The Mental Impact of Erectile Dysfunction
Those of us who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) are used to the usual cast of characters when it comes to treatment options: pills, pumps, injections. Even penis rings.
Don’t get me wrong: I have a great deal of gratitude for these products. Without them, many of us wouldn’t be able to perform in the bedroom at all. But medications and tools treat only the physical issues related to ED, and not the mental aspect.
In my experience, to truly thrive with ED, it takes more than just a physical fix.
Sexual identity & self-worth
An ex-girlfriend raised this point when we initially discussed that I was writing articles about sexual health. She said her biggest concern for me regarding my erectile dysfunction was the damage it’s done to my confidence and self-worth over the years.
I’m 43 and have battled ED for about one-third of my life. When you’ve constantly worried about something so closely connected with your manhood, it takes a major toll.
After I had my first ED incident and it became clear this wasn’t a one-time thing, I was scared to continue dating. I didn’t want to meet someone new and have to explain my situation all over again. I was confused and defeated. While other guys my age were in their prime dating and reproductive years, I questioned whether I’d ever have a functioning relationship again. There was a time around age 30 when I wondered if I’d ever have sex again.
Over and over, I asked myself the same question: Why would any woman want to be with me?
That’s not an easy question to face day in and day out, especially at a relatively young age.
I’m incredibly appreciative of the women I’ve dated over the past 15 years. I’ve yet to experience a partner who wasn’t very understanding. Not every guy is as lucky, I’m sure. I can’t imagine the devastating mental effect of a less empathetic scenario.
Giddy Psychologist Dr. Susan Ansorge shares some guidance about depression in the ED Guide video series. Click here to watch the video.
How to help, not worsen, the problem
In the past couple of years, I’ve done a better job getting a handle on the mental aspects of ED. I still have major confidence and body-image issues, but I’ve been able to separate those problems from my ED.
Because my sexual partners have been incredibly gracious when situations didn’t go as planned, I’ve learned ED is not as big a deal as I created in my head. I’m also now at the age when it’s happening to a lot of guys I know. Most women this age have been through this before with a previous partner, so I no longer feel as alone or as ashamed when ED does happen.
More importantly, I go to therapy regularly to discuss what’s going on in my brain. I’ve seen a sexual wellness doctor who has been a tremendous asset while helping me understand why this happens. I’ve even talked with sexual counselors and coaches, who explained the impact of putting pressure on myself and the snowball effect it has on performance in the bedroom.
I’ve learned the mental side of ED has just as big an impact—if not bigger—as the physical side. If you’ve just started experiencing ED, or even if it’s been a persistent problem for years, let me give you an insider’s secret: Take care of yourself and don’t let this issue define you or your worth.
*The writer's name has been withheld to protect their identity. Unfortunately, sexual health issues still carry a stigma that makes many people uncomfortable airing intimate details of their lives in public. One of Giddy's aims is to make this stigma all but disappear, and to help create a culture that promotes open and honest conversation about all matters related to our sex lives. We understand this type of shift takes time, and we hope you join us in this pursuit.