The Psychology of Erectile Dysfunction

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  1. What a great contribution you guys! I recently attended a workshop with a sex therapist. I think it is important that men know that sexual therapy can be very helpful for these issues, if it does turn out to be a psychological and not physical issue.

  2. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    I don’t disagree with any of the above, and I do appreciate the lack of the usual anti-Viagra hysteria that this site sometimes promotes.

    • Henry P. Belanger says:

      I think if you read the articles that we’ve run that have mentioned / are about Viagra, you’ll see a fairly consistent message (esp. given that we don’t actually have an editorial position on Viagra, let alone promoting anti-Viagra hysteria): It’d great for men who need it, and it can be great for men who don’t really need it. But 1) it shouldn’t stand in for being a great lover (ie, being rock-hard all the time isn’t a necessary or sufficient condition for having great sex), and 2) It shouldn’t stand in for good physical or psychological health. i.e., If you’re an overweight, inactive smoker with poor blood flow and performance anxiety, Viagra will probably do the job—but in addition to taking Viagra you should probably quit smoking, take a walk now and then, and maybe talk to a therapist.

      You may argue with that message, but to say that we promote “anti-viagra hysteria” isn’t even just hyperbole; it’s not true.

      • Henry Vandenburgh says:

        A couple of your articles (different authors) have strongly implied that there a dichotomy between sensitivity and Viagra use. The first one seemed to say that Viagra likely caused sexual compulsiveness in terms of forcing unwanted duration on a partner (based on an anecdote the author heard.) Another tossed off the line (something like) “get off the Viagra and exercise.” I’ve seen Viagra used in this counterpunctual way at least one other time, and certain commentators seem to believe that Viagra is the “anti-sensuality.”

        I agree with 99 percent of your first paragraph.

      • Mr. Belanger. On behalf women who have been harmed in having sex or other relationships with “Viagra men,” thank you.

        • Henry Vandenburgh says:

          Emily, I ordinarily appreciate your posts. I’d sincerely like to know more about the idea of “Viagra Men Harming People.” Can you say more about this?

          • Henry Vandenburgh says:

            I guess I need to take the bull by the horns here. In several pages of google search, I only found two creditable critiques of Viagra use. One, by Resh, an OB-Gyn, cites the idea that men who use Viagra in their old age my not be paying attention to the fact that older women may have lost ability to lubricate and vaginal elasticity. So they may be physically less able to have comfortable intercourse. This IS probably a factor. I’ve taught aging, and know that this is true. To some extent, sex with the elderly is a “use it or lose it” proposition. Still, Viagra can be a comfortable adjunct to continuing intercourse for couples who are interested. There’s nothing about Viagra that operates like an aphrodesiac, so the couple’s use of sexuality still depends and should depend on mutual comfort and consent. The physical truth about elder sex is that lubricants must frequently be used and that an unused vagina will contract.

            There’s also an interview with Mika Loe, a sociologist (this happens to be my discipline as well) where Viagra seems to be given more power than it should have in setting the stage for the sexual exploitation of older women. I’ve no doubt that Loe has identified some issues about communication and elder-sex, but she seems to take a procrustian a priori stance that the Viagra is the driver. Inserted in the interview somewhat oddly is an incident where an elderly rapist also used Viagra, and reference to a pharmaceutical article where Viagra was said to “play a role” in 27 incedents of sexual misbehavior.

            Again, Viagra isn’t an aphrodesiac, and, even if used to get an erection, is not a driver of this behavior.

            • Henry Vandenburgh says:

              It turned our that I had a Loe article here at home. The article is much more extreme (and flawed) than the interview. Loe announces that she is a postmodernist by citing “phallogocentrism” at the beginning. This sets the stage for an extremely theoretically and methodologically flawed piece where she just assumes such troubled (and in my mind discredited) concepts as progressive “medicalization” as bad things. Medicines that may give relief from credible medical conditions are reframed as reengineering the male body in a bad way. I don’t want to hit this too hard, but this may be analogous to saying that Digoxin (a heart med) may be reengineering bodies toward prolonged survival. Okay by me.

