Psychological impotence is a real thing, and it is probably much more common than you think. The good news is that there are solutions that can help address the problem.
Psychological impotence (also called psychological erectile dysfunction) can be a difficult problem to grapple with. Although it isn’t something people enjoy talking about openly, it’s more common than you might imagine—and despite what you may think, it is a treatable condition.
What is psychological impotence?
Psychological impotence is a condition caused by psychological factors, in which achieving or maintaining an erection is difficult. Unlike erectile dysfunction caused by previously existing medical conditions (such as cardiovascular or pulmonary problems that can affect blood flow to the genital area) or simple aging, psychological impotence is rooted in psychological factors, such as episodes of stress, depression or anxiety—including performance anxiety. As such, it’s not the sort of condition that should be treated by taking a pill—but it can be treated if you address the underlying cause right at the source.
How common is psychological impotence?
Erectile dysfunction is sometimes thought of as a problem that is exclusive to men over a certain age, especially middle-aged or senior-aged men. This is partially because of the hormonal changes that take place in the aging male, such as lowered levels of testosterone leading to decreased penile blood flow. However, psychological impotence knows no age boundaries, and can affect males at any point of sexual maturity. It is a rather surprising fact that 10% to 20% men face the problem of psychological impotence in their lives.
According to research published in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, as many as a quarter of all men under the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction of some kind, and that number increases with age. Psychological impotence is quite common, though it’s not the type of topic that men are proud to boast with their buddies about.
Psychological impotence can happen at any time
Many men who experience psychological impotence are shocked when it happens to them for the first time. You could be experiencing no problems in achieving or maintaining erections one day, and then suddenly and seemingly inexplicably be rendered impotent at an inconvenient moment. It commonly happens before or during a sexual experience with a partner—and it may happen even though getting erect and staying erect while alone (such as during masturbation) isn’t an issue.. However, even though it may seem like this erectile dysfunction has no identifiable cause, there is a cause that lies at the foundation of it all: the psyche.
How can you tell if your ED is psychological impotence?
If you experience erectile dysfunction at inconvenient times despite being in good physical health, you may have psychological impotence. Men who eat a healthy, balanced diet and who get regular exercise and who do not have medical diagnoses that could lead to physically linked erectile dysfunction—but who still experience problems with becoming erect or staying that way—could be dealing with psychological impotence.
If you can get an erection alone while masturbating and you have normal morning erections, then your impotence is most likely psychological. Let’s explore the most common underlying causes of this form of erectile dysfunction and see if any of them ring true for you.
Causes of psychological impotence
Although the term “psychological impotence” might point to one thing causing the erectile dysfunction in question, it actually acts as an umbrella under which a wide array of psychological factors that can influence sexual performance can fall. Some of these factors include:
Whether you have a chronic form of anxiety (such as an anxiety disorder) or you simply experience acute performance-related anxiety when engaging in sexual behavior, anxiety often plays a major role in psychological impotence. When your mind is bogged down with concerns related to anxiety, it can have a grave impact on your sexual performance. One study published in the November 2002 issue of the Journal of Urology showed that men with psychological impotence reported heightened levels of anxiety at the time of their last attempted sexual intercourse. Anxiety can be frustrating to deal with, and it can sometimes feel like the overhanging shadow of anxiety threatens to ruin all of life’s pleasures when it is left unchecked.
When you are under stress—whether chronic, daily stress or, acute momentary stress—it can affect your sex life. Whether you have a challenging job that stresses you out or you’re going through a stressful life event, that stress that wearies your mind also has an impact on your body. Stress causes the release of hormones into your blood stream that tell your body that danger is afoot. These hormones stimulate the sympathetic nervous system—the system that is responsible for the famed “fight or flee” response that causes our hearts to race and our blood to pound in our veins when faced with a dangerous situation. However, this sympathetic nervous system response to stress can also affect sexuality—after all, when your brain and body are concerned about danger, they can’t necessarily be concerned about sex.
Depression can impact all aspects of your life, like an anchor that weighs you down and makes you sluggish. When you feel blue and low on energy or motivation as many people suffering from depression do, it can be extremely difficult to have peak sexual performance. One study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal in 1998 showed a significant correlation between men’s depression and men’s erectile dysfunction—and this particular study was just a speck of sand in a pile of research suggesting the same thing. In short, depression can affect erections.
If you are experiencing troubled times in your relationship, this difficulty can “bleed over” into you and your partner’s sex life. It’s no small surprise that when you and your partner are not on the same page that your ability to get an erection or to stay erect may be impacted when being sexual with that partner.
Fear of failure
There is a sort of domino effect that can cause psychological impotence, a form of “self-fulfilling prophecy,” wherein the fear of not being able to perform sexually leads to actual sexual dysfunction. This fear of failure is a type of performance anxiety—you worry that you won’t be able to stay erect because of a past experience with erectile dysfunction, and that fear consumes your mind until your fear becomes an unfortunate reality.
For some men, a dependence on pornography—particularly when masturbating—can cause psychological impotence when attempting sex with an actual partner, without pornographic stimulation. This is because the brain can become “trained” to expect and even need pornography in order for sexual arousal and release to occur—and this creates a vicious cycle of sexual dysfunction where psychological impotence can rear its formidable head.
Treatment options for psychological impotence
If you think you’re suffering from psychological impotence, don’t lose heart. It’s a common issue that can, fortunately, be treated rather easily. While there is no one tried-and-true treatment that is guaranteed to work for every man with psychological impotence, there are multiple options available—and more likely than not, you will find one or more of these options to be effective for treating your psychological impotence.
Thinking of taking a pill? Think again
Viagra and Cialis, despite their aggressive marketing, are not the ideal treatment for men with psychological impotence because they treat a form of erectile dysfunction that is rooted in blood flow malfunction. For the man whose impotence is rooted in the psyche, taking a pill may prove to be a disappointment—and one with many side effects, to boot. Instead of wasting money and potentially risking your physical health , try a treatment protocol that addresses the problem at its core.
Talking to a therapist may help
Although erectile dysfunction is a sensitive subject and a private matter that most men don’t like discussing, speaking with a therapist can be helpful for many who experience psychological impotence. Working through the psychological issues or relationship problems that you are experiencing with a psychologist or other mental health professional can help to eliminate the effects those issues have on your sexual performance.
Consider using guided imagery
Guided imagery therapy has proven very effective in treating psychological impotence. Research conducted by Professor K. Kuruvilla (in 1984) found that 70% of men treated with Guided Imagery and sexual re-education succeeded in overcoming their mental impotence, and were able to get erection whenever they wanted to.
Guided imagery therapy is similar to guided meditation, in that the person undergoing the therapy is asked to relax, close his eyes, and undergo visualization exercises that allow the body to free itself and the mind to reassert control over itself—by letting go. Guided imagery is something that can be done with a therapist, or simply by listening to recordings that guide you through the process in the comfort of your own home.
Talk it out with your partner
Don’t try to hide your erectile dysfunction from your partner, or to avoid discussing it out of embarrassment or shame. Remember, your partner may be just as confused and upset by your erectile dysfunction as you were, so try initiating a frank and open discussion of the issue.
You never know—he or she may have some words of advice or reassurance that could just prove helpful to you in your time of need.