Erectile dysfunction

doctor online talking about erectile dysfunction
Dr Elaine Ryan
Written by Dr Elaine Ryan Psychologist and Founder of MoodSmith® Elaine obtained her Dr in Psychology from the University of Surrey and has worked in psychology for 20 years. Dr Ryan specialises in Intrusive Thoughts, OCD and anxiety-related conditions.

Erectile dysfunction, or not being able to get or maintain an erection, is surprisingly common. 

The problem is, you (men) do not talk about it with your friends – you are therefore denied the opportunity of normalizing it, or having a laugh about it.


When I say “having a laugh” I am not being disrespectful.  On the contrary, if your problem is not organic, having a lighter mood may actually improve the situation.  Read on, and I shall explain what I mean.


Do you have an erection when you wake up in the morning?

If yes, then the chances are that the problem is not medical, although I do recommend always checking this out first.


If it’s not medical, what’s the problem then?  In a word – stress.


All men will have had problems getting or maintaining an erection at some point.  If you chalked this up to “just one of those things,” the chances are your sexual abilities returned to normal.


On the other hand, it may have got you down, in more ways than one.

You might have started to worry

  • Oh God, what if this happens again?
  • What is she thinking of me?
  • I am not a man


Beginnings of sexual performance anxiety.

It’s Monday morning, and you are at work.  If you knew you were meeting your girlfriend on Friday, or a weekend away with your wife, your thoughts in work may be taken up with sex.

  • What if I can’t get it up?
  • Will she think less of me?

If these thoughts are familiar, you will not be feeling light and happy, when you are thinking this.  Your mood will change.  Even though it is Monday and you are not having sex.  You are at work.   You are creating anticipatory anxiety.  In a nutshell, you are anticipating something bad in the future.


This point is important – anticipatory anxiety.  Sportsmen and women regularly use “mental rehearsal” to help them prepare for a match.  They imagine the shots, the game and perform according to plan when the event arises. 

Research has shown that musicians mentally practice their instrument in their mind, use the same brain processes as when playing for real.

Read more on stress and anxiety here

See where I am going?  If you are anticipating sexual problems, in a way, you are mentally priming yourself for it.  You need to get your thoughts out of the way.


Friday night arrives and rather than enjoying the evening, your mind is full of what may or may not happen.  By the time you are naked, you are in stress city.


One thing you need to know.  When you are experiencing anxiety, you get a stress response.  A stress response is what you automatically feel, say if a fight broke out near you.  Your body gets ready to protect itself.  During a stress response, blood is diverted away from less important areas to help your heart beat faster.


Your penis is included here, as a less than important area.  If the stress response was in relation to a fight breaking out, it really would make no sense to have an erection.


For love or money, if you are experiencing stress, the chances of having an erection, start to fall drastically.  You worry more.  Rather than paying attention to your partner, you are caught up in your head, with a whole series of self-judgements, making the situation worse.


Help yourself with erection problems.

Back to what I said at the beginning about laughter.  I was not making light of your problem.  Maybe you can see already, that if it was just a funny story, you would not have worried about it afterwards, or gone crazy with worry days before you were going to have sex.


If your problem is not medical, try the following.


Any time, worry thoughts relating to sex come into your head, tell yourself, “that’s just a thought” and bring your attention back to whatever you are doing.


So if you are at work on Monday morning and notice you are worried about sex, bring your thoughts back to your work.  This takes a bit of practice.  The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.  You are then getting rid of anticipatory anxiety.

When you are about to have sex-these are your new goals.


The goal is not to have an erection.  Why?  You take the pressure off yourself.  Previously if you were going into sex, thinking “I must have an erection, what if it doesn’t work” this probably did not work.  You could not “talk” yourself into having an erection.  Well, at least not this way.


If you are just thinking about sex, in a playful way, you may feel something stirring.  In this case, thinking about sex can cause a change.  This is completely different to “I must have an erection, come on what’s wrong.”  Not sexy.

Foreplay is not just for women.


It is important to take the pressure off yourself, to help you relax.  Relaxation counteracts the stress response.

For the next week, you can have foreplay, but not sex.

An erection is an automatic reaction.  So.  The goal is not to have an erection.

The goal is to focus on what you are doing, with no judgment.  That simply means paying attention to your partner, to whatever sensations you are feeling.  No judgement is important.  This means no “It’s not working” “How am I doing?”  If these judgments pop into your head, just bring your attention back to what you are doing.


Focusing on what you are doing, with no judgement, will eventually allow you to have, and maintain, an erection, naturally.


Naturally, is an important word.  You were not taught how to have an erection.  It is something that your brain and body know how to do.  It is out of your control.  A natural process.  Getting your thoughts out of the way, allows this natural automatic process to return.


Do not expect everything to be fine the first time you attempt this.  It’s practice.  See it differently – not as you practising something because there is something wrong with you.  See it as a fun practice.  Something that you look forward to.


Erectile problems (including yours), if coming from stress, is a temporary hitch.  Once you start to see it like this, you take the pressure of yourself and allow nature to take its place.

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