The existence of erectile dysfunction (ED) is something that is not lost on any man who is sexually active or wishes to be. There is a wealth of statistics to demonstrate how much of an impact it has, with studies showing that as many as half of all men have experienced erectile dysfunction in some way. The numbers are smaller for those who are more severely affected, with 5% of all men experiencing long-term issues and that number jumping to 15% in one study among men between 40 and 70 years of age.
So, we know that erectile dysfunction is not uncommon among men. Furthermore, among men who hope to have a fulfilling sex life, fear of the condition is very prevalent – and with a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that there is a psychological element to some cases of ED, that fear can be so consuming as to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why it’s important to discuss erectile dysfunction with your doctor
The highly prestigious Cleveland Clinic has stated that it is far from abnormal for erectile dysfunction to affect as many as 20% of sexual encounters. Given the isolation that many men experience as a result of their own erectile dysfunction, it’s perfectly reasonable to suspect that most men don’t know the above statistic – but they would, if they were to speak to medical professionals about the issue.
What’s more, they could get help with their concerns, with medications such as sildenafil proving highly effective. As many as two in every three cases of ED see demonstrable improvements when treated with sildenafil.
Additionally, there are numerous potential physical reasons why a man might experience erectile dysfunction – and if an individual experiences it more than 50% of the time over a long-term period, the cause is likely to be physical.
Speaking to a doctor about your experience of erectile dysfunction can be a first step in getting treatment for a condition that has the potential to make you more seriously ill – and you’ll find that with that condition being treated successfully, erectile dysfunction ceases to be anywhere near as much of a problem.
The effects of erectile dysfunction on men’s mental health
As masculinity is described in the modern world, one of its primary components is deemed to be “virility”; a concept of strength and potency that typically relates to the ability to have fulfilling sex. It is not uncommon to hear of men feeling that the absence of this virility, however temporary, makes them less of a man. It can certainly lead to feelings of frustration, sadness, anger and particularly insecurity. Among men with a predisposition to depression, erectile dysfunction can cause them to experience that mental impact.
There is also ample evidence to suggest that particularly when the experience of dysfunction is repeated, it can create stress in an individual and become a constant worry. Even outside of a sexual context, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection can dominate one’s thoughts to the point of distracting from work, leisure and other focuses.
Given the propensity for ED to be aggravated by psychological factors, it can lead to a vicious cycle where dysfunction causes stress, which in turn makes the dysfunction worse and makes both problems chronic.
To make matters worse, it’s common for men experiencing erectile dysfunction to feel embarrassed by the experience, and this makes them less willing to talk about it – including to a doctor.
What is the message men with erectile dysfunction need to take away with them?
If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, even on a somewhat regular basis, you aren’t alone. In fact, more men will experience it than not, and the older they get the more likely it becomes. It’s not a reason to hide away, and in fact, that is the worst thing you could do – because isolation and a lack of communication will worsen the experience and almost certainly prolong it.
Speak about it with your partner, your doctor, and/or any friend you trust to speak with. This will put the problem in perspective – and it might even save your life.
There is no doubt that suffering from erectile dysfunction can be a harrowing experience for any man. It is all the more so when it is experienced in silence. And while anyone would understand the desire for privacy in the face of such a sensitive topic, concerns over secrecy and propriety can never be considered more important than your mental health, for which silence can be absolutely destructive.