You know the expression “get out of your own head”? This saying actually applies to ED quite well—because once it’s happened, it’s extremely difficult to put the incident behind you.
This situation can lead to stress, and then to fear—and once you’re in that place, the possibility of the entire thing happening all over again increases. It’s a vicious cycle, and it also happens to be one of the more common psychological causes of ED.
But what causes that first incident? What are the general causes of ED? If it’s something that’s happened for the first time last night, the occasional event, or a long-term problem, educating yourself on a topic is a way to understand and conquer it.
So, here’s everything you need to know about ED.
The medical profession defines ED as the inability to gain or maintain an erection hard enough for sex on multiple occasions. ED is not considered a medical problem until it’s happened more than once and for longer than a few weeks.
However, even if someone has only experienced ED once or twice in the last six months, this might be a precursor to an underlying cause that could be preparing to settle in for an extended period.
ED is the most common sex-related issue that men of all ages report to their medical practitioner. Around 30 million men have made appointments to express concerns about ED in recent years (that’s about 5% of the male population), and that percentage doesn’t reflect the number of men who keep the problem of ED to themselves.
Infrequent occurrences can become intermittent, and then recurring. According to doctors, whenever ED happens routinely, it should be treated.
How Does ED Make Men Feel?
Men who have experienced any form of ED describe the feeling as being similar to being fired, failing an important exam, or being publicly humiliated.
When a man (who typically feels healthy and sexually competent) fails to gain or maintain an erection hard enough for penetration, it is emotionally and psychologically devastating for both participants.
The partner feels as though they are not attractive enough to inflate the ED sufferer’s desire, and the male with ED is caught up in a storm of dismay and embarrassment. This can become a sexual performance shame spiral that rapidly gets out of control.
If the problem becomes long term, a visit to the doctor for a clean bill of health and a look at supplement and lifestyle alternatives are the solutions.
Several things can cause ED. For example, ED can happen when:
- The blood flow in the penis is limited, or the nerves in the penis have been damaged.
- Medication for the treatment of an existing disease inhibits the blood flow in the penis.
- Emotional issues, stress, or fear are constant presences.
- The body is experiencing symptoms of an undiagnosed, more serious illness, such as hardening or blocked arteries (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure, heart disease, or Types 1 and 2 diabetes
We will start with the physical causes of ED first, as these are the most common causes for men over the age of 50 years old.
Physical Causes of ED
Statistics indicate that ED becomes more common as men grow older. However, old age is not always going to lead to ED problems; many other factors are involved.
If a man is approaching the age of 50, it stands to reason that his partner’s sexual appetite may be slowing down as well. But a loss of libido (sexual desire) alone is not classified as ED.
Some of the causes of ED in males physically are:
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol
- Drugs (recreational and medicinal)
- No exercise
- Peyronie’s disease
- Low testosterone
Finding and treating a physical reason for ED is very important. A good way of gauging whether an ED problem is physical or not is to determine if you still have erections in your sleep.
This is a good indicator of how well the blood is flowing into the penis. If you wake up with a healthy erection, the chances are that your ED problem may be an emotional or psychological one.
Here’s an explanation of the physical causes of ED:
- There is not enough blood flow going into the penis.
Reduced blood flow to the penis is related to many health issues. Hardening of the arteries, diabetes,
smoking, and heart disease are some of the main causes of ED.
- The penis is unable to trap blood during stimulation.
- Nerve signals from the spinal cord and brain don’t reach the penis.
Some diseases, surgeries, and injuries can result in the nerves to the pelvic area being damaged.
- Some cancer treatments can affect the functionality of the penis.
If you are undergoing radiation or surgery for cancer in the pelvic or lower abdomen area, it can lead to ED. Your doctor, urologist, or oncologist will have discussed this possible side effect with you in detail.
- There are drugs on the market that negatively impact the ability to have erections.
If you are on meds for the treatment of a chronic or acute illness, check the package insert for potential side effects or speak to your doctor.
If the blood doesn’t stay in the penis during stimulation, the man will be unable to keep the erection.
This ED issue can happen at any age.
Psychological or Emotional Causes of ED
Every conscious thing we do is a perfect dance between the mind and body. Normal sex requires that the two facets work together in harmony. If your mind is distracted by other emotional or relationship events, this can lead to ED.
Some of the psychological issues that are the leading causes of ED are:
- Depression (diagnosed or undiagnosed)
- Stress at work or home
- Relationship conflict or challenges, such as having a baby or an in-law staying over
- Cultural, social, or religious stresses
- Financial woes
- Worry about sexual performance or previous sexual performance disappointments
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many emotional causes of ED in some men. But if you fall into this category, chances are you will be able to identify what the root cause is in your situation immediately.
The American Urological Association has guidelines (updated in 2018) for the treatment of ED. After a complete medical history has been taken, the patient has to undertake a considerable lifestyle modification procedure. This means that anyone with ED has to embrace health and wellness with open arms. No half measures.
ED Treatment Facts
- One year after quitting smoking, 25% of ED patients had regained potent, full-blooded erections
- In 50% of the cases, losing weight and exercising over three years led to the discontinuation of ED
- The lifestyle modification of giving up alcohol showed an improvement in blood flow to the penis
What About the Use of PDE5?
As can be demonstrated by the statistics, one of the leading causes of ED in men is old age. And many men in the 50 years and above age bracket prefer to take an oral medication like PDE5 (Viagra) to treat ED. The FDA has approved the use of these drugs as treatment.
People should be aware of the side effects though. Patients at risk of a cardiovascular event, hypertension, arrhythmia, beta-blockers, or refractory angina should not use PDE5 drugs.
The most common side effects experienced are flushing (unnaturally bright red cheeks), excessive sweating, and rebound headaches. Pay close attention if you have a chance to watch a recently-made pornographic movie—you will see the male performers exhibiting some of these signs.
Are Drugs Used to Treat ED the Last Resort?
And this neatly brings us around to the subject of using drugs to treat ED. The eagerness to treat ED with certain drugs can begin to look like a case of “Don’t take those drugs—take mine instead” by the pharmaceutical manufacturers.
And it seems that there is widespread use of PDE5 drugs for recreational purposes by people who don’t need them.
This has led to death, as well as drug abuse and other dubious practices. People using vasoconstricting recreational drugs such as cocaine have taken to using vasodilating drugs like PDE5 to enable them to have sexual intercourse.
The use of these drugs is highly prevalent in the porn industry as well. The over-prescription of drugs used to treat ED has caused the other more natural ways to treat ED to remain relatively unexplored.
Natural options to treat ED, like supplements and counselling (couples therapy), are being sidelined by the shortcut provided by PDE5 inhibitor drugs. There is a downside to this heavy reliance on PDE5 to treat the causes of ED: Popping a pill before sexual intercourse can be habit-forming and expensive. The quick-fix mentality of treating ED with a Type-5 pill, pump, or injection is not an ideal long-term solution.
We have determined here that the root causes for ED stem from physical, psychological, or emotional factors. Remember: ED can happen to anyone, and it is widely accepted that ED is a progressive problem. Before turning to home treatment, it’s always best to first check for medical and lifestyle indicators.
Keep in mind that regardless of what your particular case is caused by, there is no reason to believe that you can’t address this common but highly distressing and personally disruptive condition.
And while there are other options for treatment, if men with ED took a more holistic approach to treat the problem, they would have a better outcome for overall health and wellness in the long run.