What is Erectile Dysfunction?
It's something most men don't want to discuss. It's the elephant in the room and yet it is so common. While the experience varies, erectile dysfunction is the leading sexual concern for men worldwide.
People experience erectile dysfunction in many different ways. Your erection may not be as hard as you'd like. Maybe you can't stay hard. It could be that you don't get an erection at all. Erectile dysfunction can come with feelings of lower sexual desire. It may be something you experience all the time or only sometimes.
Who Experiences Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction can affect anyone, although some men are more likely to be impacted than others. One certainty is that you are not alone. The numbers of men experiencing ED is estimated to reach 322 million globally by 2025. This can be an uncomfortable topic to share, so it's easy to think you're the only one. Currently, about 1 in 4 men experience ED, making it likely to affect someone you know or have met.
What Contributes to Erectile Dysfunction?
There are a few factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction, and it's often a combination of things, rather than just one. When trying to understand what contributes to ED, it's a good idea to consider the psychological, relationship, lifestyle and physiological influences.
It can seem unrelated, but what's going on in your mind significantly influences what happens in your body. For about 30% of men, there's a psychological factor contributing to their erectile dysfunction. Stress, depression, and anxiety all make it more challenging to get an erection by disrupting the feelings of sexual excitement in your brain. They send everything a little out of balance, including your erections. The tricky thing is that it can become a cycle, with stress, depression and anxiety leading to ED and the subsequent experience making you feel even more stressed, depressed and anxious.
Performance anxiety can come with, and sometimes before, erectile dysfunction. Men today are under enormous social pressure to be sexually gifted. The rise of porn culture sets an expectation of men to be rock stars in bed and sex to be the same as in movies. It's not just men that get performance anxiety; women do too.
In today's culture, men aren't always encouraged to talk about sex authentically. There are no 'how-to' classes. You just figure it out, looking to porn and peers for coaching. The expectations set aren't always realistic and can create performance anxiety.
Sex is physical and makes you highly aware of your body. If you have any body image concerns, sex might bring them to the surface. Feeling uncomfortable in your skin or worrying about how you look can fill your mind with negative thoughts, distracting you from pleasurable sensations and stopping you from being in the moment.
What we think impacts everything we do, and sex is no different. Your thoughts and beliefs around sex can increase your pleasure and engagement or lead you to withdraw from, and avoid, sex. A feeling that sex is bad, painful, wrong or a myriad of other negative things tells your body that you shouldn't be having sex. ED can be a way of your body following these instructions.
Arguments, tension and communication problems can be felt physically as stress impacts your body. Trying something new with your partner or being with a new partner might also contribute to erectile dysfunction. If you're stepping into a new space where you might be worried about lack of experience, being judged or making a good impression, nervousness can affect how your body responds.
As your relationship progresses, things shift. Life changes along the way with you and your partner changing in response. New stresses come up, and the way you connect and communicate with your partner might alter. The excitement and thrill of a new partner fade as your relationship continues and, while many good things grow from long term commitment, the sexual connection you feel can become different.
Sexuality and gender concerns may be something that you're going through. Questioning who you are and what you want. The best sex is authentic sex, and if your situation feels like you're not being true to who you are, it's natural for your body to respond to this.
Heavy alcohol consumption and smoking are two lifestyle factors that significantly increase the chances of erectile dysfunction. Another contributor could be whether you're getting enough sleep. Sex isn't at the top of the priority list for a tired body, and without sleep, your body experiences imbalances.
What you eat and how you exercise are fundamental to how your body feels and functions. The saying that you are what you eat is, literally, true. Our bodies continually replace cells. When your diet is less healthy, the unhealthy food you consume is what becomes your body.
Health issues can be related to erectile dysfunction, and it's a good idea to have these checked out by your doctor. Certain medications, including anti-depressants and blood pressure medication, could also be playing a role.
Aging happens to everyone and brings changes to your body. For men over 40, one of these changes is often ED.
What Are the Options for Erectile Dysfunction?
Depending on the contributing factors, there are several different options for erectile dysfunction.
Counselling and Sex Therapy
Counselling and sex therapy (like we do at Sex Therapy - Perth) give you understanding and insight into factors contributing to your ED, and how to work through them. It's a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space to share your experience with someone who knows how to help and support you. Merely talking about it can be a huge stress reliever. Added to this, your counsellor can give you practical ideas to try at home.
Sometimes, couples counselling may be a good option. Together with your counsellor, you can talk openly about what you're both thinking and feeling. Your counsellor can give suggestions about things to try together, like low-stress positions and slowing down sex to let things build. Studies have shown that, for men with stress-related ED, having the partner involved in counselling resolves the problem 50-70% of the time.
