Erectile dysfunction is a sexual disorder where a man cannot get or maintain a firm erection during sexual activity. Despite affecting up to 52% of men at some point in their lives, this condition can cause a number of mental health problems, including stress, anxiety, depression, and embarrassment.
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Understanding how your partner may be feeling
If your partner is suffering from erectile dysfunction, it is important to remember that erectile dysfunction can occur for a variety of reasons.
A man sometimes suffers from erection problems due to lack of sexual interest in certain situations or lack of attraction for his partner. However, there are many other health causes, including diabetes, heart disease, hormonal disturbances, or history of pelvic trauma. Thus, to find out a proper solution, the most important thing is to discuss the situation openly with your partner, as well as to a healthcare provider.
How to discuss erectile dysfunction with your partner
Although erectile dysfunction is a very common sexual problem, it is often difficult to discuss the issue with your partner. However, a healthy discussion between couples is the best way to identify the underlying cause and overcome the emotional burdens associated with the situation.
ED can have a significant impact on health-related quality of life. Many men relate erection with their masculinity and self-identity. Thus, ED often causes severe emotional distress in men. They also suffer from low self-esteem and self-confidence, anxiety, and depression.
Studies have shown that men who feel greater psychological distress due to ED have greater impairment in sexual functions and lower sexual self-efficacy. Such emotional burdens not only affect sextual relationships but also affect social and day-to-day activities.
The good news is ED is a treatable condition, and having a supportive partner increases the effectiveness of the treatment. Studies have found that men with ED experience significant improvement in confidence level and self-esteem with proper treatment. Therefore, it is your responsibility to support your partner in all possible ways.
If your partner is embarrassed or ashamed of the situation, educate yourself first through proper research and help him understand the exact physiology and causes of erectile dysfunction.
If your partner is going through workplace-related stress, erectile dysfunction may be a common consequence. In such cases, you must find out a comfortable and stress-free situation to open up the issue. It is most important to convince your partner that erectile dysfunction is a treatable condition.
It is also important for you to be supportive and sensitive during sexual activity. Avoid getting frustrated or angry with your partner. ED does not necessarily indicate a lack of desire but is likely related to an underlying health or psychological condition that should be addressed. Instead, try to understand that erection problems may be associated with certain pre-existing health conditions, such as cardiovascular, metabolic, or endocrine disorders.
It can also be a mere consequence of overweight or obesity. Therefore, try to convince your partner that talking to a healthcare provider is essential not only for sexual satisfaction but also for general health purposes.
You should also fix an appointment with a healthcare provider and assure your partner that erectile dysfunction can be diagnosed easily by simple physical examinations or review of medical and sexual history.
Try to be present with your partner when visiting a doctor. You can discuss with the doctor about the physical and emotional aspects that your partner overlooks or feels embarrassed to talk about.
Another important thing is to remember that the treatment for ED is time-consuming, and your partner may need to undergo several lines of treatment before finding the best effective one. So, be patient and keep your anxiety, fear, and sadness aside while communicating with your partner.
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
To diagnose erectile dysfunction, a doctor initially asks questions about erection-related problems as well as pre-existing health conditions and medicines. Next, the doctor asks for a physical examination of the penis and testicles to check the sensitivity of the nerves.
To find out the underlying cause, a doctor may also recommend blood tests to investigate specific biomarkers for heart disease, diabetes, endocrine problems, or other health conditions. Similarly, urine tests are also done to analyze biomarkers.
If the erection problem is related to impaired blood supply, a doctor may recommend ultrasound imaging of the penis, a painless procedure in which a transducer is placed over the penile blood vessels to produce a video image of blood flow.
Because psychosomatic conditions can contribute to erectile dysfunction, patients who are affected by stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional conditions could benefit from meeting with a mental health provider.
- Feldman HA, Goldstein I, Hatzichristou DG, Krane RJ, McKinlay JB. Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates: Results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Urol 1994; 151:54–61. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
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Last Updated: Jun 5, 2019
Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta
Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master's degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.
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