              The set of interviews are framed as male self-critiques of Viagra use. They are an opportunity sample in which there is much confabulation to please the interviewer– at least this seems to be the case. One interviewee says that on Viagra “all you can think about is sex.” This is absolutely not true. There is no direct psychological effect. As a satisfied Viagra user, I find the interviews extreme. Because of the drug’s popularity, I believe that most users do not react this way. My own experience, too, is that female partners don’t mind if the male uses Viagra. Quite the opposite in fact.

              Clearly if a new Viagra user is forcing sex on a partner who doesn’t want it, he should stop. But I do find a suspicious sex-negativity in Loe’s article, and sex-negativity also directed against seniors (which is an old story – it always shocks younger people when they find out that we seniors have active sex lives – agism at least.) Loe makes facile assumptions (probably from postmodernism’s too untroubled assumptions about power-without-details) that reengineered men are forcing sex on people…

            • The only negative about Viagra that I’ve read about is the idea that men think it will solve the problems in their sex lives, only to discover that their female partners find it unsexy or a reflection of their own lack of desirability (“he used to be aroused by me, now he’s aroused by a pill”). But obviously that is a problem in communication, not a problem with Viagra per se.

  3. Although ED can be anxiety producing, it is not always a product of anxiety. We listen to the woes of many young men with ED/delayed ejaculation issues. I’m happy to report that they consistently overcome their ED when they stop masturbating to hyperstimulating Internet porn/chat for 4-12 weeks. This 28-year old’s story is becoming typical: (More recovery self-reports are available at I hope experts will counsel their clients about this approach. It requires no risky sexual enhancement drugs, and guys notice additional benefits from their change in behavior as well.

  4. This article does a good job discussing “performance anxiety.” I would also mention that David Schnarch, in his books (including the pioneering “Passionate Marriage”), discusses how anxiety over intimacy is also a barrier to arousal. He characterizes this problem as a man having a “high threshold for pain, but a low threshold for anxiety.” Anxiety itself is often a defense to feeling an emotion (the primary four being: mad, sad, glad and scared). So, the more we become emotionally available, the less pain we have to feel, the less anxiety we have to feel and the more we can have good sex – at any age.

    For those who care about women and like having sex with them, I would also mention that, as a woman, I don’t really want sex to be a performance anyway. As Schnarch discusses, when you are relaxed around your partner, sex, including arousal and orgasms, are much easier and more fulfilling (and not just for the man but also for the woman, for those who are concerned about our experience).

  5. Great information here…wish it included a common culprit, Internet Porn viewing which often becomes insidiously compulsive. At our website, we get contacted by many men just dumbfounded at how they initially sought out online porn in an effort to BOOST their libidos, and Presto, their ED seems to have vanished while surfing porn as their tumescence reaches unparalleled levels in front of their computers. But then after repeated usage and time, their attempts to transfer their new sexual ‘prowess’ to a real-life partner often leaves them even LESS able to achieve erection.. Neuroscience fully supports the data for why/how this happens….check out our resources online, all of them free at Partners of Sex Addicts Resource Center dot com….but especially useful is a chapter in Dr. Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself, (chapter on Acquiring Tastes and Loves)….it’s all right there in plain science.

    Tragic that what starts out as a “solution” to low desire can end up crashing the man altogether, sexually. And Mr. MacKinnon and Mr. Bhatie are right; ED is only partly a physical problem. With porn, what easily creeps into one’s psychology are also unrealistic expectations superimposed onto our real-life partners, comparisons we can’t really parse away…and often leaves us with the unwanted feeling that we’re not “getting it all” or enjoying as much of the sexual smorgasbord as others are….
    What a high cost to pay for such a supposedly “harmless” past-time.

    • Henry Vandenburgh says:

      I agree with Lili in essence. A dimension that’s missing, though, is the way in which couples and women use porn as an adjunct to develop the woman’s desire. As a sociologist, I’ve heard multiple accounts of this. Given the overarching sex-negative culture, it’s likely that women get a “permission giving” from this. Also, women respond physiologically to porn, lubricating and so forth when watching it, even if their response isn’t a conscious one. During actual sex while using porn, it’s likely that this activity becomes conscious, and supercharges the woman’s response. Even if this activity is initiated by the male partner (it usually is), women do experience, and frequently respond to, porn used in this way. I’d fault, again, the amazingly (and subtlely) repressive culture we have.