Changes to your lifestyle can be effective on their own or together with counselling and sex therapy. This might include starting a regular exercise routine, sustaining a low blood pressure, shifting to a balanced and nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes and learning stress reduction techniques.
Prescription medication is sometimes used for erectile dysfunction. The most commonly known options are Viagra (those little blue pills) and Cialis. When considering medication, it's essential to keep in mind that there might be side effects including flushing, visual abnormalities, hearing loss, indigestion, headache, body aches, dizziness, digestive issues, congestion and runny nose.
When You Need Someone Else to Talk to
For everyone, the causes of ED will be different, and so will the best and most effective paths forward. It's about understanding your situation and what's right for you. If you want to talk about what you're experiencing, whether it's concern about erectile dysfunction, communication, performance anxiety, sexual function, relationships or anything else to do with sex, we're here for you. Appointments with our experienced sex therapists are safe, supportive and confidential. You can book an appointment by going to our booking page or contacting us at any of the options on our "Contact Us" page.
This week is Men’s Health Week, an opportunity to discuss and think more about men’s health concerns and the unique health issues experienced by men.
You’ll probably hear lots about mental health, depression, prostate cancer and heart disease. These are some of the everyday things that impact men, and they are so important to talk about. Men are over-represented in the numbers for suicide, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. 11% of WA men experience a high or very high level of psychological distress last year. 1 in 4 men will deal with depression at some point in their life.
But there are so many other things that men don’t discuss; topics that can be uncomfortable and embarrassing but impact men’s mental health and wellbeing. It’s time to talk about sex and the unique sexual issues that men deal with.
Why Talk about Sex and Men's Sexual Health?
At least 1 in 4 men will experience problems with their sexual function in their lifetime. When it comes to sex, if something doesn’t quite go to plan, it can affect our confidence, happiness, sense of pride and self. And it can create distance in our relationships.
There are many different sexual problems men may deal with. They all have an impact on our lives, health and happiness in different ways. Some common ones include:
Dealing with these sexual function problems, as well as the underlying considerations that impact them, can have an dramatic impact on a man's happiness, vitality and overall well-being. It can affect his relationships, his feelings of being a dad, a husband, a lover, and co-worker as these concerns can impact a guys sense of self. These problems are common and there’s a lot that you can do to deal with them.
Be proud, be loud, and give yourself the opportunity to talk about what you’re dealing with. If you are experiencing sexual concerns, you are not alone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you and there is support out there for you.
If you need to talk to someone about what you are dealing with, whether it be concerns about sexual function, relationships or anything else to do with sex, we are here for you. Appointments with our experienced sex therapists are safe, supportive and confidential. You can book an appointment by going to our booking page or contact us at any of the options on our contact us page.
Why do some relationships work, and others fail? Why are some couples great at communicating and others not so much?
Four main behaviours act as barriers to communication: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.
Dr John Gottman called them the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. We've put a different spin on them and modernised it. The Four Villains of Communication impact your relationships, marriages and work relationships. These destructive patterns of communication in the way of honest reflection, destroy connection and intimacy and make your relationships bound for disaster.
1. Poison Mary: Mistress of Criticism
Poison Mary is a volatile and memorable character, just like criticism. She uses words as a weapon to attack her victims. She will attack you for any perceived failures and mistakes. Verbal attacks and criticism cut us to the core and put us on the defensive.
Here are some signs of criticism:
- Using ‘always’ and ‘never’ in statements
- Giving feedback intended to harm you, not help you
- Needs are bottled up
- Using ‘you’ statements, pointing away from themselves
Criticism is toxic in any relationship, so it is vital to deal with it effectively.
How to Parley with Poison Mary
Focusing on the positive is the key to escaping attacks from Poison Mary. Criticism jabs at your weaknesses, so embrace them.
Talk about how you feel by using ‘I’ statements. Share what you need without pointing blame. Ask to have your needs met respectfully. Stick to the facts and don't make it a personal attack.
Critical Communication: "You never listen to what I say. You are always on your stupid phone!"
Positive Communication: "I feel like you don't hear me when you look at your phone while I'm talking. I need to feel heard to feel loved. Do you mind making eye contact while I talk about my day?"
2. The Pen: The King of Contempt
The Pen is power-hungry, controlling and thinks he's better than everyone else. He gets angered by anyone who gets in his way. That’s contempt; the feeling that someone is worth less and is below you.
Contempt is a relationship killer and sours your connections. Gottman found that contempt is the highest predictor of divorce.
