A new study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology showed that a startling number of men experiencing psychological erectile dysfunction (PED) immediately stopped experiencing it directly after being diagnosed with the problem. We explored the implications of these recent findings and what it might mean for men who are suffering with PED.
What recent research has shown
The study took a look at the experiences of 285 men who had been diagnosed with psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Of those, nearly one-third (32 percent) of them reported having a seemingly spontaneous remission right after being diagnosed.
Interestingly, there seemed to be a couple of common links among those who had the “instantaneous remission” experience. Men who had a resigned or happy attitude toward their PED diagnosis seemed to be more apt to experience immediate recovery, as well as men who had partners who were either cooperative or nonchalant about the ED diagnosis. The spontaneous remission group also tended to be older and live together with their partners than the men for whom diagnosis alone was not enough to “cure” the problem.
Just what is psychological erectile dysfunction?
Unlike erectile dysfunction caused by a physical issue, psychological erectile dysfunction is caused by the mind. People with PED can experience normal erections during sleep and when they wake up, but have difficulty with getting or maintaining an erection during sex with a partner. It is a rather prevalent problem, too, although many men who suffer with it prefer not to talk about it. Erectile dysfunction is often thought of as a problem that afflicts older men, but many young men are also affected. According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2013, one in four men seeking treatment for ED is under the age of 40.
Causes of PED
While there are a variety of factors that can cause psychological erectile dysfunction, some of the more common causes include depression, anxiety and stress. Depression can cause erectile dysfunction, and not surprisingly, erectile dysfunction can also cause depression, creating a vicious cycle. Anxiety, whether generalized or focused on sexual performance (as with performance anxiety), can also bring erectile function to a halt. Stress can contribute to erectile dysfunction by having negative physical and psychological effects on the person experiencing it. The psychological effects of stress can bring about psychogenic erectile dysfunction.
Can diagnosis really be the cure for PED?
For some men, just learning that their erectile dysfunction has a psychogenic cause and is treatable and not permanent can be enough to make their ED a thing of the past. The recent research confirms the findings of a much older and much smaller-scale study published in the Journal of Urology in 1993, in which several participants noticed immediate remission following their evaluation for PED. Other participants who didn’t recover immediately did recover later after learning that their ability to have normal erections was indeed still intact (which may have allowed them to overcome the fear and anxiety of believing they might have ED forever). By reducing the anxiety that accompanied the experience of ED, these men were able to relax enough that their normal sexual performance re-emerged.
What to do when diagnosis alone isn’t enough
If having your PED diagnosed doesn’t make the problem disappear, don’t worry. There are several treatment options available.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and couples counseling can help some people overcome their psychological erectile dysfunction, either by themselves or with the support of their sex partner.
Seeking the help of a sex therapist can also be helpful in treating PED, as sex therapy is a discipline focused specifically on managing sexual disorders, including those of a psychological nature. Sex therapists can offer insights and exercises that can provide long-term relief from sexual dysfunctions such as PED.
Guided imagery exercises can also be an effective treatment for ED, with the added bonus that these exercises can be performed in the privacy of your own home. There are programs available online for people who are interested in using guided imagery to treat their psychological erectile dysfunction. Like sex therapy, guided imagery exercises can also provide the tools you need to experience lifelong relief from PED.
Prescription medications can also be used to treat the physical effects of PED, but they come with a long list of side effects and do not target the true cause of the problem, which is psychological rather than physical in nature.
Whether diagnosis alone helps or not, there is hope for men with PED
Although ED can happen due to physical factors such as medical conditions or medications, in many cases the cause of ED is purely psychological. While simply being diagnosed may help some men overcome their PED, for others it is only the beginning of the road to recovery. Luckily, new research is being conducted all the time, and multiple treatment options are now available for men of all ages.
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