When erectile dysfunction occurs, the causes can be either psychological, or physiological, or both. Either way, the effects of this disease can be devastating on sufferers (and their partners). Where the cause is psychological, the good news is that there are no underlying health concerns to worry about. And there are a number of treatment options available.
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction include:
- Low self esteem – lack of self-confidence can contribute to erectile dysfunction
- Anxiety – worrying about sexual performance is a major factor in psychological erectile dysfunction. Once a man has experienced ED, the fear of continued failure causes further anxiety, and can further exacerbate the condition
- Depression – this is a common cause of ED, and while some medications can be helpful for depression, certain anti-depressants are known to cause ED
- Relationship issues – being in a tense, non-supportive relationship, or in a relationship with unresolved conflicts, can cause ED
- Financial or work related stress
- Loss of interest in sex
- Reaction to physiological ED – where erectile dysfunction has physical or physiological causes, this in itself can cause performance anxiety, and can therefore contribute to physiological ED.
Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction from Psychological Causes
Counseling: Depending on the specific causes, there are a number of different types of qualified counselors or therapists available (ie psychologists, psychiatrists, relationship counselors, and specialized sex therapists). All of these specialists have a variety of techniques for dealing with, managing and overcoming psychological problems.
Stress Management: Besides counseling, any other activity that acts to reduce stress can be useful in overcoming psychological ED. Exercise is one of the best ways of alleviating stress. Besides the physical benefits, exercise also results in the release of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are the body’s “feel good” chemical, and they are responsible for feelings of wellbeing, the release of sex hormones, for increasing our pain threshold, and for reducing the negative effects of stress.
Physiological causes of erectile dysfunction relate to the physical conditions that prevent blood from flowing to the penis. For an erection to occur, strong blood flow to the penis is required. This results in the blood vessels in the penis becoming engorged, thus producing an erection. Anything that interferes with this process is a physiological cause, and these include:
- Heart disease – the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher in men who have ED, as these men are more likely to have blocked arteries, or Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- High blood pressure (hypertension) – this can cause reduced blood flow to the penis and can affect a man’s ability to achieve an erection
- Diabetes – men with diabetes are more likely to develop ED, if the diabetes is not controlled. Excessive blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage, which can affect circulation and blood flow to the penis
- Low testosterone levels – sex drive and the ability to achieve an erection are both affected by the levels of testosterone in the body
- Certain types of surgery – abdominal or pelvic surgery (specifically to the prostate, colon or bladder) may result in damage to the nerves and blood vessels involved in getting an erection.
- Certain medications – some anti-depressant medications, and certain cardiovascular drugs used to treat high blood pressure, are known to cause erectile dysfunction.
Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction from Physiological Causes
Due to the risk of serious underlying health issues, it is always recommended to see a medical doctor for a thorough examination. Treatments that a doctor may prescribe for ED include:
Medication: Oral medications such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can be used to achieve erections, and these are effective for most men. However they do come with unpleasant side effects, and they do not offer a long term solution to ED
Testosterone Replacement Therapy: If tests indicate low testosterone levels, then testosterone treatment can help with achieving erections
Non-medical treatments: Vacuum pump devices and rubber rings can be used to increase blood flow to the penis. These are not always effective, and need to be used in consultation with a doctor.
Penile injection therapy: This involves injecting one or more drugs into the side of the penis, and can cause the penis to become hard almost immediately. However long term use of injections can cause scarring, and another possible side-effect is that the medication may produce a painful, prolonged erection known as priapism.
Penile implants: These are devices that are surgically implanted into the penis, and are used by squeezing a specific part of the device. They are expensive, and should only be used as last resort, if other treatment options have failed.
Vascular surgery: This targets the veins and arteries that supply blood to the penis. It should only be used for men who have vascular damage due to trauma in the area, as it is a major surgical procedure.
Natural Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction
The most common reasons for physiological ED are poor blood flow, bad circulation, and clogged arteries. This is usually the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. Lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and overuse of alcohol and tobacco, are all major contributors to heart disease. And heart disease increases the risk of erectile dysfunction. The good news is that the risk of ED can be significantly reversed, by adopting a healthy lifestyle, and making the following changes:
Improved nutrition: For healthy erections, your diet should contain lean protein, fibre, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and nuts and grains. You should avoid foods high in fat and cholesterol (specifically LDL, the bad cholesterol).
Plenty of exercise: Cardiovascular exercise will significantly improve circulation (and therefore increase blood flow to the penis), by helping to reduce cholesterol, and unclogging the arteries. Strength training (particularly in the large muscle groups) will increase levels of testosterone and human growth hormone, both of which are essential for achieving healthy erections.
Reduced intake of alcohol and tobacco: Both these substances have been shown to contribute to erectile dysfunction if consumed in large quantities, and should be avoided if possible.