Signs of contempt include:
- Eye rolling
- Dismissing other's feelings or experiences
- Repeated interruptions
It's easy to spot someone’s contempt for you. It's more challenging to notice when you’re feeling contempt for another.
How to Push Past the Pen
When Bratman battled with the Pen, he was able to overcome his contempt, and so can you. The most effective way to combat contempt for others is gratitude.
It may sound lame but create a habit of appreciation. Express gratitude, respect and appreciation through feedback and praise. Focus on positives and deal with concerns in a constructive way.
Here are some other ways to demonstrate appreciation:
- Sharing interests
- Finding similarities
- Showing affection
3. The Jokestar: Mr Defensiveness
The Jokestar is a master of defensiveness. He knows how to avoid blame by redirecting it elsewhere.
Many people respond to conflict with defensiveness. It's how they learned to survive in communication, but it can be toxic and make you as crazy as the Jokestar.
Some signs of defensiveness are:
- Not taking responsibility
- Blaming others
- Rationalising behaviour
Let's take responsibility for how we act and behave in communication and figure out how to move past the villainy of defensiveness.
How to Joust with the Jokestar
Listen to the perspective of others. Take responsibility for your role and accept blame where deserved. It can be confronting, but accepting responsibility is one of the best ways to resolve conflict.
Defensive: "It's not my fault I was late. My partner didn't do laundry yesterday, and I had to do it this morning."
Non-defensive: "I'm really sorry we didn't have time to stop for coffee. I was late, and I'll make sure this doesn't happen again."
Acknowledging and apologising can help to de-escalate a situation. There may still be tension and conflict, but you will be able to communicate better to deal with it.
4. Capwoman: The Queen of Stonewalling
Capwoman has feline-like skills help her to evade and escape Bratman. Stonewalling is the same thing. Stonewallers might physically leave situations or stop paying attention as if they have shut down. It typically happens when emotions are running high.
There are some warning signs to be wary of before conversations reach this point. These include:
- Rising heartbeat
- Aching head or stomach
- Tensing of muscles
- Quickening of breath or heavy chest breathing
- Feeling overwhelmed
What would you do if someone you cared about completely withdrew from the conversation? What if you shut down and withdrew from the conversation? How would these people feel if you snubbed them?
How to Combat the Capwoman
When the avoiding powers of Catwoman rear up, it's a sign you need a break. If you find yourself stonewalling, or being stonewalled, there is no space for productive communication. Taking a break and allowing time to focus, recollect and self-soothe is vital.
Tell the other person you need a break from the conversation. Use 'I' language. Say something like, "I'm feeling upset, and I need a short break. I'm going to take half an hour alone, and I'll be ready to talk again".
Then, do something calming. You should last at least 20 minutes and come back when you are ready to reengage.
Fight Your Villains for Successful Relationships
Bratman needs to use all of the skills in his arsenal when he takes on these villains. These skills take time and practice to master. You may have to try entirely new ways of communicating. That isn't easy, but it's worth it. All you need is a willingness to have your relationships grow and succeed.
If you or someone you know finds it difficult to communicate in relationships, our Perth location offers relationship counselling. You can easily book an appointment with us online at our booking page or call for a more personal touch.
Let’s be honest, everyone is addicted to something. Coffee. Alcohol. Food. Smoking. Gambling. Work. Sex. Whether it be a behaviour or a substance, humans find it easy to become addicted to.
When you think of someone struggling with ‘sex addiction,’ you might imagine a man having constant sex, but sex addiction doesn’t just look the same for everyone. Sex addiction doesn’t only impact men; it can affect anyone, no matter their gender or sexuality. Men and women can be impacted by sex addiction in unique and different ways.
We use the term ‘sex addiction’ here as we get that this is a term most people would use to define what they are dealing with. We want to discuss sex in positive terms, so we are looking at sex addiction as a person having a strong sexual appetite. It removes the stigma of sex addiction and makes it easier to discuss concerns and work through them in this context.
WHAT IS SEX ADDICTION?
Sex addiction, much like other forms of addiction, is complex. It can impact people who are in relationships or are single. It doesn’t even have to involve actual sexual intercourse. Some sex addicts are not sexually active but find that masturbation or thoughts of sex take up a large part of their life.
A person may not be able to remove thoughts of sex from their mind easily. People addicted to sex may find that sexual thoughts and ideas impacts their mental processes during the day. They find themselves thinking a lot about sex. It can distract them from work, their families and personal relationships.
People dealing with addiction sometimes find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with others, particularly long term. They may turn to porn, affairs, visit sex workers, and engage in 'bad' sexual behaviour to fulfil on their sexual thoughts. Fears of intimacy can distance people from partners and their social circles.