      • Sorry, Henry, I think I might have been unclear….when I wrote, ‘…we are not “getting it all” and enjoying as much of the sexual smorgasbord as others are….” I did not mean WE as women. I meant the collective we.
        On our website, we deal with the effects of sexual compulsivity on the partners of the compulsives/ addicts, which can be either gender.
        Once compulsion enters the picture, all bets are off…..and Internet porn creates such a potent neurochemical experience, in the user it leaves the partner of the compulsive completely out of the picture unless they don’t mind being masturbated inside of, since most compulsives begin superimposing their favorite acts and performers onto their real-life partners. So….I need to be very clear in that. That there are many women who get excited by watching porn is certainly true, but again, I was speaking about once using it becomes compulsive….and that’s often when ED can happen or if it already exists, it can be greatly exacerbated when porn is consumed. That’s the context for this comment, after all. (see Marnia’s comment as well)
        And yes, I agree with you…we have an amazingly repressive culture and that’s why we are all out here discussing this! Thanks for your participation……Lili

  6. Viagra seems to be given more power than it should have in setting the stage for the sexual exploitation of older women. As I have seen Virectin Side Effects pills it is also the best to enhance sexual life .

  7. Change the Metaphor—

    How tragic that so many men treat their own precious sexuality like it were a sport, something to be documented on the front page of the Sports section of their favorite newspaper. To wit: keeping score, always wanting something better, statistics, turbo-charging it with porn, taking Viagra as if it were a chemical cast for a sprained member (or perhaps, a fix for a flat tire), etc., all competitive, linear, sports metaphors for one of the greatest mysteries of life.

    Therein lies the problem. Men are applying a one-dimensional metaphor (sports statistics) to their sexuality. Genuine sexuality cannot be captured, bought, sold, possessed, understood, measured, quantified, dominated, enhanced or diminished—none of those things at all. Poets allude to sexuality, great music dances with it, literature and art express our yearnings, our joys and frustrations, but these thisngs are the closest we human are allowed to “document” sexuality. The metaphor for sexuality is Mystery itself.

    Genuine sexuality requires full-on, fully-developed masculinity. That means a fully-developed man—including his heart. His mind and penis are invited to participate BY his own heart and his partners’ heart. Taking Viagra is a complete msiunderstanding of where and what the dysfunction really is. Given that many men do not bring their hearts to their sexual experiences, it is especially poignant that Viagra is dangerous to the heart. These men continue having “experiences” and try to make quantity the cover for the vague emptiness they feel somewhere in the vicinity of their chests.

    Change the metpahor for sexuality, guys. Forgo the Viagra and read Robert A. Johnson’s “We,” (and everything else that man ever wrote). Read Robert A. Master’s work. Make Mystery your sexual metaphor and the Viagra will be exposed as the marketing ploy to keep you men one-dimensional ad infinatum that it really is.

    • Please excuse the typos, I sent that from my cell phone. :)

    • Henry Vandenburgh says:

      I don’t use sports statistics. I’m a dedicated and sensuous lover of my wife, and, in the past, a number of other women. There is zero difference between my pre-Viagra lovemaking and my post -Viagra lovemaking. None. I don’t know if my ED is due to my high blood pressure meds or my age. I don’t care.

      Years ago, I picked up a psychiatric nursing degree, although I’m now a medical sociologist. You are completely wrong about Viagra and the heart. If anything, it would de-stress the heart because of lowered blood pressure. It was developed as a high blood pressure medication.

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  9. Good Post. I really like your way of expressing the opinions and sharing the information.ED can be treatable at any age. Exercising everyday and right amount of sleep could be good for health and stay fit. If you are suffering from ED you should quickly concern a doctor and resolve this issue. Kamagra impotence drug are the most effective pills in medications of ED. They causes very less side effects.

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