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Sex Therapy and Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the most common sexual dysfunction, affecting approximately one third of men during their lifetime. It can cause emotional stress, reduce sexual satisfaction, and limit the quality of life.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which the person suffering from it fails to attain or maintain an erection during sexual stimulation. Having trouble getting or keeping an erection from time to time is not a medical concern in and of itself, but if it is a persistent and ongoing issue, it could be cause for concern.

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction may include:

  • Trouble getting an erection

  • Trouble keeping an erection

  • Reduced sexual desire

ED can cause stress, affect self-confidence, and contribute to relationship problems. But it can also be a sign of underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or other conditions that need proper treatment. However, with the proper treatment, ED is often treatable.

What are the (Psychological) Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

There are both physical and psychological causes for ED, or sometimes, a combination of the two. Things like stress and anxiety can often cause and/or worsen erectile dysfunction. Male sexual arousal is as much a mental thing as it is a physical one. There are a number of things that can mentally get in the way of achieving and maintaining an erection, which can both cause and worsen the dysfunction. These include:

  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions

  • Stress

  • Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication, or other concerns

Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction

ED, depending on the cause (Physical, Psychological, or a combination), may be treated in a variety of different ways, including medication, surgery, and therapy. Treatment is tailored specifically for the individual and their circumstances. Therapy, however, can be very beneficial on its own or in combination with other types of treatment.

The Common types of therapy used to treat erectile dysfunction are:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

CBT is a form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) used to treat a variety of mental health conditions. It is heavily influenced by the idea that the way you think affects your actions and feelings. For erectile dysfunction, CBT helps individuals explore how their thought processes before, during, and after sex may be affecting their sexual performance. As well as how to use more useful and positive thought processes to create more positive outcomes.

CBT is also very useful in constructively managing anxiety and stress, which can be a significant cause of ED. Most likely, those using CBT for Erectile Dysfunction will learn relation techniques as a way of easing anxiety and stress surrounding sex and other areas of life.

Psychosexual Therapy

Psychosexual counselling is also a type of talk therapy that usually involves a spouse or partner. It focuses on discussing the expectations, emotions and feelings surrounding sex, offering some sex education and the natural changes that come with age, and building communication and trust skills with a partner to improve the overall relationship.

Learning to how express intimate feelings and needs, not just surrounding sex, with a partner can reduce the anxiety, shame, embarrassment and/or nervousness that may be caused or perpetrate erectile dysfunction. A counsellor may also be able to offer specific suggestions for enhancing sexual enjoyment, such as foreplay techniques, lubricants, and the importance of rest and a healthy diet.

Sensate-Focused Therapy

Sensate-focused therapy is a couples-based intervention that uses techniques to improve intimacy and communication between partners. It is very effective in reducing sexual performance anxiety by shifting away from goal-oriented sexual patterns.

This type of therapy consists of seven foundational elements:

  • Establishing mutual responsibility between partners for addressing sexual needs and concerns

  • Providing information and education about sexual function and sexual activity

  • Being willing to change attitudes about sex

  • Getting rid of sexual performance anxiety

  • Helping couples improve communication around sex and sexual techniques

  • Reducing problematic behaviours and sex roles in the relationship

  • Giving homework to help couples change their sexual relationship for the better

Lifestyle Changes

Some lifestyle changes could also improve the symptoms associated with ED, like:

  • Stop any tobacco or illegal drug use.

  • Cut back on alcohol.

  • Lower stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Lose weight if you're overweight or obese.

  • Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure

Sex Therapy and Treating Erectile Dysfunction


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