A key takeaway about sex addiction is noting the difference between compulsive sex and sexual desires. Having quirky or unique sexual desires is okay (but we’ll save talking about fetishes and kinks for another day), however obsessing over them or being driven by them could negatively impact the quality of your life.
Remember, though, that sex addiction isn’t inherently wrong, and it certainly does not make you a bad person.
As we’ll discuss later, sex therapy can help to reduce the grip and impact that unwanted sexual thoughts and desires might have on you.
WHERE DOES SEX ADDICTION COME FROM?
Before we can work on dealing with sex addiction, we first want to identify where it comes from. Sex addiction isn’t driven by a desire for sexual enjoyment or fulfilment, however being driven to have sex can be as impactful as sex addiction.
There are different views on where sex addiction comes from and what it really is. Some argue that sex addiction is a coping mechanism, much like other forms of compulsive addictions. Others argue that there is a biological component. Some say it relates to lower self-worth and self-esteem. For some with sex addiction, sex is used to deal with stress, depression, anxiety, or even unresolved trauma.
No matter the origins, unlike drinking, eating and gambling problems, sex addiction is still seen as socially taboo to speak about. People don’t want to talk about it and stigma around sex makes it even more to seek help and to discuss it with others. Sex addiction is something associated with infidelity or engaging with sex workers, which may add to feelings of shame.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SEX ADDICTION
Experts have found that the normal characteristics of sex addiction remain the same irrespective of gender, sexuality, psychological makeup or life history.
Some of these behaviours include:
THE FIRST STEP IN DEALING WITH SEX ADDICTION IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT
Admitting that there is a problem makes it possible for you to address it. By problem we mean that your sex addiction is affecting your quality of life. It’s impacting your relationships, your work, your health or any other area of life that’s important to you.
The most effective way of breaking the cycle is to discover the personal reasons and factors that have contributed to your addiction. Acknowledging the impacts of your situation is a powerful place to start.
This is where Sex Therapy Perth is especially useful. Being able to share with a supportive person who is non-judgmental and open is essential to supporting you to having a great life.
WHY COUNSELLING WORKS
Counsellors and therapists help free you from that little voice in your head, the one that you can’t seem to control or quiet. They work with you to discover yourself in new ways, ways that empower you and give you the freedom you want.
Sex counselling and sex psychology has proven to help people in improving their sex lives. It is used to treat sexual concerns, help people overcome problems around sex, and to normalise their sexual activities and desires. Your counsellor will work with you to discover the background that had your sex addiction develop and will train you in how to implement strategies and practices that support you.
Sex therapy, and counselling in general, works because it gives you the power to deal with what you are dealing with. It puts you back in the driver’s seat in this area of your life. A sex therapist or sexologist does not take a side or tries to force an opinion on you. A counsellor recognises that you have all of the skills and knowledge you need to help yourself, you just don’t have access to that. They work with you to discover for yourself your own healing.
HOW SEX THERAPY WORKS
Sex therapy and counselling is all about allowing you to talk through your experiences, worries or concerns. This helps you come to terms with fears and reduces the grip that unwanted sexual thoughts and behaviours have on you.
Your sex therapist or sexologist will discuss strategies with you that can help address your sex addiction. They can include behavioural and thought exercises that can help reduce performance anxiety and fear of failure and alter unwanted behaviours. They will help you grow skills in that give you control over your sexual behaviours.
WHY YOU COULD BENEFIT FROM SEX THERAPY
Sex addiction can be relatively harmless, but it can also creep into other areas of your life, including work and relationships. It can significantly impact the overall satisfaction you have with sex and your life. This is when talking to a professional counsellor, sex therapist or psychologist really helps.
At Sex Therapy Perth, we understand that it is very normal for people to deal with issues around sex, including sex addiction. We specialise in working with people who have questions or concerns around sex, dating, intimacy, relationships, sex or porn addiction, sexuality, fetishes and kinks, ‘non-traditional’ relationships and infidelity, just to name a few.
Even if you are unsure about trying sex therapy, you may still find a conversation with a therapist, psychologist or sexologist beneficial. It can help you look at your life and if it any parts are being affected by your sex addiction. If you feel that your quality of life and relationships are being affected, then a sex therapist can really help you.
We believe that a healthy sexual outlook is essential to building good relationships and crafting a positive outlook on life. Sex Therapy Perth offers specialised sex therapy and counselling for men and women.
While we are based in Como, in Perth, Western Australia, if you are from elsewhere, you are welcome to seek an online or phone appointment. Find out more at www.sextherapyperth.com.au or if you are ready to make an appointment click here to book