Erectile dysfunction and the mindErectile Dysfunction, or ED, is a very common condition, one that most men will experience at least briefly at some point in their lives. But even though it is very common, it often isn’t openly discussed. Experiencing ED can make intimacy challenging and lead to a lack of intimacy in relationships or create difficulty in finding a relationship. 

Erectile dysfunction and the mind

For some men medications, age, or health may cause erectile dysfunction. But for those who are young, healthy, and not on medication it can be perplexing and demoralizing. One of the biggest causes of ED is actually anxiety or another mental health condition. The mind is a major part of our sexual system which is why it has such an impact on sexual function. The good news is that if the mind is the cause then there is a way to work through it. 

For our bodies to respond sexually we need both the body to be stimulated and for the mind to be in an erotic state. Some people can even achieve orgasm by thoughts alone, so the mind is a very powerful tool  Underlying anxiety is often the block to getting into an erotic mindset. When the mind becomes anxious this can trigger our fight or flight response and when this happens our body sends chemical signals that prioritize the blood supply to our heart, lungs, and other organs needed to fight or flee. The penis is not necessary for survival in such a situation, so blood is redirected elsewhere and erections are lost. Depending on when anxiety starts it can prevent an erection, cause erectile loss, or even delayed ejaculation. 

Erectile dysfunction and the mindSome signs you might be feeling anxiety are finding your mind wandering and distracted, or you may feel like you are hyper-focused on your penis.  Another symptom is what is called “spectatoring” which is when you feel like you are watching yourself have sex (and often being critical of your performance).

Managing anxiety during sex

So how do you manage anxiety in a sexual situation? Knowledge is power. Understanding what’s happening can help you recognize that nothing is wrong with you. The next step is self-soothing. This can be done by subtle deep breathing, or by finding something very erotic and stimulating to pull your mind back into the sexual moment. Communicating with partners about the anxiety and what they can do to help ground you in the moment can also be very helpful. If you do lose your erection, you can always change to a sex act that doesn’t involve the penis. It is very likely that once you are calmer your erection will come back and you can resume. 

Medications such as Viagra or Cialis can be great supports to help ensure an erection. They can be used ongoing or as a “safety net” of sorts as you figure out what coping skills best work for you. 

Erectile dysfunction is normal, and there are many solutions available. But if you feel you would like a little extra support or guidance a sex therapist can be a great resource. Feel free to contact me today for a free 15-minute consultation.