Have I got feelings of being dirty or contaminated? Or am I scared of physical contact?
- Am I physically healthy? Before you answer this question ask yourself another:
- When did I last have a medical check up? Male impotence and/or decreasing libido can be associated with diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and others. So it’s really important to have a medical check up if you haven’t had one recently.
- Am I really physically healthy? Even minor infections like having chronic gum disease or a bout of flu can affect your performance in all sorts of ways including sexually.
- Am I really in peak condition? This implies good nutrition, avoiding negative factors such as alcohol abuse, smoking, non-prescription drugs, managing stress, sleeping well and ensuring a well balanced and optimally.
When you’ve asked yourself these questions you might be considering:
- Having a general medical check up.
- Changing your lifestyle to reduce stress.
- Reducing some of your responsibilities.
- Finding opportunities for more rest and free time.
- Changing your attitude to your relationship.
Get professional help if you need to
All of these actions may benefit from some professional help. Apart from the medical profession there are counsellors including relationship counsellors, life coaches and all sorts of people out there who can help you rebalance yourself.
You may need to consider getting some professional help if you’re not able to change, identify or resolve your problems by yourself.
Getting some help could be the first step on the journey of getting yourself into the right physical, emotional and psychological state. This means optimal wellness and fitness so that your body will give you the best possible performance that it can.