In short: yes – hypnosis can cure some forms of erectile dysfunction. In many cases, ED is caused by psychological, rather than medical factors. These include stress, performance anxiety, depression, relationship problems, anxiety disorders or any other range of psychological difficulties. In such cases, hypnosis can help by addressing the root cause of erectile issues.
What about other cases of ED, where the cause is not psychological, but physical? Common medical causes of erectile dysfunction include high cholesterol, heart diseases, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, poorly managed diabetes and obesity. However, hypnosis can also help in these cases, as psychological factors tend to worsen underlying physical causes. In other words: in these situations, medical treatment is vital – though using a psychological approach like hypnosis alongside is also a good idea.
How common is erectile dysfunction? Research estimates that between 10% and 20% of men experience this problem. Ultimately, however, the true proportion is probably higher than this, as embarrassment can lead people to under-report this difficulty.
So, how do we know when ED is being caused by medical factors, psychological factors or a combination of the two?
According to Jesse Kahn, LCSW-R, CST – Director & sex therapist at The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in NY, “It can be difficult to distinguish between the origins and cause, which is important for knowing where to seek treatment and create a treatment plan. Most often, the men who come to see me have already gone to a doctor and the medical interventions didn’t provide relief. If a client comes to me and has not sought medical attention, I will provide a recommendation and referral to see a doctor. However, regardless of the origins and cause of the ED, there is always an emotional relationship to our bodies, especially when it’s not functioning in a way we’d like.”
Kahn says that “A good go-to ‘test’ to see if the cause is medical or emotional is to consider where you get erections and where you don’t. For example, if you get erections on your own or in your sleep, that points more to emotional and psychological factors. If you don’t experience erections anywhere, including on your own or in your sleep, that could point to either medical or emotional.”
Another fair rule of thumb is that if you’re under 40 and you’re generally healthy and active, your ED is unlikely to have a physical cause. Taking stock of all of the above can help you to make an informed decision regarding your ED and what might be causing it. This, in turn, has implications for how to get help.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is, quite simply, a mental state of extreme focused attention and deep calm. When hypnosis is used by a trained professional and forms a part of a clinical treatment plan, this is called hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy has been used to help in a wide range of different situations, including helping to reduce stress, manage addiction, control pain and lower anxiety.
While researchers are still trying to understand what makes hypnotherapy useful, it generally seems to help by giving us access to difficult memories, thoughts or emotions that exist below the surface of conscious awareness. In this way, hypnosis can be used to address some of the dynamics that underlie a whole range of experiences, including stress and anxiety, depression, phobias, relationship difficulties, somatic issues and low self-esteem.
In addition, hypnosis can help us to ‘reprogram’ our minds and more easily adopt new behaviors and thought patterns. Hypnotherapy can also prompt one to visualize positive outcomes and scenarios. Because our mind does not always understand the difference between imagined scenarios and reality, this can help our brains reprogram in the direction of more helpful responses and states.
Does hypnotherapy actually work, or is it just pseudoscientific fluff? Hypnosis tends to have a bad rap due to the way that it has been portrayed in movies and magic shows. Hypnotherapy, however, is not a magic trick or a magical thought control mechanism: it is a real clinical technique used by appropriately trained mental health professionals. Nonetheless, while there is good science that is mounting to support hypnotherapy as an effective complementary treatment, it is not an uncontroversial topic: the medical community remains divided on just how effective it is, with some arguing that it offers little more than a placebo effect.
How can hypnosis cure ED?
There are various different ways in which hypnosis can be used to cure ED. If you consult with a licensed hypnotherapist, they are likely to adopt one of the following hypnotherapy approaches:
Mindfulness and guided imagery
This is not a school of hypnotherapy, per se’, but rather a technique that is often adopted during the course of hypnotherapy treatment. Through guided imagery, the therapist assists the client to access states of calm and focus which can improve their sexual functioning – this happens when the client imagines vivid fantasies and related scenes. One example of such a technique is the ‘dial’ exercise, in which a man imagines having access to a dial that controls blood-flow to the penis. Another example involves visualizing a positive sexual outcome in order to develop a greater sense of confidence.
Similarly, mindfulness is a meditation technique that has been able to help men cure ED. There are many parallels between mindfulness and hypnotherapy interventions and in practice, your hypnotherapist may incorporate certain mindfulness techniques into your treatment.
Analytical or Psychodynamic Hypnotherapy
Analytical hypnotherapy helps a client to go back into the past in order to become more aware of unconscious traumas and dynamics that cause their present issues; and to break through subconscious emotional barriers. In the case of erectile dysfunction, analytical therapy might assist a client in revisiting early memories through prompts and suggestions. Such memories might include failed sexual attempts or experiences of shame in relation to the early sexuality – which are thought to underlie their erectile issues.
Behavioral therapy is future oriented, meaning that the emphasis is on addressing current difficulties and optimizing future functioning, rather than looking at the past. As the name suggests, this practice is focused on changing behaviors and habits. This might, for example, train a person to adopt self-soothing strategies just before sex, so that they can access a state of calm and safety which lowers performance anxiety.
Behavioral hypnotherapy can also be useful in helping a client make lifestyle changes which improve erectile function. Examples of such behaviors include quitting smoking, losing weight, improving sleep, exercising more often, reducing alcohol intake and practicing good stress management. Often, this also involves using affirmations, deep breathing and breathing exercises.
The focus of cognitive hypnotherapy falls on our thought patterns and looks at possible mental blocks. In the case of erectile dysfunction, for example, people often tend to adopt problematic thinking styles which increase anxiety and precipitate erectile issues.
An example of this sort of thinking pattern (also known as a ‘cognitive distortion’), is the following: “I’m not going to be able to get it up and she will be angry and unsatisfied”. Through cognitive hypnotherapy, you will be empowered to identify and rewire these sorts of unhelpful thinking patterns so as to regain control of your erectile function.
Where can you get hypnotherapy for ED?
If you are interested in using hypnotherapy to cure ED, there are several ways to go about getting help.
See a hypnotherapist in person
The best way to get started with treatment is to ask your primary health care provider for a trusted referral. Alternatively, you could visit the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and search for a practitioner that can provide hypnosis for erectile dysfunction near you.
Usually, therapy will begin with one or more assessment sessions, in which the hypnotherapist will ask you about your problem and ask some questions about your psychological history. From there, the two of you will have an opportunity to discuss and plan the treatment ahead.
Can self-hypnosis help erectile dysfunction?
Self-hypnosis exercises for erectile dysfunction can help. A Youtube search will reveal countless pre-recorded free hypnosis videos and scripts for erectile dysfunction. A Google search will get you another long list of erectile dysfunction hypnosis downloads. While some of these can bring a degree of relief, the quality of many is poor and there are no regulations in place to ensure that these scripts are being written by people with the right qualifications.
Approach with caution, therefore, and ensure that your exercises are coming from a credible source. Another option would be to meet with a hypnotherapist for an in-person or telehealth session so that they can prescribe audio files and exercises for you to do at home.
Hypnosis or hypnotherapy involves accessing a trance-like state of calm focus. This can help people to take control of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that can help treat a range of difficult experiences, including erectile dysfunction. While more evidence is needed at this point, it does seem that men all over the world are having success in using these techniques and this may be the approach that you are looking for to treat your condition and strengthen your erection.