6 Best Reasons to Set Your Ego Aside and Seek ED Treatment
"Mrs. Johnson, on what grounds are you seeking a divorce from Mr. Johnson?"
"Well, Judge, let me put it this way: His name shouldn't be Mr. Johnson, it should be Mister Softee because he only offers soft serve. Don't go camping with him, because he can't get wood and he can't pitch a tent. When the bailiff said, 'All rise,' he couldn't. Are you getting the picture? He's got ED and I want a d-i-v-o-r-c-e!"
Ouch. Coming up short in your legal briefs in a public courtroom has to be painful. But believe it or not, impotence remains grounds for divorce in several states.
Saving a marriage certainly seems like a good reason for a guy to seek help for erectile dysfunction (ED). But even with their marriage (or any long-term relationship) on the line, some guys might put their ego or "masculinity" ahead of admitting they need help in the bedroom. That's a mistake, because many treatments are available for ED, whether the cause is organic or psychogenic—stemming from the body or the mind, respectively.
"Erectile challenges are a complex situation due to overlap, ties and complications with messages from society, culture, upbringing, level of sexual education and perceived masculinity," said Erin Donnelly, Psy.D., M.Ed., a clinical psychologist and reproductive sexologist with a telehealth practice based in Kansas City, Missouri. "I like to remind people that we, as humans, do not always perform perfectly sexually, because we can be stressed, tired, hungry, bored, in transition or worried, so some sexual challenges here and there are normal."
Put aside your concerns and consider these six reasons to get treatment for erectile problems.
1. Erectile dysfunction symptoms could indicate heart disease
Using the "canary in a coal mine" analogy, erectile dysfunction symptoms could be the first indicator of heart disease, said Seth Cohen, M.D., M.P.H., a urologist with NYU Langone Health in New York City. If the vascular area of the penis is damaged, it's likely the heart arteries are also damaged, he said, before quickly allaying any fears that men with ED automatically need to see a cardiologist, though ED could be a warning sign.
"We do find heart disease in a significant portion of men who have erectile problems and vice versa; men who have heart disease, I already know that they're going to have erectile issues, because the heart arteries are similar in diameter to the penis arteries," Cohen said. "So if you're going to have one, you're probably going to have the other."
2. ED can also be related to other chronic diseases
Erectile dysfunction can indicate chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, said Majdee Islam, M.D., a urologist and men's health specialist at Urology of St. Louis.
"These disease processes affect microvascular and macrovascular flow to the penis, as well as potentially the erectile nerves," Islam said. "Therefore, if you're having erectile dysfunction, it is also worth getting a full men's health screening to ensure your health is at its peak."
Vascular diseases, such as arterial inflow issues, are commonly seen in smokers and people suffering from obesity or metabolic syndrome, Cohen said. Men who have long-term erectile problems without seeking treatment need to make sure their blood sugar levels and blood pressure are well controlled, he added.
"Anything that's going to affect and put plaque into the arteries of your penis are certainly going to decrease the blood flow to the penis and make it much more difficult to have a good erection," Cohen said.
3. You may pay a mental toll for erectile problems
If a man notices a pattern of internal or emotional distress about their sexual performance, they could wind up with symptoms of mental health disorders and self-esteem issues, Donnelly said. She recommended these men seek the counsel of a specialized, nonjudgmental mental health provider to help tease out the contributing factors.
For example, a man may experience erectile difficulties with certain partners or certain shared sexual acts, but not with solo masturbation or morning erections. In this case, it is helpful to explore aspects of sexual function and implement coping strategies, behavioral techniques and lifestyle modifications, which could include quitting smoking or adhering to a healthier diet, Donnelly said.
4. ED could be a sign your lifestyle is in disarray
If you have ED symptoms, you may not be sleeping, eating or handling stress as well as you think you are.
Cohen said he sometimes sees patients who are excelling in all areas of their life and taking care of their body, yet their erections aren't working. He usually discovers these patients are burning the candle at both ends.
"They're stressed out at work, they're stressed out at home, they're not sleeping or maybe they're partying too hard or they're drinking too much," Cohen said. "I think ED can definitely be a sign that people are stressed out, people are dealing with depression or they're not dealing with depression, and it's showing up in their sexual function or lack of sexual function."
Poor sleep and poor diet can also contribute to erectile difficulties.
"People take sleep for granted, but the lack of sleep really can affect sexual health and sexual wellness," Cohen said.
5. Erectile dysfunction could interfere with pregnancy plans
Obviously, if a man is having difficulty maintaining erections firm enough for penetrative sex, this dysfunction can get in the way of fertility for a couple that wants to conceive.
"If you are trying for a pregnancy and having issues along with erectile dysfunction, you could have other things going on that are causing your issue and even potentially a decrease in sperm quality," Islam said.
In general, sexual dysfunction is common, affecting up to 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women, and it's more common among couples who are having trouble conceiving. Islam recommended men consult a urologist if they're concerned about infertility.
6. ED may jeopardize your relationship
Chronic sexual dysfunction can potentially cause relationship problems. Men may avoid sexual encounters or argue with their partners over ED.
Fortunately, the stereotype of men not wanting to discuss sexual issues with a doctor is fading, according to Cohen. Viagra commercials, direct-to-consumer advertising, openness about mental health on social media and access to health care have encouraged more men to open up to their doctor, he said.
Men can address relationship issues alone or with their partner. Individual or couples therapy can provide psychoeducation, debunk sexual myths, improve sexual communication and expand sexual repertoires, Donnelly said.
She emphasized that working with a sexuality professional does not need to be limited to times of trouble. Professionals can enhance individuals' and couples' communication around sexuality and strengthen the mind-body connection, which can protect against future sexual challenges.
"There is not just one erectile or sexual box that someone with a penis must fit into, and therapy helps to break down those walls and open up possibilities for pleasure and improved sexual functioning," she said.
A man has plenty of good reasons, from both physical and mental health standpoints, to seek treatment for erectile dysfunction. Make an appointment with a healthcare professional, because a day at a doctor's office almost certainly beats a day in divorce court.